Some horses overreach because of faultv form. The front quarters of such horses may have something of the draft conformation, while the hind quarters approach the trotting-horse build. In other words, the front feet cannot get out of the way of the hind ones, because of their hesitating motion, and the long, quick reach of the hind feet. If, by a slightly modified method of shoeing, the movement of the fore feet can be hastened, and that of the hind feet retarded by a fraction of a second, the overreach will be obviated. If the soles of the front feet be lowered at the toes and the toes slightly shortened, and the heels left rather high, the roll of the foot and the time of the heel's leaving the ground are hastened. On the other hand, if the heel of the hind foot be kept rather low, and the toe slightly longer and higher than the normal, the time of the hind foot leaving the ground will be slightly retarded. If, by reason of the lowered, shortened toe, the time when the front foot leaves the ground be hastened, and that of the hind foot retarded by reason of the slightly higher and longer toe, the fraction of a second needed to keep the hind foot from coming in contact with the front one is secured. The blacksmith usually reverses all this, - shoves the front shoe forward to get it out of the way of the hind one, and places the hind shoe back of its normal position, with the hope that it will not strike the front one. This method of shoeing does not accomplish the desired result. Taut lines and encouragement on the part of the driver materially assist the horse to overcome the habit of overreaching or stumbling.
Many patent shoes designed to save the front feet of horses, especially the frogs of the feet, are on the market. None of them are of much use to sound feet; some are a positive injury to the foot, as they cause the frog to become tender from non-use and, in time, to become diseased. When the foot becomes unsound, a padded shoe may palliate pain and prolong the usefulness of the animal; but all of these shoes which we have seen allow the dirt and filth to get under the protecting pad. By reason of the constant wet, dirty and unsanitary conditions of the frog and sole of the foot, due to the dirt under the pad, and the partial exclusion of the air, the foot inside of the hard outside covering tends to become soft, tender, bad-smelling and diseased. Patent horseshoes can, at best, only palliate the ills of the feet due to bad breeding, over-driving, want of care and the insane desire to draw the largest possible load or to pass everything on the road. The ideal horseshoe is yet to be invented. The horse's foot really requires little attention, if the horse is bred right and used humanely and with judgment. We wonder if time is so precious and valuable, after all, as to justify the tearing up and down the country of droves of people at breakneck speed, in nervous haste to overtake and find rest and recreation, and a locality where there are two-minute horses and no Sabbath.
Fig. 84 represents the exact shape of the foot of a four-year-old three-fourths blood Percheron mare, weighing 1,450 pounds. A matrix of the foot was formed of clay, and the drawing was made from it. It is a fine foot for a draft - horse; the frog is reasonably high and the heel only moderately wide. The shoe measures seven inches from toe to heel, and is six and one-half inches wide, and embraces an area of a trifle more than thirty-seven square inches. Fig. 85, from a photograph, is a front view of both feet.
Fig. 86 was also drawn from a clay impression. This fore foot is most excellent in shape, and represents that of a mare sired by a trotting stallion out of a fair-sized active farm-mare. The heel is proportionately narrower than that shown in Fig. 84, and the foot is more rotund and is almost an ideal foot. The shoe is five and one-half inches long and five and one-half inches wide, and embraces twenty-five and nine-tenths square inches of area.
Fig. 84. A foot that will last through life.
The foot of the horse frequently plays an important part in tillage. Not infrequently, the horses are driven over the field five times in preparing the ground and in covering the seed. Watching horses when at work plowing land, it was found that the average step was four feet three inches, and that most horses, when at this kind of work, set the hind feet down a little short of the track made by the front feet. Supposing this to be the case, and that each foot of the horse at each step covers and presses thirty-one and one-half square inches of surface, and that two horses be driven over the plowed ground five times, in the fitting and seeding of the land, and that the implement covers an average space of five feet at each passage, the feet will have compressed and fined approximately five-twelfths of the acre of land. However, some deduction may be made, for it is probable that the feet will occasionally tread in a former track. Usually, un-plowed ground is too compact and plowed ground too loose for the fullest growth of most plants, and the compacting and fining of the surface soil by the horse's feet is usually beneficial, as far as it goes. Then, too, many clods will fall into the depressed tracks made by the feet; as the harrow follows, the clods will be drawn into the depressions and crushed or covered; if covered, they become softened and are then fined by the roller or a second harrowing. Sometimes the beneficial effects of the compacting by the feet are marked. On the other hand, the tramping may be detrimental, as when the ground is moist and the crop to be raised does best in a loose soil.
Fig. 85. Two good feet supporting a broad breast.
Fig. 86. Durable and beautiful.