© Keith Seeley
published in ANVIL Magazine, July 1996
Being a farrier has provided me with the opportunity to meet and make friends with all kinds of horse owners from all walks of life. Their interests range from "Oh, he's a real sweet horse," (but, in reality, one that resembles a Tasmanian devil at trim time - you know, ask for a foot and 15 minutes later, you're dizzy from going 'round and 'round) to the Mercedes models of the cutting horse or the English event horse. You know, the well-managed and maintained guys - the kind we farriers just love to work with. All you have to do is just think about a foot and it's there! I'm sure we've all had too many Tasmanian devils and not nearly enough of the Mercedes models.
There's one thing I've noticed about all these horses. No matter what the quality, breed, training or use, they all have one thing in common for sure: they all have feet. Think about it. Nature designed a complex, yet delicate foot for this beautiful, graceful animal. This foot served the horse well for thousands of years until man started playing around with the breeds and their genetics. So now it is even more important than ever to employ only certified, qualified farriers to help modern horses maintain the best feet they can possess. The age of the cavalry farrier and the cowboy shoer has come to an end, much as we may not want to recognize it. Today's farriers are having to become more versed and more educated in something called farrier science.
Farrier science takes the farrier from being very skilled at making shoes and knowing when and where to use them to knowing how to understand and evaluate the conformation of the horse, the anatomy of the limbs, and the chiropractics of the animal. A working knowledge of the use of new hoof products on the market is also necessary. In addition, farriers must have the ability to relate and convey all this knowledge to the horse owner. It is getting tougher too, because the horse owner is becoming ever more educated, resulting from the efforts of the many associations available to them and the abundance of publications dedicated to the horse. The computer information superhighway is also contributing to furthering the knowledge of both the farrier and the horse owner. And on top of all this, the farrier still has to make a living.
There are the big, expensive hauling rigs, the expensive high-bred horses, the high-priced tack, super-nice barns and riding lessons - enough to last a lifetime. Don't get me wrong - having all these amenities are nice and also impressive. Having a great performance horse really helps justify it all. But it's all riding on one thing - the horse's four feet.
In order for a horse to perform at his optimum, his feet must be well maintained by both the horse owner and the farrier. Proper care and maintenance cost money. But improper shoeing endangers the lives of both horse and rider. The quality and knowledge of the farrier can also make - or break - the horse's performance. In other words, the difference between first and second place (or even showing at all) rides largely in the hands of the farrier. The owner wants his horse to have the best of everything, including barn, tack and training - so why not pay for the one thing that directly affects him every day of his life? His feet. If his feet hurt, he can't walk - at least not very well. If his feet are split or out of balance, he will not be able to perform to the best of his ability, not to mention the change in his attitude! Why not spend the money where he needs it the most? On his feet.
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