The royal wedding in England has captured the attention and imagination of the world. As I watched, Adam Smith’s statement in The Wealth of Nations came to mind, “The chief enjoyment of riches consists in the parade of riches….” In spite of the occurrence of other significant world events, “the story book event” took precedence. Not that getting married to the love of your life is not significant! My marriage of 44 years has certainly been a most important event in my life that has allowed me much achievement and happiness.
Much preparation went into creating London’s beautiful pageant observed by three billion people. The beautiful horses that accompanied the bride and groom and chauffeured the British royalty were all shod by master craftsmen trained in an ancient but effective system of farriery that preserves the soundness of these noble steeds.
Farriers in England are trained in the most exacting farrier training system in the world. It has been under the watchful eye of the Worshipful Company of Farriers since 1356 A. D. I sought permission twenty years ago to study their system and take all of the exams administered by the Company. My objective was to better understand how to best teach and help students learn this difficult craft. In 1992, I was the first person outside of Great Britain to obtain the Fellowship of the Worshipful Company of Farriers (FWCF), by taking and passing the Company’s highest examination.
Apprentices are first taught to trim the feet of horses that are kept in pastures and are not to be used on roads or ridden to any degree. Those horses that are used on roads, and do something besides eat, are shod with steel to protect them and the people who use them. Due to benefits to the health of the foot and precision in fitting, most horses are hot fit by British craftsmen. This seals moisture in the foot, prevents excess moisture from entering, and assures a perfect unity of hoof and shoe.
The steel horseshoes are fashioned according to the individual animal’s use. Some are made from fullered concave – a section of steel that until recently was available only in the U. K. Fullered refers to a groove all around the shoe which fills with dirt and dirt against dirt gives better traction than steel or even hoof against dirt. Concave refers to the self-cleaning pattern – meaning it is sloped or concaved on the inside edge so mud and snow is shed from the center of the foot as the horse moves. The portion of the shoe against the hoof is wide protecting the wall and sole from bruising. The edge of the shoe contacting the ground is narrow, creating a gripping action supplying traction to prevent dangerous slipping. The horses didn’t slip while carrying the royal couple, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Additional traction may be provided by installing studs – sharp projections that are screwed or driven into the shoe. They are of varying height depending upon working conditions. They have a tungsten core that bites into the ground or pavement to provide safety for horse and rider or coach passenger. Horseshoe Borium® or Carbraze® containing particles of tungsten carbide are often used for this purpose in America.
We wouldn’t shoe horses if we didn’t have to. Horses that are rarely used don’t need shoes. Wild horses that have been naturally selected for sound feet rarely need shoes. Domestic horses that are used to any degree need protection for their hooves, especially since we have bred modern horses for things other than and at the expense of soundness – such as color, conformation, and athletic ability.
The hoof wall is protected from chipping or cracking by shoes. The sole is protected from bruising by shoes. The fragile coffin bone inside a weak hoof is protected. Foot balance is maintained to lessen stresses on joints. Even race horses wear aluminum shoes to provide and maintain balance, protection and traction.
The current barefoot fad has been tried before in the horse industry. Books written before 1900 tell of its trial and call it “the barefoot experiment.” It was abandoned in England and America due to the injury of horses and riders.
Most horses that are rarely worked don’t need shoes. But, those that are worked, ridden over uneven or abrasive ground, and for extended periods of time, do. Horses used for athletic activities such as jumping, racing, reining, cutting, roping, etc. usually need shoes. Using unshod horses in these events could be judged to be cruelty to animals or to the humans who depend upon them. Especially in Britain, where the people are great lovers of horses, animal welfare laws that prohibit unskilled persons from working on horse’s feet are enforced.
More than luck goes into making a Royal Wedding appear as a fantasy spectacular.
In reality, accomplished horsemen know they need a competent well-trained farrier to maintain their valuable horses. They will either find one or learn the skill themselves. At Butler Professional Farrier School we specialize in training farriers and horsemen to know how and why they do their job of keeping horses sound. We invite inquiries at www.butlerprofessionalfarrierschool.com. Or call 1-800-728-3826 or 1-308-665-1510.
Butler Professional Horseshoeing School
495 Table Road
Crawford, NE 69339
If you think you want to become a farrier (or know someone who does), this book can help you make that decision. Horse owners will learn the importance of choosing a qualified farrier and how to select the “right” one.
[ Get the e-Book Now! ]