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This blog is sponsored by the PRO FEET range of hoof care products from NAF

All this dry weather has meant that many feet are lacking in moisture and hooves are like concrete. I’m sure you have noticed this with your own horses. In most cases this should not be a problem, but you do have to watch for cracks as horn is a great deal less effective in absorbing concussion when dry.

Whilst most horses have been coping very well with the hard dry conditions, one thing I’ve noticed is how difficult it is to trim the feet. Trying to get a knife to penetrate horn is almost impossible and I’m delighted that we have finally had some rain. It’s badly needed and especially welcome for us farriers. I expect the farmers are pretty pleased too!

Kris Parsons, my boss, was able to give Alex (my co-apprentice) some more exam practice this week in preparation for his final farrier exams in 3 weeks’ time. If Alex passes he will be a qualified farrier and able to build his own round and business. If he fails, he will stay as an apprentice for a further 6 months until his next exam opportunity.

On the exam day itself, Alex will have to shoe a front foot and a hind foot by making the shoes for each foot from scratch. It’s probably a bit like the old days when you would bring your horse to the forge and the farrier would make the shoes there and then.

Times have changed considerably since then and also, with the introduction of the machine-made shoe, there is even less reason for farriers to make shoes from scratch. However, that said, the farriery apprenticeship is very much about the art of shoe-making and to watch Alex and Kris shoe a horse the old fashioned way is fascinating. The photo (top right) is of Kris doing his final fit of the shoe he’s just made.

The key is to cut the right length of steel. Once the foot is trimmed, the length and width are measured, an allowance for the toe and consideration for heel support or width is given in order to make up the final calculation. Get this wrong and the shoe won’t be right for the horse or, even worse, won’t fit.

The more practice Alex can have the better and Kris is putting time aside for him to do just that. From my point of view it’s useful as it’s an insight into what the lead up to my farriery exams will be like, but also it’s a chance to take it easy as all I can do at the moment is watch! I can’t wait to do what they do though. It’s a stunning art, incredibly skillful and I’m utterly hooked on this age old craft.

Until next week,

Roland

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