Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Best of 2009: Mini-Documentary Records a Farrier's Reflection on His Career Choice

29 December 2009 | Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog at Note: get ready for a "Best of 2009" blog-a-thon over the next few days! Some special stories and media will be posted to celebrate the end of a great year and a landmark for The Hoof Blog and Hoofcare & Lameness! It's the end of the year, and the end of a decade. The urge to put an end on things, and to wrap them up in tidy packages, is irresistible. To reflect, to rebuild, to re-evaluate. Today I'd like to share a video that I've been saving for the end of the year, because it does all those things. You might want to watch it more than once. The first time I watched it, I was distracted by the horses, the tools, the hoof, the truck, and especially the dogs. I missed a lot of what Joel said, and that's the important part of this video. Joel Sheiman is a farrier, and glad of it. You can tell he's thought it over, and in this short documentary-style film, the California farrier thinks it over again, out loud. Many, many videos about farriers pass through this office. Almost all are third-person accounts, presenting the contemporary farrier as an interesting anomaly, a blast from the past, a man (or woman) of steel, or a whisperer to horses. We get to see videos of the oldest, the youngest, the shoers of famous horses or the farriers at famous farms. Rarely do the farriers in those videos get to say more than a few disjointed sentences edited from a longer interview. The videos pump up the audio of hammers hitting steel, sizzling shoes, neighing horses. You are there! but you never really got to know the star of the show. How different, then, is this video, where the farrier does all the talking. If he seems relaxed in front of the camera, it may be because the videographer was his son, Danny, who made this little documentary during his classwork as a film major at the University of California at Santa Cruz. What are you reflecting on during these last days of 2009? Was the year all you expected? What (or whom) did you lose and what (or whom) did you gain? What choices did you make, and would you make them again? You have a chance to start fresh on Saturday; what are your plans and dreams for 2010? What would you say if someone switched on the microphone in front of you now, the way Danny did to Joel? Joel Sheiman lives in Orinda, (outside Berkeley) California, and shoes everyday with his assistant of eight years, Alvaro Pelayo. Since this video was made, Joel's dog Nora was injured; sadly, the dogs aren't traveling with him to shoe horses while she recovers. If you click on the "YouTube" logo on the video screen, you can watch this video in "high quality" mode, and in a larger format. (Thanks, Danny and Joel!) © Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing. Please, no use without permission. You only need to ask. Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page). To subscribe to Hoofcare and Lameness (the journal), please visit the main site,, where many educational products and media related to equine lameness and hoof science can be found. Questions or problems with this blog? Send email to