Roland’s nags and nails: blood blisters and canine helpers

  • I’ve been an apprentice farrier for four weeks now and there has only been one day that I’ve escaped without a fresh injury.

    This week I added a juicy blood blister to the plethora of cut and rasp grazes on my hands, this time from a wild hammer blow. Boy did that smart and I’m starting to wonder if I’m more of a danger to myself than any of the horses that I am working on.

    You see, there’s a lot to think about, particularly when more than one horse is being shod at the same time. The trick is knowing what happens next in the shoeing process or, in my case, what my boss Kris Parsons will be doing next.

    If I haven’t anticipated what he needs, then I end up running around at a million miles an hour to catch-up, while he waits for me! Panic sets in, the wrong shoes go in the fire, nail sizes are mixed up and tools get lost. Add another farrier into the mix and it’s real bedlum.

    To further complicate things, my head is spending much of its time below my knees either taking shoes off or clenching-up so I can’t see what stage everyone’s at. That’s when I start to self-harm, such as hammering my middle finger against the buffer (a tool used for knocking the clenches up). It’s fast and furious stuff and I really enjoy it.

    As usual I’ve had lots of time in the forge, practicing the art of shoemaking. We are measuring the feet of every horse we shoe, so we can make shoes specifically for each horse if we need to. I’m still practicing my toe-bend, the first stage in the shoemaking process. I had underestimated how difficult that first bend is and the forge is now awash with twisted metal. I’m getting better though!

    Finally, it has become clear from watching Kris that a love of horses helps tremendously in becoming a top flight farrier. Almost as important is a love of dogs. I don’t know what it is about dead horn, but they can’t resist it. One thing is for certain, in almost every yard we visit, wherever there is Kris, there is a dog inches from him as the photo shows.

    Until next week,



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