There is an old saying, “No foot, no horse”. No matter how healthy and fit a horse might be, no matter how well-trained, he won’t be of any use to his rider if he’s lame. Sound feet are vital. Thus, the blacksmith, or farrier, plays an important role in the well-being of a horse.
A horse’s feet grow continuously, just like our fingernails. And just like fingernails, they need to be trimmed to keep them in good condition, even and shapely. A horse that is barefoot, not wearing shoes, usually requires a trim every 6 to 8 weeks or so. Excess growth is trimmed off with a farrier’s knife and clippers. Then the outside edge of the hoof may be rasped to tidy up the edge and shape the hoof.
City folk may think that blacksmithing is an old-fashioned trade, something you would only encounter on a visit to a pioneer village exhibit. In fact, farriers are more in demand than ever. Ontario’s horse population was estimated at 380,000 in 2006 (about 28,500 are associated with the racing industry), and $157 million is spent annually on hay, grain and bedding. The total annual economic impact of the horse population is estimated at $577.8 million. Consider that each one of those 380,000 horses has 4 feet that need attention every 6 to 8 weeks.
Young farriers may attend horseshoeing school and apprentice with an experienced farrier. It’s not an easy job. It involves bending over for long hours every day, working in all kinds of weather and dealing with sometimes-temperamental subjects who DON’T WANT their feet trimmed, thank you. A good farrier can trim and shoe a horse to correct for conformation or lameness issues.
Farrier Shane recently visited to give Mousie, Czarina and Louis a trim. These photos show Shane working on Mousie. Mousie says “Thanks for the new feet, Shane!”