Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/490
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
sort may give to the horse the freedom which is essential for the health of the foot, although he insists that all the shoes thus far used are lamentable failures, “There are,” he says, “many more pieces of iron curved, hollowed, raised, and indented than I have cared to enumerate. All, however, have failed to restore health to the hoof. Some by enforcing a change of position may for a time appear to mitigate the evil; but none can in the long run cure the disorder under which the hoof evidently suffers.” Such language, it might be thought, could come only from one who had discarded the use of shoes altogether. All, however, that Mr. Mayhew has done, is to point the way to the road which he was not prepared to take. But the experience of Miles and Mayhew, La Fosse, Charlier, and Douglas, seems to lead by necessary logical inference to one conclusion only. If the working of the traditionary system leaves the horse a wreck almost before he has reached his prime, if the lessening of the weight of iron and of the number of nails used in fixing the iron has been followed by direct and important benefits in every instance, if even those who hold that a horse must be shod have discovered that which they look on as a protection to the fore-feet is merely harmful to the hind-feet, is it possible to stifle the suspicion that this insignificant remnant of a system so fruitful in mischief may have no magic power, and, in short, that the horse may do just as well without them?
This conclusion has been courageously avowed and most ably enforced by a writer calling himself “Free Lance,” in his recently published work on “Horses and Roads”; and, to say the least, it is time that the whole question should be fully and impartially considered. It affects the wealth of the nation, and on it depend both the usefulness and the comfort of a race of noble animals which are indispensable to our prosperity. The force of prejudice may be great, and a widespread traditional system may not be soon or easily overthrown; but it can not for a moment be supposed that Englishmen generally will assume with reference to it an attitude of unreasoning and obstinate antagonism. Fear probably will be found to supply a restraining motive more powerful than open ill will. Many who think that the new theory may look well enough on paper will doubt its value in practice, and will regard their own horses as exceptions to which it can not apply. With a strange ignorance of fact, they will insist that unshod horses may move safely over smooth and soft ground, but must fail when it is rugged, and hard, and stony, or will be oppressed by a vague dread that a horse which has gone well enough without shoes for six months may break down in the seventh. But even those who refuse to give up the practice of shoeing will yet acknowledge its faultiness, and wish that they could give it up without risk. To all such we need only say that if they have any regard for impartiality they are bound to consider the arguments and the facts on which the conclusions of “Free Lance” rest; and most assuredly they will find in