The smith, satisfied with the shape to which his paring and rasping had brought the foot, and having discovered the latent corn, or at all events bruise, we must suppose he would have been equally satisfied with his work had he taken a mule-footed horse in hand, and, by dint of paring away the toes and front part of his foot, had brought it somewhat into the shape of a well-formed one. But to the work in hand. Having removed all direct top pressure, he commences fitting on the shoe; the pain is partially removed, that is, so far as super-pressure is concerned; but there remains lateral pressure. This at first may not much affect the horse, and he goes sound, or comparatively so, for a time. But mark the inevitable result; he has so weakened the super-stratum of insensible sole while groping for the corn, that he has deprived the foot of any power of resisting the close approach of the wall of the foot and the bars; he has, in fact, counteracted the intent of Nature, which originally was that each part might have the power of performing its appointed function. The consequence is, from the want of the accustomed support, the pressure of the shoe at the heel in a few days bends the weakened wall on which it rests inwards, and the shoe finally bears on the corn, and lameness returns with all its pristine grievance.
It is true there are some horses the crust of whose foot is so strong that, though you diminish inside support, it is strong enough to support the shoe, keeping it from pressure on the ailing part. Where such is the case, the horse may go in an ordinary shoe; but where the crust is thin, it will not bear the abstraction of the inward support, and a strapped or bar shoe will become necessary. We know that in a general way the undue lowering of the heel is objectionable. So are corns. It therefore merges into this, whether it is better to lower the crust and cut away the bars and heels in a correspondent degree to the quantum of sole we remove, or to leave the horse more than half a cripple; for I consider that in many cases we are left but to choose between the two alternatives.
The difference between a strapped shoe and a bar one is, the latter is somewhat rounded at the heel, the former may be made all but square; in point of fact, they are pretty much the same, the great merit of both being that they pass over the frog, to which the iron part that connects the heels may in the centre be flattened; and to this flat centre may be affixed a piece of shoe-sole leather on the part on which the frog bears, thus giving the shoe a bearing on the frog that greatly lessens that on the heels, and effectually prevents any pressure on the corn, and likewise saves it from hurt by exposure to casualties. It must be quite clear to any one that a horse with a sore corn, if he comes on a projecting sharp and very hard substance, must drop from sheer pain. Whether he falls or not, will depend partly on his gameness and resolution, and partly on the quickness with which he brings the sound leg (if he has one) to the relief of the afflicted one. If both feet are afflicted, the necessity of strapped or bar shoes becomes apparent.
There are many persons who, from prejudice, object much to either; they think they have a tendency to contract the foot, and say, pertinently enough, "How can a horse's foot expand with a piece of iron run across the heels that would prevent it doing so?" This would be all very well, if it was a correct representation of the case; but persons must bear in mind that, though the heels of an iron shoe cannot expand, whether it be a common made one or a bar shoe, the horse's foot can. It may be objected, and frequently is, "How can the foot expand when confined to the shoe by nails?" I quite admit the side crust cannot; but let any one look at a properly shod foot, they will find the nailing and nail-holes cease long ere the heels begin. Again, let any one remove a shoe of any kind after it has been worn three weeks or a month, they will find by the polish and marks on the heels of the shoe that those of the horse have had ample space and liberty to expand, if disposed to do so. Contracted heels and feet arise from various causes, chiefly, I should say, from internal disease; but I conceive it to be rarely the case that a really healthy foot becomes a contracted one from the effects of shoeing alone.
There is another circumstance connected with the shoeing of the horse that probably has never attracted the thought or notice of the casual observer. Let us shoe a yearling for the first time; he naturally feels awkward in his shoes, from various causes, but also from one that strikes but few of us. He has been accustomed to feel his foot, toe, sides, heels, and frog, bearing equally on the ground. Now, by our mode of shoeing and the form of the shoe, we deprive him of (say) one fifth of the support his foot has been accustomed to feel; in fact, by the formation of the shoe we deprive him of support to the frog at all. From this he would feel probably no inconvenience if immediately led into a soft meadow, where the shoe could bury itself deep enough in the yielding surface to enable the frog to get its accustomed support. This is why hunters and racehorses do not suffer from our mode of shoeing. Their principal and severest work is done on soft ground, and this neutralises what would otherwise be the dire effects of taking all support from the frog. Set the foot on the smooth surface of a well-made highroad, you would perceive, as the shoe could make no impression, the vast amount of support of which we deprive the leg of the horse. The frog is an important portion of the foot-an elastic cushion placed at the heel, to take off the concussion that would be otherwise thrown on the sheath of the back sinews, in fact, on the sinews themselves, and all the surrounding parts of the back part of the leg. Much has been said on the subject of "concussions and hard roads." Persons are apt to think the only concussion to be feared is that which affects the foot of the horse on hard roads: this is, I admit, bad enough, but that which arises as regards the back sinews having no support is infinitely more to be dreaded; and I think I am right in saying that, if I had a horse engaged in a gallop match against time, on a hard road, like the one performed some years back on the Brighton road, he should most unquestionably do it with strapped shoes, well padded with leather for the frog to rest upon; and I am quite sure all horses used on hard roads would go better in such shoes than in those in general use. Fortunately for horses, usual road work is not severe enough or fast enough to render change in the mode of shoeing necessary for sound horses; and many persons are so influenced by appearances, that, rather than use a somewhat unusual shoe, they will use a cripple, that might be made to go with ease to himself and safety to his employer, by judicious shoeing. If a man not conversant with such matters himself, has a horse thus situated, let him send him to a first-rate veterinarian, with permission to shoe him as his judgment directs; he may then depend on it, all that can be done will be, to remedy the ailment.