Roland’s nags and nails: facing the shoe-fitting challenge

  • Fitting shoes is now preoccupying my apprenticeship. I’m halfway through the four years it will take me to qualify as a farrier and am now being taught this final piece in the jigsaw. That said, there is still a long road to travel.

    Developing the skills to fit a basic shoe to a straight-forward foot is one thing. Dealing with tricky feet and horses with conformation problems that affect movement and joint action is an entirely different league.

    Kris Parsons, my training farrier, makes fitting a shoe to a horse look easy but, as I know from experience, it’s incredibly difficult and the skill level needed is extremely refined and intricate.

    Firstly, the contact made between the burning hoof and the shoe is extremely delicate. It is easy to burn too much hoof and lower the hoof wall, particularly at the heels. The shoe also slips easily making it hard to hold it steady on the foot. Each time I move my head to look at one side or the other, the shoe moves making it hard to establish where it needs adjusting.

    Furthermore, the smoke from the burning hoof in my eyes makes it look like I’ve been crying and I always seem to inhale a lung full of smoke while trying to blow a gap to see what on earth I’m doing. Imagine inhaling a big fat cigar — well that’s nothing compared to burning hoof! I used to smoke, but I gave it up. Now, it seems, I’m taking it back up again!

    Until next week,



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