Roland’s nags and nails: teaching an old dog new tricks

  • The trick to learning new tricks, I’ve decided, is to assume that everyone else will pick up the aforementioned tricks faster than me, and then to work like mad out of fear of being left behind. That’s the theory anyway.

    I’m at Moreton Morrell college on the Farriery Apprenticeship course having been released by my employer Kris Parson to attend the first of eight college blocks. I have made it through to the end of the second week and I have to say that I’m really enjoying the whole experience. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks!

    To be honest, being an “old” apprentice, I was dreading the college block. I’m probably 15 years older than the next oldest apprentice and I did wonder how well I would cope with taking on new knowledge again. However, being back in the classroom is surprisingly enjoyable, especially because of the passion shown by the lecturers, but also because we get to play with lots of dead feet and legs (see picture).

    Our timetable is split between the classroom and the forge. In the classroom we have begun to study the internal structures of the hoof and the basic components and functions within. So far it all makes sense — except for my drawings which are diabolical. It gets a lot more complicated from now on and so do the drawings. Note to self: must get a book on how to draw horses’ feet!

    In the forge I have begun making my tongs which form part of a range of tools I have to make for assessment — these also include pritchels, stamps, and stud punches. The standards we need to achieve are very high and I have got my work cut out in attaining this level. Luckily, the farriery teaching team is excellent and their enthusiasm and dedication will hopefully turn me into a useful blacksmith.

    Finally, no one’s stolen my dinner money yet or tied my shoelaces together, but there is pressure mounting on me to join in with one of the many college parties that seem to happen most nights of the week. I’ll have to show them how it’s done properly, but not before I’ve handed in my assignment on the hoof capsule.

    Until next week,



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