Stewart Home has THE BEST farriers! They are also known as blacksmiths, or depending on the student you ask, “those guys that trim the horses’ toenails.”
Every 6-8 weeks Steve Koch and his son, Matt, travel to SHS to trim our twelve horses and shoe a few of them. Actually, they travel to us two days every 6-8 weeks– one afternoon they will care for the riding horses and the next afternoon they will care for the draft team. (The pictures are from the afternoon of the draft team.)
First, Steve, or Matt, will clean the bottom of the hooves thoroughly and remove the shoes. If the shoes are worn out after being reset several times, they are discarded and Steve forms a new set. If the shoes are still in good shape, he will set them aside to be adjusted later. Most shoes only last through 3-4 re-shoeings; our girls have been wearing their same shoes for almost a year now. This is mainly due to very high quality shoes and fantastic farrier work. Steve will occasionally need to add more borium, a very hard metal substance, to the shoes as the horses wear it down. Borium acts similarly to tread on shoes and gives the horses more traction to safely pull the carriage up and down the hills of school.
Usually Steve will start with the front legs and then move to the rear. Once the foot is clean and bare, he will trim the hoof to match the conformation of the horse so the animal stays comfortable and sound for our use. Steve will then take the removed shoe and fit it back to the newly trimmed hoof. Horses’ hooves are constantly changing shape and size and a poor fitting shoes would be just as bad for a their feet as poor fitting shoes would be for your feet or mine. Steve fits a shoe by setting it back against the hoof, making sure it lies flush to the sole and then hammering down any areas of the shoe that do not match the hoof. Once the shoe fits to Steve’s satisfaction, it is heated in a forge until red hot. Matt will then remove it with long handled tools and hand it to Steve to hold against the hoof. Because the draft horses have such big feet requiring such large shoes, Matt will help Steve hold the shoe to ensure even pressure is applied to the top as well as the toe of the shoe. This creates a smooth surface between the hoof and the shoe that makes for a more secure fit. Hot shoeing also seals the cut end of the hoof to help prevent the hoof wall from drying out in a dry climate or softening in a wet one. The shoe is removed after only a short period of time and cooled in water. Once it can be touched by hand, Steve will nail it back onto the hoof. The nails will emerge about 1/3 of the way up the hoof wall and be bent over to help secure the fit farther. Matt will then cut away the excess nail but leave a small amount to clinch down tight. Finally, he will file off any sharp points of the nails and file smooth the edges where the hoof meets the shoe. Steve will give all four hooves a final go over before pronouncing the horse finished and he moves on to the next one!
Written by Betsy G.