I was a mason for 15 years before I became interested in hoofcare. I ran a landscape design and construction business and when I hired extra masons, I would learn different skills and techniques from them. I learned a lot about perfection and margin of error. I found that some guys would tear something down and do it over, if it was 1/16” off; and some wouldn’t tear something down if it was a half inch off (there are unfortunately some that accept even more than that); and everyone else was somewhere in between. One mason I knew commented about some of the guys that had been around awhile… when there was a dispute they would boastfully say “I’ve been doing this for 40 years.” He replied, “You can do something wrong for 40 years”. I agree that experience is a big part of it, but it isn’t all that there is to it.
Masonry and farriery have a lot in common. I feel that in the years that I was a mason, I was merely practicing to be a farrier, so that I wouldn’t screw up too many horses when I was first learning. The saying, “No foot, no horse” rings true too with masonry, “No footer, no house.” I don’t know how many existing walls I looked at that were cracking to pieces that people wanted me to fix and I told them the footer would have to be removed and a new one poured, or anything I did would not last on the old footer. I also discovered, that the margin of error also rings true in the farrier world, very few accept less than a 1/16 inch margin of error, most work is way-off.
When I first started shoeing horses I was very concerned about keeping their feet level, and this became more and more difficult, as I saw more and more conformation flaws, deformed feet, and crooked movement in horses. Perfect balance became very important to me very early on, and continues to be the focus of my attention. There should be no margin of error, ever. Perfect balance always; that’s what fixes them. God designed these beautiful animals to move in perfect balance always…with growth matching wear, for every step. Since we have taken them out of nature, and diminished and confined movement, it is our responsibility to do God’s work and keep them balanced. I read a quote somewhere saying that God had made a mistake with horse feet. I can’t remember who said it, but it wasn’t God who got it wrong, it was us.
I haven’t found very many situations in the last seven years where I’ve needed to nail on a shoe. I’ve come close a time or two. Something Pete Ramey said in his book”Making Natural Hoofcare Work for You” screams out at me in those times. ..”When a farrier succeeds with rehabilitation it is because of competent trimming and care…not because of the shoe. In fact, it is the shoe itself that often stands in the way of what would have otherwise been a successful rehabilitation. It is a fact though, that the immediate relief of pain that a shoe can provide is soothing to horse owners and I worry that a ‘dual’ professional will be too quick to shoe a horse to put an owners mind at ease and miss out on the healing opportunity.” Nowadays, with the wide range of booting possibilities available, it has become much easier to rehabilitate horses and prevent lameness in the first place. Martin Deacon FWCF, in his book “No Foot No Horse” says the following: “…and still the horse is putting up with the same old type of shoe that he has been putting up with for hundreds of years. Perhaps we should start thinking about’Nike Airs’ for horses.” ( pg. 122) Personally, I like Easycare Epics with a ½ medium density comfort pad for most rehab situations, and an easy care glove for most performance and prevention situations. Also, a little impression material in the collateral grooves goes a long way. That’s about as close as you can get to a ‘Nike Air.’
I think most farriers and trimmers will agree that the hardest part of making and keeping horses sound is convincing the owner to do their part. I’ve found that the more my client’s are willing to do for their horses…the better the horses do. It is necessary to do the following: pay attention to your horses diet and weight, change the footing if needed, encourage movement, use boots for the ones that need them, keep the pens clean. If you can do those things…your horses feet will look and feel better, and you will contribute to the overall health and well being of your horse.