I wanted this to be a tribute to a unique group of people, but I find that they are almost indescribable. A good farrier must hold a sharp knife in his handwork underneath a large animal that sometimes doesn’t want to be worked on. The farrier must also know how to handle the person who owns the horse, sometimes the harder of the two options. He/she has to work with such diverse materials as metal, skin, and emotions. He needs the finesse of a surgeon and the strength of a wrestler with his tools, without the benefit of anesthesia. Good farriers can trim all four feet to the exact angles that all match, just with the eyeball measurements. When they get out the calipers at the end, all it does is confirm a perfect job.
He is also an artist when you consider first the eye he needs to visualize a perfect hoof from one which needs sculpting to that ideal. Then he/she has to shape the correct shoe for the job when a fraction of an inch could cause lameness. I have seen 8×10 oil paintings that sell for $8,000, but to me they are not nearly as beautiful as a lame horse that went sound after the farrier visualized the inside structure of the hoof, leveled the bars, rounded the toe, and released the pressure of an abcess, all for $25. These critical jobs are usually performed outside in all sorts of weather, and on any surface that happens to be there. And much of this delicate work has do be done almost standing on his head.
I feel inadequate to express the respect I have for these people who are artists, surgeons, psychologists, blacksmiths, and contortionists all at once. Sometimes the customer is near tears with a foundered pony- farrier must rescue the pony’s feet, and deal with the person in panic. Sometimes the customer only calls once a year, just before hunting season, and the farrier has to work a miracle which will last till next year. Sometimes people expect the farrier to do the training, or otherwise they would have the horse accustomed to picking up its feet. Sometimes when the horse struggles and suddenly there is blood on the scene, customer quickly asks if Old Peanut is hurt, not caring if the farrier has sliced the pad off his thumb when Old Peanut jumped.
Of course, not everyone falls into these categories, but enough of them do so that it is a recognized problem. The American Farrier’s Journal gives the advice to farriers that they drop the inconsiderate customers, or charge them higher prices.
When you think about all this you wonder why anyone would want this job, and you have to feel awe at those who do.
My horses thank you, as much as I do. Happy National Farriers Week 2021!
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