Pourquoi ferre-t-on les chevaux ?

La question

"Le cheval est le seul animal dans lequel on puisse planter des clous..." [Jules Renard] Heureusement, ça ne lui fait pas mal ! En effet, du point de vue anatomique, le cheval marche sur un doigt et le fer est fixé dans la partie cornée du sabot, là où il n'y a pas de nerfs (c'est l'équivalent de nos ongles). Les premiers fers à chevaux datent du IXème siècle et la grande majorité des chevaux sont aujourd'hui ferrés. Mais quelle est l'utilité du fer à cheval ?
fer à cheval

La réponse

Il est tellement commun de voir des chevaux ferrés que lorsque l'on demande aujourd'hui pourquoi aux jeunes cavaliers, ils sont bien embarassés de répondre. Certains postuleront que c'est pour éviter aux chevaux de glisser. Or c'est bien le contraire qui se produit : un fer à cheval diminue les frottements et rend les appuis beaucoup moins sûrs. Sur terrain humide ou herbeux, on fixe même souvent des crampons pour limiter les glissades !
 
En faisant l'analogie avec le port de chaussures, on pourrait penser que le fer est posé pour que le cheval ne se fasse pas mal. En effet, si ce dernier marche sur des cailloux pointus à « sabots nus », il peut se blesser la sole (sous le sabot) alors qu'un fer surélève les pieds et limite le contact. Mais ce n'est pas l'unique raison : les chevaux de concours et de clubs sont tous ferrés, alors qu'ils restent majoritairement sur le sable !
 
Et la raison est bien ici : si vous avez déjà couru pied nu sur du sable, vous avez peut-être ressenti le frottement et l'échauffement que cela produit sous le pied. Or un sabot de cheval, en corne, est littéralement limé par l'action du sable ! A raison de séances de travail d'une heure, parfois deux fois par jour, l'usure est importante... Idem pour le frottement sur le goudron ou le béton pour les chevaux de ville. Et le problème des chevaux qui travaillent, c'est que l'usure du pied est plus rapide que la pousse naturelle. On ferre donc les chevaux de travail pour éviter une usure trop importante de leurs sabots.
 
Et il n'y a encore pas si longtemps, on ferrait égellement les vaches ou les boeufs qui servaient au travail agricole! Mais c'était un autre labeur : un sabot de vache est en deux parties et l'animal est souvent bien moins coopréatif...
 
Error
Le saviez-vous ?
Tout comme les hommes peuvent porter des semelles orthopédiques, certains fers sont travaillés pour corriger des défauts d'aplomb chez le cheval. C'est entre autre l'étude de l'usure inégale des fers (entre un pied droit ou gauche, ou entre l'intérieur et l'extérieur des fers) qui permet de constater ces défauts.
 
En résumé...
 
Si l'on ferre les chevaux, c'est pour éviter une usure trop importante de leurs sabots. Chez les chevaux de club ou de compétition marcher ou courir dans le sable lime la corne de leur sabot plus vite qu'elle ne pousse. Le sabot surélève le pied et limite les frottements, l'échauffement et l'usure.

Pour aller plus loin...

- Fers orthopédiques (site internet d'ACR-concept)
 
 
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