Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Economic aspects of Horseshoeing


There is nothing like leather, removes, and bishops.—So say the metropolitan blacksmiths and coachmen, who laugh in their sleeves at the simplicity of horse proprietors, and care not a jot how soon a good piece of horse-flesh is set up on stilts instead of retaining the elasticity and freedom of four sound legs. Horseshoeing is a science and an art. Its science has been neglected, and is foully vilified by those who assert that the connection with the forge is the curse and degradation of the veterinary profession. A good cloak for ignorance this, and the argument appears plausible when we take into consideration the crooked practices which butter the groom's or coachman's bread, and enable the farrier to eke out a miserable pittance. There is probably no branch of skilled labour more inadequately remunerated than that of shoeing horses. To acquire great dexterity in the art calls for many years' toil and practice, and after all, when thoroughly learned, the amount of hard work which the farrier has to go through is probably not equalled by that of any other mechanic. A horse has to be shod, and two men are engaged for a whole hour, and sometimes more, in making, fitting, and applying shoes to feet which are as various in form as men's faces, and which call for great intelligence to avoid mutilation and irretrievable destruction. By fair means this slow and laborious work cannot be made to pay. Five shillings for a set of shoes is a miserable recompense, and in many a country district the charge is two-and-eightpence, three and four shillings. The country smith makes up the deficiency by jobbing, mending or making rails, gates, ploughs, and every other object of which iron forms part. The horseshoeing is done as a necessity and introduction for other work. In large cities veterinarians open up forges, that they may get horses to treat and drug. They acknowledge that the forge does not pay, but they try to scrape odds and ends together even in the forge. Thus there is a prevailing notion that iron is not a good thing when applied directly against the hoof, and if a horse is ' going short,' they propose leather soles. This is a grand institution. In two minutes a piece of leather is cut to the shape of the foot, nailed between the shoe and hoof, and an extra shilling per shoe covers a multitude of sins. In order to make the foot look neat, and to avoid the entire and unsightly leather sole, a portion is often cut to the shape of the shoe and nailed in a similar manner. It is so much the better if this tends to favour the loosening of the shoe and its displacement. The horse must then visit the forge for removes or new sets. London coachmen do not like substantial shoeing. To get the bill heavy enough for a good per centage, there must be removes every fortnight, and a new set of shoes every three weeks. ' It won't do,' say thev, ' to ' keep the shoes on too long.' The feet must be pared out frequently, or the horse has a ' nasty corn,' which requires cutting, and everything is done which favours the destruction rather than the preservation of horses' feet. We have been told that it would not do to put on shoes which a horse can wear a month. Light shoes are best to add weight to the pocket where per centages are going. We have known on more than one occasion that there was an understanding between a blacksmith and coachman, that whether horses were shod every three weeks or not, the sets of shoes were to be marked in the bill with great regularity. The plunder was shared, of course. Another system adopted is that of turning old shoes into new, bypassing them through the fire. They have a red, rusty look, and are well known in the trade as bishops. They are the * cardinals' of the Italian smiths, and the red stockings of prelates doubtless suggested the names at home and abroad. The petty swindles we are anxious to expose, hurt the pockets of owners less directly than indirectly. They necessitate a frequent tampering with horses' feet, and the adoption of a practice in the case of leather soles which cannot, as a rule, be too strongly condemned. Show us a lot of horses with leather soles, and some with bar shoes on their feet, and no other proof is wanting to indicate that the farrier is a bungler, or that, in the case of the leather appendages, there is a quiet understanding between the tradesman and the servant. Veterinary colleges can do much to correct these abuses, as, indeed, they can to protect the owners of horses from the extravagant charges made by some practitioners. In illustration of this a case may be mentioned. A gentleman owning a mare worth under 50l, had occasion to send her to a veterinary infirmary. She remained there six weeks, and was sent home cured, with a bill amounting to 27l, This is a common case ; and the best safeguard against such a process of extortion, is to subscribe two guineas to a veterinary college, and get medical advice and treatment for animals without charge, except for keep. John Gamgee.

Albert Veterinary (.'olleyr, Bnyswatcr,
Dreembtr, 1865.

This comes from: Baily's magazine of sports and pastimes, Volume 36 ©1866

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