Friday, 20 April 2012

The oxymoron of "Modern shoeing"

Apparently there is an article in Horse and Hound this week all about modern shoeing - the title is "Shoeing for Performance" - presumably because "Shoeing for Lameness" wouldn't be quite so catchy.

I haven't yet read it but when someone sent me a text about it I was amused at the phrase "modern shoeing".  After all, one of the arguments used in favour of shoes is that "its been done since Roman times".

Now, although there is archaeological evidence that shoes were put on horses in Roman times, I've never found it persuasive as a reason for shoeing.  After all, the Romans invented lots of things - including novel ways of torture - that we now find repulsive and lots of other things - like central heating and plumbing - that we still use but have radically changed and improved.

"Modern shoeing" therefore to me is a bit of an oxymoron, since there is little fundamental difference between Roman horseshoes and those most widely used today.

Don't get me wrong - horseshoes have a use.  Jen blogged recently about the massive improvement in her horse, Saga, when he is shod by comparison to when he is barefoot.  She knows he has thin soles and has found it impossible to get to the bottom of why, so shoes are a practical way of helping his less than perfect feet still perform.
 However, let's also not forget that most of the horses who come here have feet which have been deformed by shoes - there is really no other way to describe it - and who have had months and often years of shoes making their feet weaker and more compromised.
As always, the picture is bigger than we think, and much more complicated!


cptrayes said...

I read the article. It says that the top farrier Haydn ??? is shoeing to keep horses sound. I would prefer to describe it as shoeing to stop shoes making them lame, because the horses generally know how to stay sound without the shoes.

Dom said...

I tell all my students that with anything horse related, if someone tells you to do something a certain way, your first response should be to ask why. If the person can't give you a definitive answer, you should ask someone else. An alarming amount of answers are 'just cuz' or because someone did it hundreds of years ago (mounting from the left, for example). This seems to be especially true of hoof care.

jenj said...

"Shoeing for Lameness," BWAHAHAHA! Love it!

I've actually thought a lot about why shoes came about, and my guess is that the Romans were running their horses around on those lovely roads they built, and the horses were having issues with the hard footing. The first Roman shoes were actually woven grass mats, sort of like pads, that were laced onto the hoof. Kind of cool, actually. I have a single shoe very much like the pair you've got a pic of; I believe that style is from around 1300. It's interesting to see how much sole protection they afforded, as well as the traction provided by the cleats in back.

And I know it's sort of silly, but thank you for not condemning me for shoeing Saga. I really do appreciate it, especially coming from you.

amandap said...

You've got to think how the Romans kept and fed their horses too. This, I imagine is probably the main reason shoes were needed to be devised and the reason they are still seen as necessary.

Mind you didn't Native Americans use horse shoes too?

cptrayes said...

I think it's a lot to do with grass Amanda. It's the cheapest way to feed horses, and they look so well on it that it's difficult to believe that it stops them managing without shoes, but we all know now that it does.


Nic Barker said...

I'd never condemn anyone for shoeing, Jen, least of all you :-)

C - definitely something in that.

I also suspect that - because in years gone by so many horses were overworked in every way - Victorian life expectancy for a working horse in London was only 3 or 4 years - their feet would have been in pretty poor shape. If you look at some of the old photos, the horses aren't in great shape and I would expect that lack of health to show up in the feet too, so shoeing would have been a quick way of getting more mileage out of unhealthy feet.

Anonymous said...

Is it shoes that do the damage, or the people applying them?

Nic Barker said...

In the horses I see here, CJ, hooves are much less healthy when peripherally loaded and when the caudal hoof is immobilised.

Obviously some farriers are better than others and shoe more or less sympathetically, but either way the shoe has an effect on hoof function.

Nic Barker said...

PS: Dom - very good point ;-)