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  • Margaret Toner-Gaston

Shoeless Joe Duke-son

Anyone born before 1970 probably knows who Shoe-less Joe Jackson was. Born in 1886, the same year as my grandfather, Jackson was arguably one of the greatest baseball players of his era, before and during the First World War. During the 1920 season, he and several other players were banned from the league for trying to rig the results of the World Series, and unfortunately for Joe, he spent the rest of his working life doing other things despite being acquitted by a grand jury in 1921.

Shoe-less Joe earned his nickname in a minor league game. His new cleats were giving him blisters, so he simply took them off, and ran the rest of the game barefoot. Someone in the crowd yelled the word Shoe-less, and fate took care of the rest.


But the picture here is not Shoe-less Joe Jackson, even those born after 1970 can be assured of that. Surely this is Duke, Glorious Duke (Written by Lionel Bart, from the movie Oliver 1968).

Yes, this is Duke, and he has absolutely nothing in common with Shoe-less Joe Jackson, nothing at all, save one tiny thing.

Yesterday I went out to check on the horses, and that voice in my head that I am pretty sure is not schizophrenia said "you better check those shoes". Since I usually listen to the voice in my head, I picked up Duke's right foot, and found to my chagrin that the shoe and the pad that should have been there were gone.

How could this happen? Well you might ask. I confess to not being completely surprised. If you have ever looked at a horse for sale ad, usually somewhere will be listed, "no vices". For the most part this would be true of Duke, except that he does have a vice. A teensy one. He paws his right foot when he is impatient. He is most impatient when I am coming through the gate with the evening meal, and I'm just not getting there fast enough. He is always scolded, stops, and moves into position in time to have his bin put in front of him. But I often wonder how much stomping he does when I am not there to scold.

I have heard traditional horse people referring to the Clydesdale stomp. And it wasn't long before I noticed it for myself. The hair around a Clydesdale foot is often wet, and because of its thickness, it often takes a lot of air to dry it out. Because of this Clydes are prone to something called Clyde itch. This term refers to a range of conditions, most commonly an infection caused by a burrowing mite that loves the damp environment under all that hair. Most Clydes have some degree of infestation from this mite. Well, those that do not live in the pampered conditions of a show team. In outdoor conditions it is almost impossible to keep the feet dry and the mites at bay. So you treat it, almost constantly. Both the mites and the treatments cause itching, and the easiest way for a horse to scratch an itchy foot is - you got it, to stomp.

Suzy suffers from mites almost 365 days a year. She has been treated with medicated shampoos, oral medications, home remedies and traditional horse remedies, specifically sulfur and oil. This seems to work the best for all of my horses, and I also combine it with periodic doses of ivermectin, an antimicrobial used for worms.

Duke has never suffered from mites as badly as Suzy does, which is interesting, because he has more thick hair around his feet. Perhaps it is too warm under there for the nasty little things to survive.

Regardless of the cause, he obviously stomped or pawed the right front foot one too many times, and it and the nails that held it on are out there somewhere in my paddock. I looked for it. I looked for it many times. I even dragged a magnet over the more accessible parts of the area concerned. Nothing.

So here's the thing: those shoes, pads, caulks, and their installation, cost $260. So Shoe-less Joe Jackson and Shoe-less Duke have one more thing in common. They are both persona non grata.

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