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was this practice carried, that many young racers used to have a hot iron run round the hocks with a view to tightening the ligaments and strengthening the joints. It is almost needless to say that such a method of counteracting Nature in her work is now never resorted to, unless there be some actual disease going on which imperiously demands the application of a remedy which only cures by disfiguring. If a horse be fired across the back sinews, he has probably either strained them desperately, or has been stubbed there while hunting, or met with some other accident productive of an enlargement which nothing short of the hot iron could reduce. If fired just above the coronet, he has probably had some long-continued lameness of the foot, and cauterisation has been practised as a pis-aller—that is, it has been tried as offering a chance of a cure. I know at this moment a favorite old hunter that for the last four or five seasons has been regularly fired every year for footlameness, and the operation invariably cures him for a time, but his soundness never lasts long. I have likewise seen a mare fired across the knee for the purpose of reducing a very large callus, the result of a severe fall. In this case the iron has evidently not been applied for any disease, but merely on account of an accident which has occasioned a greater disfigurement than is likely to result from the application of a hot iron.
The first question to ask yourself on examining such horses is, “ for what purpose are they required ?" If for slow farm-work on soft ground, they may possibly do very well, even though it may be doubtful if their legs will stand battering on the road. In such cases, a very good and serviceable horse, with a bad blemish, may do you as much work as an unscarred one that will cost ten times more money ; therefore no rule can be laid down for estimating the value of such an animal, excepting that you may always safely bid but a very small sum for a fired horse, especially if he appear to have been cauterised for any disease.
Those who, after reading these remarks, may chance to be asked a very long sum for a fired horse will probably think the seller either a confounded rogue, or suppose that I know very little about the value of horses thus blemished : but it must be remembered, that I speak of the generality of horses, and not of those that have acquired, in spite of the iron, a great reputation as hunters, racers, or steeple-chasers. For instance, Moonraker, Vivian, Railroad, and many other horses used for the purpose of running Steeple-chases, have all been badly fired, but yet would in this state have fetched probably from two to five hundred guineas each. These instances are exceptions to the general rule ; and it should not be forgotten that such horses are not frequently used, but are nursed up for one or two great occasions for the purposes of gambling, and whether they go lame or not for a time after running is not taken into consideration.
Among other blemishes about the fore legs will, I believe, be found one called “ Rats’-tails.” I cannot say that I have myself ever noticed this complaint ; but where it exists, its nature is that of some eruption, probably mangy, which destroys the hair in stripes along the leg, and somewhat similar in appearance to the tail of a rat.
Before I quit the subject of blemishes, I must not omit to mention one which it is of essential importance not to pass over.
occasionally perceive the mark of a cut in the horse's leg, some inches in length, and a little behind and parallel to the shank bone just above the pastern. Where you see this, you may be pretty sure that the horse has been nerved—an operation which consists in cutting out a portion of the principal nerve of the leg for the purpose of destroying the sensation of the foot in cases of acute lameness of that part arising from incurable disease. In order to discover if you are right, run a pin into the skin above the coronet, and if the horse do not manifest any great degree of sensibility, set him down as having been nerved. You are of course not justified in doing this without very strong cause of suspicion, but the scar I have mentioned in fact is one. I have myself seen but very few nerved horses, but should suppose that the pastern joint and foot must be colder than natural : however, as I believe this is sometimes the case in rheumatism, the criterion is not one singly to be relied
Nerved horses sometimes work well for years; at others the hoof perishes and drops off ; therefore have nothing whatever to do with a horse that has undergone this operation, and you will save yourself the probable chance of having to rue your bargain.
We come now to the consideration of the footma most important point, and one requiring considerable scrutiny. In the first place, on examining a horse's foot, after having ascertained its position to be correct, remark if in front or at the sides the hoof be marked with circular depressions, running parallel to the coronet ; if so, fever of the foot, as severe inflammation of this part is sometimes called, has probably at one time or other taken place. This is not a sufficient cause of itself alone for rejecting a horse, but should lead you to pay particular attention in investigating the different points to be attended to in the examination of the foot. Secondly, look if you can perceive any difference in the size of the feet, viewed from before ; and afterwards, prior to lifting the leg, feel if the hoofs be perfectly and equally cool, and free from fissures running perpendicularly from the coronet towards the toe. Having satisfied yourself on these points, you may proceed to the examination of the sole and frog. First making the horse raise his leg, by tapping slightly with your hand on the back of the pastern, take hold of the hoof by letting the toe rest in your hand, and turn up the gole. This part, to be well formed, should describe with its rim or outer edge, as nearly as possible, three-fourths of a circle. The more the foot deviates from this form, the nearer does it approximate to that state called " a donkey hoof," becoming narrow, elongated, and contracted towards the heel and in the quarters, and consequently in very many cases incapable of affording free scope for the development of the internal parts of the hoof. These internal parts are of the very greatest consequence, being constituted of bones forming a joint, with ligaments and soft parts whose structure and functions are easily deranged. The sole itself should be concave, and the more it approaches to flatness, the more tender is the foot, as it must be more liable to concussion from its contact with hard substances. It is wonderful how differently horses with flattish soles will go when ridden on turf or soft ground compared with their action on the road. This flat state of the hoof too is an indication that the internal parts, being elsewhere compressed, have acquired room by pressing down the sole, which, from this cause, is sometimes rendered actually convex, or pummiced, as it is called.
