Good Horse Hoof Care

The horse, the horseman and the hoof care professional are discussed in this article.

If one reflects for a moment, you will likely come to the conclusion that it requires just a little observation to discern that the art and science of horseshoeing is a matter of the greatest importance, so far as the health and welfare of the horse is concerned; your horse’s well-being, comfort and durability in a great measure depend upon the correctness of the principles on which the farrier’s practice is based and the way they are carried out by the practitioner of this art and science of horseshoeing. Horseshoeing should be treated as an art and as a science, so that the owner of horses would run no risk in getting them shod or otherwise cared for as they should be.

Consider the services of this most noble animal, that works so faithfully during his time in harness, and is earning you a considerable part of your living. Think of a horse that is put at hard labor from 12 to 15 years. That is surely a severe sentence and I feel it my duty to say something for his benefit and in his favor. Horseshoers should supply his wants and needs, in order to be able properly to protect his feet which adds to his comfort and endurance.

Now, to you men and women, when thinking about the expense of feeding a horse and the expense of hoof care. You often complain to your farrier, that the horse wears his shoes out too quickly, and ask that the shoes be made heavier so they will last longer. I know your intention is not all together in a way of acting cranky, but I also know you do not fully realize the result of heavy shoes on your horse. you do not think of the issues that may be brought on by the use of them. Even if it is only 4 ounces on each foot or 1 pound on 4 feet, in his daily work he would have to lift from 8000 to 10,000 pounds a day of extra weight, which is of no useful purpose. The result is that a horse becomes leg weary, which often causes a breakdown and loss to the owner, while the horse is compelled to walk with great discomfort. The light shoe not only lightens the burden of the horse, but adds to the health of the foot.

We all know that almost everything is changing and improving, but progress in horseshoeing seems to be extremely slow. There must be a reason for it. One reason is that some people think only of where they can get a horse shod the cheapest. The horse must take the consequences or bear the brunt of danger. 

I wish to remind you not to forget that he who offers to shoe your horse for less than good sensible work is worth, knows the law better than he does horseshoeing; at least he knows that if he cripples your horse the law cannot punish him for it. Therefore he is willing to take a risk, if you are. His prices generally indicate the extent of his ability and skill. As a rule he receives more than he is entitled to, and you surely know you cannot buy silk at calico prices. 

Apropos of the fact that everything has advanced, may you now read of an incident that happened about 20 years ago: A farmer in Iowa had bought a light Studebaker wagon, for which she paid $70 at that time. It gave her such satisfaction that after using it 10 years she decided to buy another one of the same make. The dealer informed him that the wagon now cost $80. “But” said the farmer, “I only paid you $70 for this one and that is all I feel like paying now.” There was some talk over the matter, the dealer explaining that material and labor had advanced in cost. “But” said the dealer “I will make the same kind of a deal with you that we made at the time you bought the other wagon. You remember you paid me with 600 bushels of corn which was $.12 a bushel.” 

“I will now give you this Studebaker wagon which is the same size, for $80, and in addition you may select a surrey worth $125, and McCormick mowing machine worth $110; and you may have a New Method kitchen range worth $80; together with $20 worth of household implements, and you give me in return 600 bushels of corn. The corn at that time had advanced to about $.70 per bushel.” 
The farmer saw the point and closed the argument by saying “I want the New Method kitchen range and the Studebaker wagon”. He paid the dealer $160 and kept his corn.

As soon as the dealer had explained about the difference in prices, it did not take the farmer long to settle the argument and close the deal. This was because the farmer knew the produce on the farm had advanced at a greater percentage than labor and material. And you know that beef, pork and beans, as well as many other materials, have advanced about 100% in the last 15 years. 
It seems to me that horseshoers live in fear of and act like strangers toward each other. When they meet they hardly speak. And don’t cause yourself any particular pain or uneasiness over nothing and wonder if the popularity of the automobile is going to ruin the horseshoeing business. Let me tell you, don’t worry, just study the anatomy of a horse so you can benefit him when he is in need. It is with horses as it is with men. You know there is lots of machinery invented in the last 25 years that has taken the place of labor, and yet wages are 50% higher than they were at that time.

Now as to horseshoeing. To be sure the horse is here and he is here to stay. He has won his way over all powers invented. If we can and will do our part as farriers, honestly and skillfully, we can master the performance successfully, scientifically. If we would take time and pains, so that there will be fewer lame horses, we would thereby encourage those that use trained horseshoers; if I remember the public is willing to pay for a square deal. But it is the inferior horseshoeing that in part discourages the owners in using them, because about 75% of horse ailments are in their feet. This is caused by carelessness or unskilled shoeing or neglect. So the gasoline wagon is brought into use as a substitute, even at the greater expense of running it, not to mention the investment.
It is a well-established fact that farriers here we’re getting as much or more for shoeing 20 years ago as they are getting today. They must have either robbed the public at that time or they are now robbing themselves and families, as it cannot be denied that almost all necessities for living cost 50% more, as well as material used in business, and wages are no exception.

