This blog entry is about lawn boots. Partly because they are interesting but largely because they contain no letter “D”.
Note the missing key
This isn’t an intellectual exercise, I’m no Georges Perec (he wrote “La Disparation”, a novel without the letter “e”) – an entire work omitting a given letter is beyond me (note the “d” in beyond). It is simply that one of my kittens removed the relevant key from my laptop & it now requires a special poking action to use it.
Back to lawn boots… these are leather boots that would be strapped onto a pony’s (or horse’s, or donkey’s) hooves.
Why were they used? Well, if you have ever stamped down divots on a polo field (or accidentally let a horse stray onto a golf course – which has never happened to me, really…), you will know what hooves can do to a lawn.
Before motorised vehicles were common, horse (or pony, or donkey) drawn lawnmowers and grass rollers were used on any large expanses of grass. Obviously, there’s no point in carefully mowing and rolling a lawn if at the same time it is being churned up by hooves.
They are made of thick leather and have a strap that would fasten around the pastern, and a lower strap that fastened behind the heel. The soles are generally leather, they are sometimes sewn on & sometimes riveted. The soles often have small studs – wet grass can be pretty slippery. I have seen a set with large studs on the sole, I was told that they were “ice shoes”, but I am not sure how accurate that description was.
Most that turn up are probably Victorian. They do show up in old gardener’s catalogues (Ruth Brennan uses the title “Lawn Boots for Donkeys” in her 1991 paper on nurserymen’s catalogues. Ultimately I think they are a fascinating bit of equestrian history & an ingenious piece of problem solving.