The frog, which is at the back part of the sole, and projects inwards and forwards, somewhat in the shape of the letter V, should project a little beyond the hoof, but scarcely so deep as the shoe, so as to take off the concussion produced by striking upon hard substances, and should be of a spongy, elastic nature to admit of the spreading of the heel, by which sufficient room is allowed for the expansion and play of internal parts. In examining the sole and frog, press firmly upon them with your thumb, and you will thus perceive if the first be very thin, and if either be particularly sensitive. A sole that appears shelly, that is, easily cracking and chipping off, is a fault; and the same remark will apply to the hoof generally. If the foot be properly pared, the sole should always be cut away so as to allow of its yielding slightly to strong pressure, by which freedom of action is allowed to the coffin bone and internal parts of the foot generally. A shelly state of the hoof
may be induced by neglect on the part of those entrusted with the care of the
horse, and a dry hoof, shewing a disposition to crack and split, very frequently becomes so from inattention. The proper mode of preventing and of curing a hoof of this description will be noticed when treating of stable management. When you find a horse's hoof in this dry and brittle state, look narrowly for those cracks or fissures about the coronet or elsewhere (commonly on the inner quarter) to which I have already alluded, and which are termed “sand cracks." Besides indicating a very bad state of the hoof, they are extremely difficult to cure, and the fissure, when occupying the greater length of the foot, and particularly when involving the coronet, is seldom closed up in less than some months, during which period the horse is for the most part lame, and unfit to do hard work. In inspecting the shell of the foot, it is not sufficient merely to pass your hand round it, in the expectation of feeling a sand-crack, should there be one ; for, generally speaking, those dealers who wish to pass off a horse with this complaint as sound are in the habit of filling the crack with melted resin, which is afterwards scraped so as to be perfectly even with the horn; so that your hand will pass over the diseased part without feeling any difference between it and the rest of the hoof. If the foot be taken
and fully inspected, the resin will be detected, even though a coating of tar and oil be generally rubbed over the hoof to make it of a uniform appearance.
Sometimes a little matter may be seen issuing from a small opening about the coronet. This frequently arises from a severe injury of the foot, either by pricks in shoeing, stubs, or similar causes, and denotes the formation of pus within the foot which has made its way out through the soft parts. The complaint is called a quittor, and produces lameness, which is frequently protracted for a considerable period.
Having examined the state of the horny part of the foot, your next care must be to inspect the frog. This is the seat of the disease called “ the thrush," to which I have already adverted. Where the feet have not been particularly well attended to, they are extremely liable to this complaint ; but a person in the habit of examining a horse's foot will immediately detect it by its smell, for it has an uncommonly rank and fetid odour. The best way of discovering it is to press with both your thumbs
upon the heel above the frog, when, if the thrush be a bad one, you will perceive a sort of matter oozing from the eleft in the frog, or
from sinuses which perforate it. So many caustic applications, however, are used for drying up a thrush, that, even where a bad one exists, the appearance of matter on pressure may be wanting. You must then learn to judge of its actual existence both by the smell of the part, and also by carefully remarking if any portion of the frog be destroyed by disease; in which case you may fairly infer the existence either of a thrush, or of what is termed “ a cancrous frog.” In some cases nearly the whole of the frog is eaten away, and its ragged edges may alone remain. Proper applications and due attention may enable you to remedy this state of the foot; but, unless you are well aware of its precise nature, and of the means of cure to be adopted, you may produce internal inflammation of the foot by suddenly stopping the discharge, and thereby do great mischief. A horse in this state, therefore, is generally a bad bargain, for the diseased part is very tender, and consequently he never steps with confidence, and is liable to fall suddenly if a sharp stone touch his frog. I had once the best little Irish hack I ever crossed, who came down in an instant from a flint sticking into a thrush of the off-foot. He broke both his knees, and rather alarmed a friend of mine who was riding him. It is my maxim when a thing is done not to make any lamentations about it, since it is then past recalling, but to manage it in the best way I can; and though I should have been greatly mortified had I known my little horse was destined to break his knees, still, after they had been broken, I forthwith considered that I had bought a broken-knee'd horse, and was to do the best I could with him. I soon cured his knees in a highly respectable manner, and, although not more than fourteen hands and a half in height, he turned out such a hunter that I was shortly after bid by a farmer ten pounds more than I had given for him before his accident, and he has since been sold for more money. This liability of horses with bad thrushes to fall
, if the diseased part be pricked or bruised, renders them rather unsafe to ride; and yet, in spite of this fact, you very rarely find a person refuse to purchase a horse merely because he has a thrush, unless indeed it be an extremely bad one, and the frog be very rotten. The reason is this: in the first place, every one is apt to flatter himself he can cure a thrush ; and in the next, if not cured, it can be remedied by shoeing the horse with leather soles, which guard his foot from injury. Altogether, then, this complaint is one which, if not in a very bad state, need not deter you from purchasing a horse good in other respects; but, at the same time, get something taken off his price on account of it, for many veterinary surgeons will not give a warranty of soundness with a horse who has thrushes.
