From the rapid action of a horse's foot it is not easy to discover the precise kind of motion which he makes in stepping out and relieving his foot for the next step; but it is ascertained to be a rolling from heel to toe. Now the flat shoe represented in Fig. 3, which is the common English form, evidently presents an obstruction to this particular action ; frequent stumbling from an unnatural effort to overcome the difficulty, and a straining of the muscles and tendons, to which nature has assigned due limits, seem to be the unavoidable consequences. On the contrary, the French shoe is so curved as to conform to the natural figure of the hoof, and consequently presents no impediment to the natural action of the foot; to this circumstance may therefore probably be attributed the well-known superior sure-footedness of French horses. The impropriety of a perfectly flat shoe is manifested by the toe part being generally worn down as thin as a sixpence, while the sides are frequently half an inch thick.
With the view of obviating the presumed necessity of fastening the iron shoes to horses by nailing them to the hoofs, Mr. William Percival, of Knightsbridge, took out a patent in 1828 for a mode of securing them to horses' feet by means of straps or sandals. In the engraving on the following page, Fig. 1 represents a plan of the shoe, which is of the kind called the frog-bar shoe; in the front is a tongue a, turning upon a hinge, and having two slits in it to receive the band or strap, and keep it in its place; at the extremities of the frog-bar are two double loops or rings, b b, turning upon hinges or holes in the ends of the bar. Fig. 2 shows the shoe attached to the foot of a horse, the strap c, of elastic web, is passed through the lowermost of the two rings; through the lowermost slit in the tongue; through the lowermost ring on the opposite side; then through the uppermost slit in the tongue; and afterwards through the buckle on the other end of the strap, and drawn tight. The strap d a passed through the uppermost of the two rings on one side, and over a pad e, placed under the heel of the animal, then through the uppermost rings on the opposite side, over a pad f, and secured by a buckle on the other end of the strap.
Mr. Benjamin Rotch, the barrister, has distinguished himself by his attention to this subject, which so intimately concerns not only the welfare, but the utility of the most interesting and valuable animal in the creation. In 1810 lie had a patent for a flexible elastic horse-shoe; and in 1830 a second patent, entitled " improved guards or protectors for horses' legs and feet under certain circumstances;" and as this patent may be regarded as an improvement upon the former, we shall notice the latest only. These " improved guards" are to be made of caoutchouc, or Indian rubber; when one is to be applied to a horse's foot, the neck is to be cut from a caoutchouc bottle, which is then to be softened by immersion in hot water, and drawn over a block made of the shape and size of the foot for which it is intended. On this block it is permitted to cool, when it will retain its shape; and by its elasticity it will adhere to the horse's foot when drawn on to it. On the exterior of this shoe is to be applied a sole of sheet-iron, made of sufficient size to allow of its edges being cut and turned up round the hoof, to keep it on the foot; but it is also fastened to the Indian rubber by means of rivets with very broad and thin heads; and to the sheet-iron sole is to be fastened, if required, horse-shoes of the usual forms.
In the preparation of the guards for the legs of horses, both the top and the bottom of an Indian rubber bottle are to be cut off, and after being soaked, softened, stretched on a block, formed, and cooled, is to be applied to such of the legs or knees of the animal as require protection. For the purpose of ensuring a perfect fit to a horse's foot at a small expense, Mr. Dudley, of King-street, Soho, took out a patent in 1823 for a horse-shoe of cast-iron, an under side, or ground view of which is represented in the annexed cut. After being cast to the precise model of the foot taken from a plaster cast, it undergoes that process of annealing (now so well understood and practised) by which it is rendered so soft and malleable as not to be liable to break by concussion in travelling over the toughest pavement. At A A is a raised border, or cord, the use of which is to strengthen the inner vein or web, also to prevent pieces of flint or gravel, etc. from being forced on the sole of the foot, which frequently happens with the common shoe, as that affords no such protection. This form is also considered by the patentee to give great security to the tread of the horse, either over pavement, road, or field.
At the ends B of the shoe, concavities are formed, which become stops, equal in effect to the rough shoeing, or turning up at the heel, without altering the even bearing of the horse's feet upon the ground, so essential to his true motions, and the security of both horse and rider. If proper attention be paid to the manufacture of these shoes, especially the annealing process, they would prove of great utility, as they can be quickly made of any size, figure, or pattern, exactly suited to the feet of any particular horse, and supplied in any quantity, all precisely alike.
Fig. 1. Fig. 2.