The Farrier's Excuse Book

© Andy Juell

published in ANVIL Magazine, June 1989

0ne thing for sure, horseshoeing is never dull. Painful, ugly, even ridiculous, but never, never dull. Unlike accounting, brain surgery, or dabbling in the stock market, horseshoeing remains a ceaseless mosaic of bizarre and unusual situations. It is not so much that horse people are remarkably different from any other group of animal lovers, but that a close association with anything as complicated as a horse naturally tends to alter one's genetic make up. And as everyone should know, there is nothing more dangerous than a bunch of psychotic chromosomes.

While modern psychiatry still struggles with the volatile Type A (amphetamines attached to a steering wheel), the moody Type B (lichens who breathe) and the occasional mass murderer, horseshoers are faced with the irrational, irrepressible, and uncontrollable Type H. And unfortunately, survival is dependent upon little more than a world-class excuse. Because as the average horse-owning zealot will happily tell you, horses never break. They simply run into the wrong farrier. The first problem is that horse owners play by their own rules - not Robert's Rules, Congressional rules, or rules of etiquette. Instead, it is the age-old system of passionate love, Turkish justice, and an ingrained philosophy that horseshoers were invented to poison an otherwise perfect world.

To handle this dilemma, farriers must always remember the wisdom of Vice President Dan Quayle when he said that "the best defense is a good excuse." So in consideration of the value of a good excuse, the following are made available to farriers everywhere.


Since this is the most common reason for a farrier to need an excuse, it should have the most creative options. Excuses in this category must invoke a feeling of sympathy, great importance, or unbridled imagination.

(1) Never say your watch stopped. Since most horseshoers can't afford a decent watch anyway, the concept will seem trivial. Instead, tell them you got stuck behind a presidential motorcade, and the CIA jammed your digital clock.

(2) Blame it on something mechanical. But never say the transmission. Anyone who has ever blown a transmission knows it takes fourteen days to fix one right. Try kicking the truck and yelling something about "ball joints." Nobody likes balljoints, anyway.

(3) Kidnapped by aliens. (Kids love this one.)

(4) Tell them you were delayed on a vet call. This always sounds important and even though there isn't a vet within 42 square miles that will even talk to you, it nonetheless is quite effective. Make sure you pick one that has been dead for at least ten years. It is horribly embarrassing if the mystery vet drives up while you are still going over the excuse.

(5) Take the medical approach. Explain to your client how a simple root canal turned into something worthy of a paper in a medical journal. Be sure and emphasize things like pus and blood. They will want to change the subject right away.

(6) Pick anything on the front page of a newspaper and say it either fell on you or kidnapped one of your relatives. Watch out for the word "fatalities," though. That means dead, and people who are dead usually don't show up for appointments - late or otherwise.

(7) Tell them that you would never be late if you could just afford a cellular phone.

(8) Use reverse psychology. Jump up and down screaming and shaking your fists in an effort to convince them that they screwed up the appointment time. Of course if you're three weeks late, it is going to be a real hard sell.

(9) Say that your head got caught in a rototiller.

(10) Explain to them politely that your wife goofed up the appointments again. Wives are great for excuses, but if they ever catch you using them in such a manner, not even a world-class excuse will get you through the front door. Try not to use this one if you are single.

Finally, never use an excuse that involves (a) a dead dog, (b) your mother, (c) a rotary lawn mower, (d) the Vietnam War, (e) tuna fish, or (f) something sexual. Also avoid topics that make you appear stupid, smart, inefficient, lazy, or Republican. And of course, whenever practical, change the subject.


This is a toughie. There is nothing harder to hide than blood. If it was brown or green it wouldn't be so bad. But red . . .

(1) Physical technique is important. When those little beads of blood show up at the last pass of the rasp (you notice that they always appear at the last pass of the rasp), quickly throw the foot to the ground, scream wildly and shred your index finger with the rasp. Since all blood looks alike, a little more probably won't matter. Option B: When picking up a leaking hoof, immediately place your own foot down where the horse's was and do a little Chubby Checker twist with your shoe. Of course if there is major leakage, slipping and falling could be a problem with this technique.

