A Beginner's Guide to Shoeing Horses

Hank Rate provides a detailed homestead beginner's guide to the back-country skill of shoeing horses.


| September/October 1970



005-044-01

A solid introduction to a necessary back-country skill. Moving from urban to a rural environment, shoeing horses can be a necessity.


ILLUSTRATION: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

When a man moves from an urban to a rural environment, he needs to develop a number of new talents. Depending upon the area and his line of work, shoeing horses can be a necessity. It can also provide a source of supplemental income. The population of recreational horses is exploding, and very few horse owners today can shoe their own stock. The existing farriers can't start to keep up with seasonal demand. There are a few schools that teach this trade, but such training isn't mandatory.

I was raised on a river-bottom farm in Iowa, where we let the ponies run barefoot, so's they'd grow big paddle feet to help them get through the swamps and bog-holes. Then I moved to Montana, where I worked as a forest ranger and a cowboy, and a barefoot horse in the summer might as well have a broken leg. I wanted to learn about shoeing horses, but had neither the time nor the inclination to become a professional. Using modern cold shoes and a minimum of equipment, I wanted to be able to shoe a sound, gentle horse. This article is what I would have liked for a reference while I was learning.

Shoeing Horses

Now if you have a falling-over-backward type of bronc, a horse with a faulty way of going, or one with an unsound hoof, you'd best call in a farrier. Most of the existing literature is geared toward these problems, but let's rule them out and stick with the nuts and bolts of getting that shoe on a sound, gentle horse.

Lesson one is observation. Become hoof conscious. The important thing is to learn the appearance, balance, and symmetry of a normal hoof. Hang onto the halter rope for a farrier whenever possible. He may be a silent or cantankerous old cuss, but at least you'll be looking at the bottom of a lot of feet, and becoming acquainted with the tools and, their use. And if he is willing to talk, take advantage of it, but don't believe all you hear.

Next is to develop a firm, quiet method of handling horses' feet. I've seen a ten-year-old girl pick up the feet of a horse that a "farrier" had to tie up to shoe. Remember that you're going to be shaky at first. About the time you decide that it takes four hands to hold a hammer, nail, shoe, and hoof in proper alignment all at once, and your gasket is ready to blew, you'll telegraph your feelings to the horse. About then, even the most gentle old plug will figure it's time to throw a falling-down fit.

At this stage of the game, the average article on horseshoeing throws in a six-credit course in anatomy and pathology. With regard to anatomy, let's keep these two pictures (see figure 1 and 2 illustrations) and the few terms listed alongside in mind as we continue. As for abnormalities, the important thing is to recognize them. Be suspicious of any lack of symmetry, separations, unusual ways of going, etc. Ask for help or advice before attempting to shoe such an animal.





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