That’s right, I said horses in high heels. Although truthfully, it is not quite how it sounds, but still amazingly similar. One of the latest things discovered at the museum was a type of horse shoe, but not like the typical metal shoes that you are probably imagining that attach to the base of a horse’s hoof. This object is an actual hand-made shoe that would encapsulate the entire hoof of a horse. This interesting item was donated by Walter Eugene Johnson who used this shoe as a prosthetic for a horse who had one leg shorter than the others so that he could walk more easily. As you can see here, the shoe was created with a base made out of a thick piece of wood to add height, a metal piece along the front that I would presume was used to give the shoe some resilience, and the actual “shoe” part was made out of leather with leather straps, and shoe laces. This horse shoe is remarkably similar to shoes we humans use for ourselves, and even in the same context. What I mean is, humans have a similar way to correct a similar problem when we have one leg shorter than the others and do not fix it using surgical methods.
When I saw this object I was sure I had never seen anything quite like it before so I decided to do some research and I certainly found some interesting results. I knew there were some more modern technologies that we have created, but had never seen one in person. One example is what I found at this site: http://www.thehorse.com/articles/15234/prosthetics-science-not-science-fiction, which seems to be quite common, and I even found what appears to be a similar type of prosthetic shown on an elephant at this site: http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-10311556-1.html . However, what I became most excited about finding was a story about a shoe, or rather a boot, used on a miniature horse that reminded me very much of the one in our museum. This story by Eric Mack and video can be found at http://news.cnet.com/8301-10784_3-20046304-87.html and is about a horse who was born without a segment of his lower leg, including his hoof. The current owners of the horse managed to get a prosthetic leg for this horse in the hopes that it would at least help him walk (but the owners were happily surprised that he could now run as well with his new prosthetic). It reminded me of Walter Johnson’s horse shoe because it fit around the animal’s leg just like a boot; was fastened with, the slightly more modern, Velcro; and was used for the same reason: to help a horse walk.
It’s true that this horse had a slightly different problem, but I think the concept is very similar and the people who helped these animals had a similar mindset. I simply think that it is incredible that this man, Walter Johnson, went to the trouble to create a solution for a horse who probably only had one other grim alternative; and even though it was a relatively simple invention, it appears to be a little ahead of its time, for it is not unlike the impressive alternatives that we see today.