In stables where luxurious appliances are in vogue, a sufficient quantity of straw of good colour and quality is considered to be indispensable for the comfort of the horse, as well as for the appearance of the stable; but when economy is an object, as in the case of large establishments, moss-litter is commonly employed, or, in place of it, saw-dust or tan. It was when moss-litter first came into use that there was a great outcry about the injurious effects of the litter on the horses' feet; certainly in some cases the hoofs of animals standing on the moss-litter were found to be broken, and the soles of the feet discoloured, as if from the effects of a severe bruise. From experience, however, it would seem fair to conclude that the brittleness and the discoloration must have been due to other causes.
Of late years, at any rate since its use has been better understood, nothing has been heard of this objection.
Some horses exhibit an extraordinary fondness for the straw of their litter, and eat it in large quantities to the neglect of the hay which is placed in the rack for their use.
In these cases there are alternative means of prevention. One, the employment of a muzzle, and the other the disuse of straw altogether for the litter of the particular animal in favour of one of its substitutes.
Management Of the feet is a very important part of individual hygiene, and it consists chiefly in a rapid adoption in regard to healthy feet of the policy of non-interference. Hoof ointments, which are supposed to increase the elastic qualities of the hoofs, when they are not injurious by plugging the openings of the horn tubes, many of which terminate, from their somewhat oblique course, on the wall, and all of which so terminate on the horny sole, are at best entirely unnecessary. The same thing applies, of course, to stopping the bottom of the feet. The most important part of hygienics, as applied to the feet, is a careful observation of the condition of the hoofs, and of the position of the shoes, with a view to having the latter renewed when necessary, or removed and reapplied when not sufficiently worn to necessitate the application of new shoes.
Horses which are kept to rest in loose-boxes - the most successful method, as a rule, of summering hunters - require more than usual care in regard to their feet. The hind shoes are usually altogether removed, and the edge of the crust is rounded off by the rasp, in order to prevent chipping. A light tip would usually be applied to the fore-feet, leaving the heels to come in contact with the ground surface.
The above remarks may be applied in regard to animals which are turned out to grass. In very dry seasons horses' hoofs, under such circumstances, become exceedingly dry and brittle, and contract sometimes to a serious extent. This happens just as certainly as it would if the hoofs were removed and placed in a warm place, the only difference being that, in the case of the living animal, the drying occupies a longer time. The only remedy is the application of moisture, which possibly may mean the frequent removal of the horse from the dry ground into a shed or other place where the soil can be kept moist. It may be taken as a golden rule that moisture is essential for the maintenance of a healthy condition of the hoof horn, and that no other outward application is necessary.
Fig. 490. - Toe-tip for Horses turned to grass.