When a thrushy horse is shod with leather, the foot should first be stopped with toe saturated with a composition made of tar and turpentine. The latter being the greater stimulant of the two, its quantity should be increased according to the degree of action in the diseased part. Some people prefer shoes made with a thin iron sole to leather. Between the iron and the foot is inserted a lamb's wool pad (which any one may make by simply drying the skin of a newly-flayed lamb, and moistening the wool with a strong solution of alum water to prevent its separating from the skin). The wool, when cut to the form of the sole, forms an excellent pad for applying stopping of any kind to the feet, as it retains a great deal of moisture for a considerable time,
Corns are another foot evil to which many horses are extremely liable. They generally arise from pressure made by some portion of the shoe, and consequently are frequently not very perceptible unless the shoe be removed, especially where they are made very broad. Corns generally arise near the heel, therefore, whenever you perceive a more than usual portion of the foot cut away in this situation, you may suspect the existence of this complaint. As it is one, which, at any rate every now and then, will render a horse lame, it behoves you to watch carefully the action and motions of a horse having this complaint. You may frequently notice that a horse with a corn will rest the affected foot, and, instead of standing firmly on the ground, will raise the heel somewhat and stand upon the toe, thus denoting the existence of considerable tenderness of the part. A corn too, especially a bad one, will commonly cause a horse to shuffle in his gait, instead of putting his foot firmly to the ground; and a judge of this species of action will
, on seeing it, immediately be able to pronounce a horse to have this evil, more particularly if flat feet or other causes of tenderness are not to be descried. The safe plan is, therefore, to get the shoe taken off the suspected foot, and the corn, which is indicated by a reddish appearance of the hoof, will become visible. Do not buy a horse for the saddle that has bad corns; they are a great grievance, are very seldom completely removed, and, moreover, constantly cripple a horse's action to such a degree as not only to render it extremely unpleasant to his rider, but frequently even dangerous, causing him to put the toe to the ground first, and thereby occasioning that worst of faults, stumbling.
Many people will tell you that corns are very easily cured, and that the application of a hot iron or some caustic preparation will infallibly remove them in a short period. If a man who has a horse in this state to sell endeavors to persuade you of this, I need hardly say that his having neglected to put so simple a practice into execution with success must at once convince you of the fallibility of the plan, since by eradicating the disease the value of the horse would have been greatly increased. Once more, judge for yourself, and do not allow your reason to be led astray by the assertions of an interested person. When a man who knows but little about a horse enters a dealer's yard with money in his pocket, and a wish to buy a horse, the chances are greatly in favor of his coming out with very little cash, and a nag, from which he may, if he please, glean a great deal of experience; and this is the only “flattering unction he can lay to his soul.”
I have already spoken of the proper formation of the foot of the horse, and the nearer it approaches to this shape, the better, cæteris paribus, will it be. Now, having been told this, you will be surprised to learn, that, in consequence of early and perhaps careless shoeing, hard work, and other causes, not one horse's foot in fifty actually presents the appearance it would do if left entirely to Nature. It is, therefore, a most difficult affair for a novice to decide, from what he
have read, whether a foot, deviating perhaps considerably from the circular form, be really in a healthy state or not. I shall, therefore, proceed to describe, as well as I am able, the appearance of those feet which may be trusted, albeit differing widely from the shape which Nature has assigned it.
(To be continued.)