(2) Say, "Golly, look at that. This horse had an abscess. Sure was lucky that I was here." This approach turns a bad situation into a tip.

(3) Look stupid and say, "What blood?"

(4) Blame it on your apprentice and hope to hell that you have one to blame it on.

(5) If the blood forms a puddle over six inches in diameter, begin perspiring heavily, because you are in deep doo-doo.

(6) Stick the horse in the leg with a hot pritchel. When the explosion is over, they will somehow think that the horse did it to itself.

(7) Blame it on the last shoer.

(8) Look deadly serious and explain to the owner that the horse has deviated coffin bones. Then quickly nail on the shoes, pack a few things, and move to Bolivia.

(9) Unlike the previous chapter, feel free to use any subject except tuna fish.


This topic is my personal favorite. Horseshoeing could actually be fun if horses weren't so irresponsible about their stuff. Next thing you know, horses will be losing saddles, bales of hay, and each other.

(1) Horseshoes are most often lost because of the gravitational pull associated with a full moon.

(2) Explain to the owner that the shoes were stolen by poor horses who cannot afford shoes of their own.

(3) The shoe was sucked off by mud eating alien worms from hell. (Skip the hell part if the client is under twelve.)

(4) Refer the client to Newton's law of physics. That's the one about trying to parallel park an aircraft carrier. If that causes their eyes to glaze over, then you are on the right track.

(5) Tell them their hoof dressing is dissolving the shoes.

(6) Act like General Motors. Tell them to check their owner's manual.

(7) Say that because of poverty, you are forced to use Iranian nails.

(8) Drool copiously while saying "DUH."

(9) Tell them that they need magnetic bell boots, and then move to another state.

On this subject, never bring up stupid things like broken-down wire fences, bog holes the size of Cuba, or genetically inferior feet. Remember the Golden Rule of horseshoeing: Everything is your fault. That's why you got the job.


Horseshoers always need a lot of excuses when it comes time to present the bill. After all, it is hard to hide the 14k gold belt buckle, the BMW, and the condo on Maui. That's because horse owners have this uncanny ability to see right through that two-day growth of beard, the bloody finger, and that odd smell. So why fight it. Horseshoers are just a bunch of rich guys trying to get richer. Right?

(1) Well, first the Beamer needed a tune-up, and then the filter went out in the hot tub, which caused the swimming pool heater to burn up. That broke the glass in the solarium and set off the sprinkler system, which soaked my stock portfolios. That caused my commodities broker to make the wrong buy on pork bellies, which meant that we lost so much money that we couldn't afford the new Jag. That naturally led to a good deal of depression, which meant two sessions a week at the therapist instead of just one, which meant I had to cancel the tennis and accordion lessons and cut back on my sushi class. Life's a bitch, man.

(2) Rip the bill from their hand and say, "Oh, gosh, I forgot to add on the clips." Add ten dollars to the amount and hand the bill back to them. That's the last time they will ever want to argue prices.

(3) Tell them your Rolex broke.

(4) Look them straight in the eye, wink, and say: "Elvis really is alive, you know." If you can keep a straight face for this one, you will be home free, as no one ever argues with the insane.

(5) Heck, try the ball joints thing again. You never know.

(6) Have a total nervous breakdown, with twitching and everything.

(7) Ask them if they always shop at the Salvation Army.

(8) Explain to them that your subscription to ANVIL just went up. Tears work well with this one.

Lastly, always try to match the excuse with the proper personality. Never use a California yuppie excuse on a Bulgarian socialist, and never confess to anything even remotely associated with horses. Because in the sordid, twisted mind of every horse owner, there is the insatiable desire to make your life miserable. And next to owning horses, there is little greater passion.

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