If this letter was buried under some corner stone and in 100 years from now was taken up and read by their generation, what funny reading it would be to them. They would surely be wondering what kind of people had been on earth in the horseshoeing business one century ago. No doubt they would have come to the conclusion that farriers must have been jealous of each other, or worse than that, selfish, and for that reason were offering horseshoeing at prices less than they were getting 20 years ago, while inflation had advanced 50%.

A customer of mine sometime ago and asked me, “Why is it that you charge $1.75 for shoeing when the rest of the shops only charge $1.25 or $1.50?” I answered by saying, “You better ask the other fellows why they don’t charge the same as I do.” And that closed the argument. We parted friends and this good customer is still with me, despite his knowledge of cheap horseshoeing.

If these few words of mine do not sound in a way to please you, I am sorry. But I feel impelled by a sense of duty to say something for the horse and the farrier that knows how to shoe him, even if it does sound unpleasant. But I say it in a friendly spirit without fear of contradiction and I hope I have said it just as positively as I could. If it is plainly spoken it is nevertheless kindly meant, and horseshoers should get in line with the rest of the world. We should be happy and proud rather than discouraged and sorry, as our calling leads us into the realms of both art and science.

I am talking from facts just as I know them. If I could not demonstrate the truth of these statements that I have made, my remarks would be less sweeping. To you who are incredulous I say you can and will through experience and by demonstration come to the same conclusions.

I do not wish to make you tired reading but wish to say a few words about feeding your horses. To start with, the horse should be fed according to the season of the year. For instance, in the summer during the hot days horses should have oats for their grain and steamed bran mash twice a week. These mashes may be given to them Wednesday and Saturday. The bran should be flavored with a little salt. To prepare the bran mash, take three or 4 quarts, put it in a bucket and sprinkle salt over it; then take boiling water, pour it over the dry bran until it is well moistened; then take some gunny sacks to use for a cover. This should be done at noon and then it will be ready to feed at night. And then have some good hay for the horses to finish with.

In the winter, rolled barley may be fed and oat hay would make a fair combination; and once in a while a few ears of corn The corn to a certain extent prevents lampas (a condition of horses, in which there is swelling of the fleshy lining of the roof of the mouth behind the front teeth), which is generally caused by a rapid development of the teeth. Lampas is not a disease; it is the over quantity of blood that gathers at the bars, and often gives trouble to the horse when feeding. It should be attended to by a veterinarian, for a good mouth and teeth add to the health of the horse. Horses teeth should be looked after at least once a year.

I remember about three years ago, I went to Dr. Price‘s hospital, after he had just finished removing two decayed teeth from a horse. As I was looking at the animal I said to the doctor, “It seems to me as if that horse had lost his nerve.“ The horse was crying, tears were brimming out of his eyes. The doctor said, “You just wait about two months and you won’t know this horse.“ About 10 months later the same horse came to my shop to be shod, and had I not remembered his owner I would never have believed that it was the same animal. His poor condition had been caused by diseased teeth as the owner told me, “That horse has been working six days in a week ever since you saw him over at Dr. Price‘s hospital. I am glad you saw him. I am glad the doctor found the cause of the trouble. I thought I had to get some medicine but the doctor did not give any and you see the horse has gained 100 pounds by working every day.”

Now as to watering horses. Always water them before you feed, for if you give them all the water they want to drink right after feeding the stomach has not had time to digest the food and part of it will be washed away. If a horse comes in hot and sweaty from a drive he should be allowed a half a dozen swallows. Then put on a light woolen blanket and let him eat hay. In a half hour he could have some more water and is then ready for some grain. Too much cold water after a hard drive can be the cause of founder and it may cause colic. Never stable a hot horse where there is a draft and then blame the horseshoer claiming that your horse is all stiffened up from yesterday‘s shoeing. 

As to shoeing, I will advise you to have your horses shod every four or five weeks. Shoeing is not against the health of the foot if it is done right. It is said and often repeated that horse shoeing is a necessary evil. I do not think so. If it was an evil, I would not stay in the business. As yet, we differ much in our opinions but the time is coming when we shall agree and all the many different ideas on this subject now in dispute. This agreement will come as we understand the foot in health or disease, and the law should compel us to know this most important part. 
It matters not whether a horse is used for pleasure or for profit because his services pay you in full. His reward should be to give him the best there is in shoeing, feeding, and grooming.

In conclusion, I wish to say that the past century and the beginning of the new constitute a period marked by a degree of achievement in the way of invention, mechanical skill, and ethical or moral reform. In this grand race and effort in behalf of bettering and uplifting the world, let the farrier, however humble their vocation, be found in the midst of the glorious drive, earnestly engaged in a laudable ambition to cast in their might towards rounding out the grand aggregation of wonderful improvements.