Read CHAPTER VIII of Rational Horse-Shoeing , free online book, by John E. Russell, on ReadCentral.com.

Economy of the Goodenough shoe.

A horse-shoe that the united voices or the shrewdest and ablest managers in the country commend inasmuch as it enables cripples to work, frequently restores them, and maintains soundness where that quality exists need not be recommended on the ground of economy. Such a horse-shoe could not be dear. But it takes all sorts of people to make a world, and the pressure to the square inch of mean men is not to be governed by safety-valves or regulated by gauges. There are too many men who will use the thing that costs the least outlay, even if it tortures or kills the horse. On the point of first cost we may say that if our shoe had no advantage over the hand-made shoe in preserving the natural action and growth of the foot, thereby retaining the powers of the animal in full vigor, it would still be cheaper than the common shoe. It is sold slightly higher than the clumsy pieces of bent iron called horse-shoes by mere courtesy, and its lightness gives one-third more shoes to the keg, while there is no expense of calking, which, in labor and material, is equal to three cents per pound. Upon the point of durability, it is well settled that the heavy shoe will not last so long as the light one with frog-pressure. A horse set upon heavy shoes grinds iron every time he moves. The least interposition of the frog will reduce the wear very materially, and if the frog is well on the ground, a horse will carry a shoe until he outgrows it.

A horse-railroad superintendent said to the writer, “We don’t wear iron nowadays, we wear frog and cobble-stones; nature provides frog and Boston finds cobble-stones.” When the Goodenough shoe is put for the first time upon a dry, half-dead foot, and the frog brought into lively action, growth is generally very rapid. We have often been compelled to reset the shoe, cutting down the wall, in ten days after shoeing. Many horses that have been used upon pavements and horse-railroads, have acquired a habit of slipping and sliding along, catching with heel-calks in the space between the stones; such horses do not at once relinquish the habit, and wear their first set of our shoes much more rapidly than the subsequent set, after they have assumed the natural action of their feet. But, economical as a light shoe that will long outlast a heavy one may be, the great saving is in the item of horse-flesh.

The value of the horses employed in the actual labor of the country reaches a startling sum total.

The vast importance of the horse in the movement of business, was never so fully understood and deeply felt as during the year past, when the epizootic swept over the continent, paralyzing all movement and every form of human industry. Even the ships that whiten the seas would furl their sails and steamers quench their fires but for the labors of the horse. During the epidemic the canal-boats waited idly for their patient tow-horses and railroads carried little freight; the crops of the West lay in the farmers’ granaries and the fabrics of the Eastern loom and varied products of mechanical industry crowded the warehouses; even the ragpicker in the streets suspended his humble occupation, for the merchant, unable to transport rags, refused to buy them of the gatherer. The investment of national wealth in horses being so enormous, any means that adds to the efficiency of the horse greatly enhances the general prosperity.

It is an old English saying, that “a good horse will wear out two sets of feet.” The meaning of this adage is obvious: a good horse’s feet are useless at the time when his other powers are in the prime. Mr. Edward Cottam, of London, in his “Observations upon the Goodenough System,” states that London omnibus-owners use up a young horse in four years; that is, a horse of seven years of age goes to the knackers at eleven, pabulum Acherontis; and the only noticeable cause of their failure is from diseases of the feet. A horse properly shod and cared for should endure five times as long. In this country horses fail in the feet, and are called old at an age when they should be in the fullest activity. This is a double loss, for every horseman of experience knows that if an old horse is sound and vigorous he has some great advantages over a young one. He is safer in every respect, “way-wise,” seasoned, steady, and reliable. He and his owner are old friends and companions and can not part but with a pang of regret. A good horse, well cared for, should work cheerfully until he is thirty years of age; yet how few are able to perform genteel service after fifteen! It is a sad sight that of the high-mettled, noble animal, once the petted darling of wealth, caressed by ladies and children, and guarded so that even the winds of heaven might not visit him too roughly, fallen through the successive grades of equine degradation, until at last he hobbles before a clam-wagon or a swill-cart a sorry relic of better days.

