Shoeing the Horses at Fort Robinson

Last month we shod the horses and mules at Fort Robinson State Park for the first time this season. We have been shoeing them for the last three years. They have draft horse teams, mule teams, and saddle horses used for the stage coach, tour wagons, and short and long trail rides in the Soldier Creek wilderness area. We also do the Chadron State Park trail horses. These horses are used for trail riding in the Pine Ridge forest areas. This work provides valuable experience for the students at Butler Professional Farrier School.

Fort Robinson served as a military post for 74 years. It played a critical role in the settlement of the West. It was first built next to the Red Cloud Agency in Crawford, Nebraska. From here soldiers were trained and sent to fight in the great Sioux Indian Wars. Chief Crazy Horse was killed while trying to escape at the post in 1877. Later, Dull Knife’s band of Northern Cheyenne attempted to escape and were stopped after 64 were killed along with all their horses. Troopers were sent from here to quell the ghost dancers in the last of the armed conflicts with the Lakota Sioux in 1890. 

This was the last functioning cavalry outpost in the U. S. It was closed in 1948 and was made a state park in 1972. There are many original buildings including a multi-forge blacksmith shop stocked with “keg shoes.” Issue shoes made by Phoenix were called that because they were shipped in wooden barrel kegs. In addition, the post veterinary clinic and museum contain lots of interesting history. Numerous officers’ quarters have been converted into inexpensive guest houses, arena, pool, theater and a restaurant that hosts family reunions and other vacation activities for 100’s of thousands of guests each year.

From 1885 to 1907 Fort Rob became home to the famous buffalo soldiers. Cavalry battle reenactments are held here. In 1919, it became a remount depot. The cavalry remount was established to produce a source of quality horses. A few quality stallions were loaned out to local ranchers for a small fee. These approved stallions were bred to native mares with the agreement that the military would purchase suitable animals for the cavalry.

During World War Two the Fort became a German prisoner of war internment camp. It was also the army’s largest war dog breeding and training center. Polo teams and Olympic jumping teams trained here. Many mules were trained to pack needed supplies to troops fighting in remote locations. During World War Two there were more than 5000 horses and 4000 mules on the post. It was also the nation’s largest dog training center, having trained 3565 dogs by 1944 and with 1353 on hand at that time. Most of the dogs were used by troops in the pacific theater. For a short time after the cavalry left, the fort was a USDA beef research station. It is now Nebraska’s premier state park.   

Knowledge of history and an understanding of tradition are very important in any trade or craft to avoid making the same mistakes over and over again. A sense of history adds to our motivation to be good at what we do. It makes us proud to be a part of our craft and encourages us to grow in skill in our chosen profession. A great source of farrier history is On the Horses Foot by Henry Heymering.  Our book The Principles of Horseshoeing (P3) goes into more detail about the history of the craft and is available at

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