I have been around horses for years. I have worked with countless farriers, watched more hoof trimmings than I can even recall, and seen all sorts of hoof deformities and trimming methods. I have even had lessons in how to do my own horse’s hooves. That being said, I had never actually done it unsupervised. Then, Shiloh came along. Poor girl had no idea what was in store for her.
I decided it was now or never. We couldn’t be self-sufficient if I was relying on a farrier to come out ever 6-8 weeks. So, I bought a good trimming book to refresh my memory, and several basic tools. I figured Shiloh was a good first candidate, as her hooves were long, but not deformed too badly when I got her. The first thing I had to do with her was teach her to let me handle her feet. She was very kicky at first, and, in fact the rescue she came from was owned by a farrier who wouldn’t touch Shiloh’s feet due to her fear of being kicked. I had no issues with that, after training a number of wild mustangs to let me handle their feet. It took about an hour of training before I could easily lift each foot, and a couple weeks of mock- and partial- trims before she was comfortable with the idea. Thus my career as a home-farrier was born.
(Sorry, I don’t have great photos of the process. I was too busy training and trimming when I took the ones below. )
She had some very long areas, and some uneven areas that caused her to strain her legs a bit, so my first job was to clean her up a bit, even the edges, and trim it all back. One thing I noticed, that is very different about donkeys vs. horses, was that Shiloh’s hooves were deeper overall, and the heelpads were much thicker and bigger. I trimmed as much as I felt safe, and left it at that.
Shiloh posed another challenge, as her front legs are very knock-kneed. Her legs splay out quite badly, which results in her wearing her hooves quite unevenly. I wasn’t confident how much I could safely re-adjust without hurting her, so I tried to let her hoof tell me, using the principle that I could always take more off, but I couldn’t put it back if I cut too much too quickly.
It took a couple weeks since I was working her by myself, on limited time, and with very short spurts of training (at first, she was very impatient, didn’t care to stand still, and wasn’t crazy over the trimming tools), but finally, she settled a bit, and I felt I had given her a full trim on all 4 feet. I rasped it all down, created a nice “mustang roll” on the edges, and I must admit, I was quite proud of the end result.
Finally, after several trims since she arrived, I decided it was time to hire a professional to come inspect my work. First, I had to find a farrier who was into natural hoof care, and then I had to find one that was willing to teach me and work with me rather than just try to get a new client. That’s not easy, and I knew I was asking lot. So, I have to tell you what happened. It’s pretty cool…
As usual, I went to Craigslist and began my search. I found a guy who advertised he was a “Natural Hoofcare” farrier, new to the area, and seeking new clients. He was also affordable. So, I called him. We chatted for awhile, talked about his training and experience, I explained to him what I was wanting, and asked if he’d be willing to help me out. Desperate for new clients, he agreed to help, so we set an appointment and hung up. A few minutes later, he called back. He said, “I’m sorry, what did you say your last name was?” I told him (and it is somewhat unique), to which he replied, “Do you know M.F.?” Taken aback at the question, I exclaimed, “Yes! He was the pastor that married us!” As it turns out, this guy had just moved from my hometown area of south GA, where S and I had met and married, and one of his best friends was our former singles group pastor. I couldn’t believe it! We chatted some more, and apparently, our mutual pastor friend had given this farrier our names so he could look us up when he arrived out here. Incredible.
So, he came out this week to inspect my work. He really made me feel good about the job I had done. In fact, he wound up not trimming any hoof wall off, as he said I had done that perfectly, but my area of needed improvement was her heels. I wasn’t being brave enough and taking enough off. So, he did a hoof to show me how far to go, then he had me do a couple hooves with his guidance. We got her straightened out, and he made several compliments regarding the mustang roll I had created. Apparently, he has encountered several self-taught folks over the years whose horses’ hooves wind up in a mess. He was telling me he recently did one that had the “elf-shoes” look, where the hoof grows so long and crooked in front, it begins to curl upward. He then pointed to the rolled edge I had done, and said there were no cracks, no chips, nothing but good, healthy hoof. I have been so nervous about that step, feeling highly unqualified, so I really appreciated his enthusiasm for the job I had done. It really made all the effort and “try” worthwhile.
It’s one more “box” I can check off on our list of things to learn in order to become self-sufficient. I love this life!! I figure if I hire him every year or so for a while to inspect my work and clean up my weak areas, it is better than being totally dependant on a farrier. Now, I just have to get those razor sharp back teeth (due to a bad bite) floated—and that’s one I DON’T care to learn to do on my own!!