In all Farrierness

By Patty Wilber

“For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.”

“No hoof, no horse.”

Horse hoof care has always been a priority for me and I have hired professional horse shoers (farriers) to do this job. I have pulled a loose shoe off here and there, and I have done a little rasping of some ragged hoof edges, but have left the rest to the pros.

Until last month.

Three horses have been at the ranch much of the summer, and the ranch is remote enough that you either haul the horses off the mountain (a good two hours of rough rutted road) for new shoes, or you do it yourself.

If one is well versed in the art (it really is an art) of hoof care, pulling off old shoes, trimming the hoof and setting a four new shoes should take 45 minutes to an hour. If unversed…well, it can take days!

T’s Dad elected to do it himself.  I perused my Anatomy and Physiology text book for a while (preparing for the semester and all), but then I got bored and decided to “help”.

Tried to pull shoes off Alameda.  I don’t think I got ANY, but I kept busy a good long while trying.

Here is a list of the troubles I had:

1.  Wrong tools.  There is a shoe pulling tool, but we didn’t have one, so I used nippers.

2.  No technique.  Got some help on that, but then…

3. Awkward.  I had a lot of trouble making the tools do anything useful.

4. Horse kept pulling her feet away (well gee I wonder why?)

Shoes got off…Thought I’d try trimming the hoof.  Uh huh.

1.  Dull hoof knife.

2. No technique with clippers (got some help with that…)

3. Awkward.

4. Horse kept pulling her feet away.

Serious lack of success…

You know how in books the horses gallop hither and yon and their shoes never fall off? (Not to mention that the whole galloping hither and yon is completely unrealistic.)

What if one did fall off? The horse might go lame, or damage his hoof, or the rider might have to walk, or the big event might be missed, or the farrier might have to be called, and the young virile farrier might be quite the hot hand and cause the plot to veer wildly off course…

A few weeks later I got a second shot at farriering.  In the meantime,  I gleaned a few tips from my farrier and my friend Mark.

Cinco was my victim this time. Her shoes had been hanging on for over 12 weeks (six to eight is a more typical time lapse between shoe jobs) and were clinking-as-she-walked loose.  I still didn’t have shoe pullers, but I knew where to place the clippers and how to give a little wrist action, and by golly, I had those shoes off in five minutes!

The hoof knife was still dull, but I got it to peel a little bit of old sole off the bottom of the hoof.

My hoof nipping technique was better and my tool handling was more adroit! (I do not really know why, but the pieces just seemed to make more sense to my hands this time.)

A dude at the ranch wandered over to “talk shop” and asked if I was a horse shoer.  Snort!  Proved he was a dude.

In only  a hour, I had both front feet trimmed.  Ok, so, one was a little shorter than the other, but over all, I was pretty pleased!”

Thank-goodness I didn’t have to set (nail on)  any shoes. Premade shoes can be purchased from the feed store, and then banged around on an anvil until they fit a horse’s hoof. The idea is to hold them in place and drive nails through the hoof wall.  Deep enough to hold the shoe, but not so deep as to “quick” the horse.  “Quicking” is when the nail hits living tissue.  Horses don’t tend to like that much, and it can cause lameness.

Sometimes you can tell right away.  (They react, or they bleed.)

Sometimes they  go lame later.  In that case, you can say “he’s got a hot nail.”  The lameness is often resolved as soon as the offending nail is pulled.

That got me cogitating over the job of Ye Olde blacksmith,  in the days before pre-fab shoes. That would quintuple the difficulty of the whole process.

But from the point of view of some novels, WELL, that blacksmith might be a little covered in coal dust from his fire, but I bet he’d be strategically sweaty…(of course truthfully he’d probably also really stink because of all that sweat… ) But hey!  Twist.  The blacksmith was really a girl! (who didn’t stink, or sweat.)



About BlogPatty

Here's the skinny: I have a thing for horses. They make sense to me. I have a small horse training business (it's a "boutique" training business, not because it's super fancy, but because the horses get a lot of personal attention). I also go by Dr. Wilber, and teach biology full-time at a Central New Mexico Community college.
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4 Responses to In all Farrierness

  1. Lisa Kazmar says:

    You are a goddess in my eyes….Keep on being fantastic AND funny at the same time…Love the blogs…..Have an awesome show filled weekend!

  2. BlogPatty says:

    Lisa–you Made my day!

  3. Elizabeth says:

    Back in the day, after moving Old Ky up here, I couldn’t find a farrier I liked. So I decided that yes, indeedy, I could trim his soft white hooves. Got the nippers, yessirree. Got the hoof knife. Got the hoof rasp. Got the horse. Horse said “Are you sure you know what you’re doing?”

    Sez I “I clean your feet; I know how to hold your feet; I’ve watched hoof trimming lots of times and I’ve read a book. This will work.” Applied nipper to hoof wall as I had seen farrier do. Applied muscle to nipper handles. Nothing happened. Applied more muscle. Nothing happened except that Old Ky leaned over and lipped the seat of my jeans. “Hon, do you really know what you’re doing?” A considerable amount of time later, I had two bloody knuckles (from the rasp) on my left hand, and Ky had shorter front hooves. Not pretty, smooth, perfectly rounded front hooves, but shorter.

    About then I read an article on “natural horse shoeing”. Hmmm, I thought, the horse is already barefoot (and we had no rocks). Why not just rasp the hooves a little, like natural wearing down, just a little every day? Then no fight with the hoof nippers.

    This, like lifting the newborn calf every day until you lift the full-grown cow-critter…does not work. Just in case you wondered.

    Eventually I found a farrier. With the next horse I found another farrier. And then another (whom I really liked, but I was his farthest out customer and only had two to trim–not worth his time once he got the job of doing the police horses fifty miles away.) Now I have a farrier I really like and I hope to goodness I never have to trim another hoof.

  4. Patty says:

    Elizabeth–so very well put! Looks a lot easier from behind the check book than it feels from under the horse!

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