Monday, February 06, 2012

War Horse Hoofcare: Puncture Wounds Then and Now

Kindness to animals

While collecting photos of farriers during World War I, I passed over this photo several times without realizing how interesting it was. It took a magnifying glass to appreciate this one.

The sign reads, "'Kindness to animals, 500 horses lamed weekly by nails dropped on roads and horse lines by cookers carrying firewood with nails left in. Please remove nails."

As if the war horses didn't have enough to worry about with staying alive in combat and battling environmental conditions like mud and heat and lice and mange, and diseases like glanders, they had to walk across scorched earth littered with shrapnel, and sometimes even the "friendly fire" of nails dropped from wagons hauling salvaged timber to burn in the cookers.

Cooks of the Newfoundland Regiment at the cookers

What's a cooker, you might ask? A cooker was a horse-drawn kitchen--a sort of wood-fired stove on wheels. Here you see some Canadian troops from Newfoundland who were happy to belly up to a cooker as if it was a modern-day urban food truck.

Both these photos were provided by the Royal Library of Scotland.

Puncture wounds from shrapnel and nails are still a problem for horses and donkeys in war zones. They are also a problem for horses after natural disasters like tornadoes, earthquakes, tidal waves and hurricanes.

What's a simple way to protect hooves from puncture wounds when disaster--or war--strikes today?

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Bif said...

Shoes with pads? Equicast? Hoof boots?

Fran Jurga said...

You're right, in an ideal world, Bif. But those things aren't available in developing countries and even in North America, are prohibitively expensive for the majority of horses, particularly after a disaster.

I've seen people nail leather pads directly to hooves as a sort of poor-man's hospital plate.

I'd love to offer the disaster-response charities some low-cost ideas or even see someone develop an inexpensive product.

It's often horses and donkeys who can get into disaster zones. Or out, as the case may be, particularly when there's no gasoline available.

Keep thinking, Bif. More ideas, please!

Lisa said...

You are right. That is a tough situation for horses and donkeys still in war zones. I hadn't thought of all the shrapnel and nails lying around back then and even now.

I've known horses here in the states that have nearly died from puncture wounds in the hoof because the stable used to be a contractor's place and there were nails everywhere.

Like you mentioned a cheap, easy hoof protectant would be ideal for horses in that situation, since the boots and pads we use here would not be options. Perhaps someone should look at developing something like that.

Ann said...

Hello Fran,

I saw this on the BBC and thought you might be interested. There's not too much on shoeing the horses, but what was there, I found interesting. I enjoy your blog. Thank you.