In this week's edition of our farriery apprentice's blog, he is struggling with the technique of ringing-off the protruding nail end once it’s exited the hoof. It's yet another challenge for him to overcome

There’s nothing like a farrier apprenticeship to make you feel unco-ordinated and clumsy.  As each new task is introduced to me, I manage to make myself look ridiculous. I often wonder what our customers think when they see me working on their horses — they are probably terrified!

The current co-ordination issue I’m having is with nailing on shoes.  Kris Parsons, my training farrier, always makes it look so easy and I make it look really, really hard.

Nailing shoes on is actually one of the easier elements of shoeing a horse.  As Kris puts it, “just aim and fire”.  It’s actually quite difficult to send a nail into the wrong place, so the skill really is about nailing into quality horn and not using old nail holes or nailing into broken horn.

Presentation is also important so lining up the nails so they exit in a neat line makes the job look neater. The nails do not want to exit too low down, as the horn is not as strong there, and neither do they want to exit too high, as they may cause pressure on the sensitive structures (a bit like having a splinter under your finger nail). So there is a sweet spot to aim for and, if the wall of the hoof is thin, this is harder to achieve.

Even though I am only really nailing shoes on horses that have thick hoof walls, I still manage to make it look hard.  There are tricks that can help, such as “tipping” the nail to alter its trajectory, as well as angling the hammer blow to affect the line of penetration. The bit that I struggle with most is ringing-off the protruding nail end once it’s exited the hoof.  There is a technique to that which I do not possess yet.

Watching me tie myself in knots trying to ring-off the nail is probably quite amusing if it’s not your horse I’m working on! Suffice to say, I’m quite safe, but my clumsy action does not inspire confidence. One thing is for sure, It’s a good job I’m not looking to impress any of the stable girls!

Until next week

Roland

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