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As my apprenticeship in farriery progresses, I am humbled by the level of skill that is required to shoe a horse well. I suppose that I am really only now understanding the complete art of shoeing, even though I have been in the apprenticeship scheme for 2½ years.  I am beginning to master some aspects of the craft, but I have a long way to go before mastering all of it. In fact, a good farrier will say that they will never truly master the craft, but that they will continue to try.

I am beginning to do more hot shoeing now and it’s one thing to put a shoe on a horse that fits the foot, but an entirely different thing to put a shoe on a foot that both fits and gives the right support.

Damage can be done by not considering the hoof capsule, what it is trying to do and the general conformation of the horse. Does one side of the hoof need more support than the other? What if the hoof needs support, but the horse brushes or is renowned for pulling shoes off? How do you balance the needs of the hoof capsule with the general behaviour and movement of the horse?

Putting the right ‘fit’ of steel on the hoof is the key to good farriery and it will often involve compromising the ideal fit with the need to keep the shoes on for the entire shoeing period.

I have to admit, I’m a bit lost on some of these compromises, and am just pleased to be able to shoe a horse safely without injury to it or myself!  Actually, I’ve yet to complete a shoeing job without causing injury to myself!  My hands and arms are covered in burns and nail pricks, but I suppose that is a good indication of my level of competence (or incompetence)!

Until next week

Roland

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