To the untrained eye, watching a farrier shoe a horse is a fascinating event to behold. The horse either loves it or hates it, and it takes a special breed to take on such a potentially risky task.
This beautiful animal’s name is Watermark and enjoys a hard-working but privileged existence among many other such creatures at the Hollins University Riding Center in Roanoke, Virginia.
Farriers John Guthrie and Kelly Beahm are masters at making the task appear amazingly simple.
Step 1 – Out with the Old
Step one of the procedure is to first remove the old shoe(s) and clean the hoof surface to make ready for the new. In the above image, farrier Kelly Beahm cleans a hoof by clinching the surface area free of prior mounting debris.
Step 2 – Shaping the New
The next step of the process is to size and shape the shoe for the perfect fit for each hoof. In the above image, master farrier John Guthrie heats and pounds a perfect fit on the anvil.
He then finishes the shoe edge by grinding down any excess overhangs, and sanding away any uncomfortable sharp points and burrs.
Step 3 – Horseshoe Nails – Do they Hurt the Horse?
Albeit the first question of any curious on-looker, when performed properly the nailing process in no way harms the animal in the least. Horseshoe nails are designed to curve outward upon driving to avoid embedding into the quick of the hoof.
Step 4 – Attaching the New
Each shoe contains between 6 to 8 nails, and is determined by the farrier based on the specific needs to acquire the best fit. Upon driving the nails to attach the new shoe (above), the farrier will then bend and break off the protruding excess (below).
Step 5 – Finishing
The final step is to then finish by filing the remainder of the nail protrusions flush to the hoof surface to avoid injury to the wearer, as well as any nearby grazers that might accidentally make contact in the field.
Farrier Kelly Beahm places the hoof comfortably on a special stand designed to make side-finishing a significantly easier task to accomplish.
All said and done, each hoof takes roughly 15-30 minutes to shape and shoe, and can vary depending on each animal’s comfort-level and demeanor.
This was the case with this particular horse and an experienced two-man crew working in unison, with one shaping and the other fitting.
Each animal reacts in its own way to the process, depending first on the given level of knowledge and trust with the fitter.
Most learn to enjoy the task and simply relax as we do, for example, when getting a haircut or manicure. Others tend to not prefer – at least initially – the farrier’s need to bend and fold one leg at a time, or to be placed in a stand for a clearer view of the work.
A truly interesting world unto its own, watching an experienced team of farriers work is an exercise in rugged artistry and craftsmanship.
In the post-modern world and all of its technological achievement, one cannot help but watch and reflect in awe of the giant, analog shoulders on which it all stands.
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Mark Morrow is a Virginia-based photographer and digital media producer specializing in a variety of commercial portraiture, architecture and fine art landscape projects.
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