© Andy Juell
I sometimes think that horseshoers lack a certain degree of imagination. After all, we get up in the morning, stumble to our trucks, pray some fatal infliction strikes us before we see our first horse, and then we spend the rest of the day filling up our tennis shoes with sweat. By five o'clock in the afternoon most of us have a clear idea of why people would rather go to heaven than the other place.
History has provided a number of clues on the subject of doing things the easy way. After all, no one crosses Nevada anymore in covered wagons, few people chase buffaloes around North Dakota when they feel like a hamburger - AND, when was the last time you had to dig a new outhouse because the in-laws were coming for the weekend?
Since the idea has always been to find ways to be incredibly lazy and not get caught in the process, you would think horseshoers would follow this trend. There are a few things in horseshoeing that could use a little revision, and the following are my suggestions for work-saving inventions for the farrier.
The most obvious problem is the anvil. Clinicians go to great lengths teaching the proper way to stand at one, to beat on one, and occasionally how to place one in their truck without leaving their intestines all over the sidewalk. But no one ever suggests just getting rid of the thing. I mean, really, the anvil's heavy. Why not replace it with something more practical? Like a vacation in the Bahamas. Or at least find some horses to shoe that don't need all that shaping.
Another problem with shoeing horses is all the bending over that's required. It seems to me that horses are spoiled enough as it is. If horses can be trained to jump, chase cows, and pull wagons around, then it should be possible to teach them how to bend their legs straight up in the air -- or at least have it entered into their genetic makeup as a desirable trait. Sort of like being five gaited with an overdrive.
One tool that I have always found facinating is the one-handed foal nipper. How often has the case arisen, when working on foals, that you need one hand to keep it from beating you to death, another hand to punch the handler for being so stupid, and at least one of your feet to kick the 16 dogs that somehow end up in the stall with you? Or the yearling model especially designed for stud colts? It allows you the opportunity to easily trim a young colt with one hand while it slowly digests your other one.
Horseshoers also need something with which to deal with manure control. How often has a sweet young thing been put in the cross ties only to digress into some sort of intestinal jet engine. You know the type - make a nipper run, sweep the floor. Hit a shoe -- sweep the floor. Take a little too long and squish, they step in it. I've considered using a potato and a couple of bungee cords, but I am sure that there is something better.
Also on my list is the basic rasp. Actually, I could include just about anything that involves bleeding. But the rasp seems to be just about the most effective way of removing skin known to man. One slip and your thumb is wiggling around on the floor like a goldfish that fell out of its tank. The Europeans use a blade and a mallet, but then instead of your thumb, you'd end up chasing your kneecap around.
I've never liked chaps, especially when you turn 40 and your stomach kind of loses its youthful tone. It's hard enough to keep your jeans where they belong, much less 20 pounds of leather. Invariably, the whole mess ends up down around your ankles, which is a very impractical place to keep your wallet. Plus, you always wonder how familiar you really want a horse owner to become with that particular part of your anatomy.
Flies. How often has a horse turned homicidal over a $2.00 bottle of fly spray? It seems that most barns have wonderful manure piles that flies would love to hang around. Instead, they always choose to land on the horse that you have to shoe. And of course it is always a horse that has skin just about as thin as your credit card. One squirt from the bottle and he's lying on the ground screaming for an attorney. Why not invent a way to shrink wrap the whole horse?
I also have never really liked the various forms of restraint that some horses seem to need. Up chains are the worst of the bunch. (I once had a girlfriend who took hers along on dinner dates.) Twitches are a little better, but most horses see them coming. What we need is something that looks like a giant carrot, but as soon as it gets close to a nose, something like that creature in the movie "Alien" pops out and grabs a nostril. They wouldn't know what hit them, and just think of all the time that would save.
Lastly, horseshoeing needs something that can convert brains that don't work into brains that DO work, such as simple-to-operate hand tool that will easily screw into the horse's ear. It would convert even the most disgusting horse into a thing of absolute reason and charm. And, with a flip of the switch, it would also instantly work on humans, turning the most horrible client in the world into a kind, generous, charming, generous, compassionate, generous, kind, generous....generous.... generous .... generous person.
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