The question is so plain that we hesitate to argue with intelligent people to prove that, if the old system of shoeing destroys the value of a horse in middle life, half his money value is sacrificed to ignorance a waste that might be saved were nature’s laws regarded. That part of the argument which demands that the faithful, devoted servant merits humane treatment and the best intelligence of the master in securing his health and comfort can not be forgotten and need not be urged upon the attention of the true horseman.

FINAL OBSERVATIONS.

To be rational in any course of action is, primarily, to follow the leading of reason, and by that guidance to arrive at correct conclusions.

It is the opposite to the method which is irrational regardless of reason, and therefore leading to conclusions erroneous and absurd. Rationalism is opposed to ultraism, to vehement, officious and extreme measures while it would seek more excellent ways, it holds fast to that which is good.

Rationalism in medicine is the method which recognises nature as the great agent in the cure of disease, and employs art as an auxiliary to be resorted to when useful or necessary, and avoided when prejudicial.

In our treatment of the hoof, we would seek to know the cause of the horse’s troubles, firmly believing that he is endowed by nature with strength to perform the service man demands of him, and that he is not necessarily a helpless prey to torturing diseases of the minor organs; and, indeed, subject only to that final, unavoidable sentence, which in some form nature holds suspended over all animate existence.

Having by the aid of reason ascertained the cause of defects, we would assist nature to relieve them; we have therefore called this little hand-book of suggestions from our experience, RATIONAL HORSE-SHOEING.

OPPOSING FORCES.

Having taken upon ourselves to reform evils, rooted deep in old customs, and to abolish abuses older than our civilization, we have to meet with discouragement and opposition in various forms.

Even the enlightened and well-intentioned hold back incredulous. This form of opposition finally examines, being led thereto from motives of economy and the promptings of humanity; it usually approves and assists, but is often carried back by indolence, when it discovers that it must join us in the loud battle we are forced to wage all along the line against fierce interests and bitter prejudices.

We attack with slender array, but unflinching purpose, the gloomy powers of ignorance that are allied to doubt and indifference. These contend under the prestige of a thousand years of possession.

Ignorance and Prejudice are twin giants that renew their life upon each other; they are as old as chaos, and are invulnerable to the weapons of ordinary warfare. Like the fallen angels, they are

“Vital in every part,
And can but by annihilation die.”

One of the Greek fables, typifying the struggle of man against circumstances, was a story of the battle between Hercules and Antaeus, son of the Earth. The fight was long and doubtful, for whenever the mortal was felled to the ground by the power of the vigorous god, his force was renewed by contact with the breast of his mother Earth, and he sprang to his feet and recommenced the never-ending strife.

This contest between the god, and the mortal born of earth and sea, is the poetical type of the unceasing toil of man in the Valley of the Nile, against the sandy waves of the Lybian desert, always encroaching upon the cultivated soil, and demanding year by year new exertions to repress their advance.

So, in our attempt to establish a better system of utilizing the powers of the horse in the service of man, we have each day to meet the same enemy, renewed by contact with the sources that foster and reinforce ignorance. But as persistent labor conducted the beneficent waters of the Nile in irrigating channels through the arid plain of the desert, until upon the inhospitable edge gardens bloomed, fields of grain waved in the breeze, and the date-palm cast its grateful shade upon the husbandman so we make healthful progress, and enjoy a widely increasing triple reward first, in the thankful esteem of our fellow men; secondly, in the relief we afford to a noble animal; and last, in the substantial return which the highest authority has adjudged to honest labor.

REGULAR WORK.

We wish all readers of this book to understand that the directions herein given for shoeing apply to horses whose owners expect them to work regularly after shoeing from the very hour in which the shoes are set.

We do not propose to “lay up” horses, or to put them to rest in “loose boxes,” nor yet to “turn them out to grass.” One of the chief difficulties we have had with wealthy owners has been from the tendency to keep the horse out of work when we have got him into a condition where we want exercise to stimulate the alterative process we propose.

A cure of any foot disease we have described, will be much more rapidly effected if the horse has his regular work upon the roads or pavements to which he is accustomed, no matter how hard they are.

We hope that it has also been noticed, that we do not propose to cure spavins, splints, navicular disease, or to restore the natural action of a horse where ossification of cartilage is well established.