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Advice To Blacksmiths

Let me enjoin you, for humanity's sake, that when you first undertake to

shoe a young animal, you will not forget the value of kind treatment.

Keep its head turned away from the glaring fire, the clinking anvil,

&c., &c. Let the man whom he has been accustomed to, the groom or owner,

stand at his head, and talk to him kindly. When you approach him for the

first time, let it be without those implements you are to use in his
/> shoeing. Speak to him gently, then take up his foot. If he refuse to let

you do this, let the person having him in charge do it. A young animal

will allow this with a person he is accustomed to, when he will repel a

stranger. By treating him kindly you can make him understand what is

wanted; by abusing him you will only frighten him into obstinacy. When

you have got the animal under perfect subjection, examine the foot

carefully, and you will find the heels, at the back part of the frog,

entirely free from that member, which is soft and spongy. When the foot

is down, resting on the ground, grasp the heels in your strong hand,

press them inwards towards the frog, and you will immediately find that

they will yield. You will then see that what yields so easily to the

mere pressure of the hand will expand and spread out when the weight of

the body is thrown on it. This should give you an idea of what you have

to do in shoeing that foot, and your practical knowledge should stand

you well in an argument with any of those learned professors, who

declare the foot of the mule does not expand or contract. In truth it is

one of its necessary conditions. After being a long time badly shod,

nearly or all of this necessary principle of the foot will be lost. You

should therefore study to preserve it. And here let me give you what

little aid experience has enabled me to do. You will observe the ground

surface of the foot, no matter how high the arch may be, to be at least

half an inch wide, and sometimes more than an inch, with the heels

spread out at the outside quarter. Do not cut away this important brace.

It is as necessary to the heel of the animal, to guard him against

lateral motion, on which the whole of the above structure depends, as

the toes are to the human being. Curve the outside of the shoe nearly to

fit the foot, and you will find the inside heel a little straighter,

especially if the animal be narrow-breasted, and the feet stand close

together. Nature has provided this safeguard to prevent its striking the

opposite leg. After the shoe is prepared to fit the foot, as I have

before described, rasp the bottom level--it will be found nearly so. Do

not put a knife to the sole or the frog. The sole of the foot, remember,

is its life, and the frog its defender. In punching the shoe, two

nail-holes on a side, on a foot like this, are sufficient to hold on a

shoe. Three may be used, if set in their proper places, without injury

to the foot. Practice will teach you that any more nailing than this is

unnecessary. I have used two nails on a side on an animal with not the

best of a foot, and very high action, and he has worn them entirely out

without throwing either of them off. Previous to punching the shoe,

observe the grain of the foot. It will be seen that the fibres of the

hoof run from the top of the foot, or coronary border, towards the toe,

in most feet, at an angle of about forty-five degrees. It will be plain,

then, that if the nails are driven with the grain of the horn, they will

drive much easier, and hold better, and be less liable to cut and crack

the fibers.

Another benefit can be derived from this process of nailing. When the

foot comes to the ground, the nails act as a brace to keep the foot from

slipping forward off the shoe. This renders that very ingenious foot

destroyer, the toe-clip, unnecessary. Then, in punching the shoe, hold

the top of the pritchell toward the heel of the shoe, so as to get the

hole in the shoe on an angle with the grain of the hoof. Punch the holes

large enough, so that the nails will not bind in the shoe, nor require

unnecessary hammering or bruising of the foot to get them up to their

proper place. Prepare the nails well, point them thin and narrow; and,

as I have said before, use as small a nail as possible.

When you proceed to nail on the shoe, take a slight hold at the bottom,

so as to be sure that the nail starts in the wall of the foot instead of

the sole. Let it come out as high up as possible. You need not be afraid

of pricking with nails set in this way, as the wall of the foot is as

thick, until you get within half an inch of the top, as it is where you

set the nail. Nails driven in this way injure the feet less, hold on

longer, and are stronger than when driven in any other way. If you have

any doubt of this, test it in this manner: when you take off an old shoe

to set a new one, and cut the clinches (which should be done in all

cases), you will find the old nail and the clinches not started up; and

in drawing the nail out you will also find the foot not slipped or

cracked; and that the horn binds the nail until it is entirely drawn

out. Indeed, I have known the hole to almost close as the nail left it.

Set the two front nails well towards the toe, so as not to be more than

two inches apart when measured across the bottom of the foot. Let the

next two divide the distance from that to the heel, so as to leave from

two to two and a half inches free of nails, as the form of the foot may

allow. Lastly, before nailing on the shoe, and while it is cold on the

anvil, strike the surface that comes next to the foot on the outside, a

few blows with the hammer, right across the heels, and see also that the

outside of the heels is a shade lowest, so that the animal in throwing

his weight upon them will spread out, and not pinch in his feet.