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Monday, March 01, 2010

Farriers at War: How Many Men Does It Take to Shoe a Horse?

Farriers, originally uploaded by Crafty Dogma.

This photo is completely unidentified; all the owner knows is that it was taken on February 2, 1918, presumably somewhere in Europe during World War I. Perhaps some blog readers will be able to provide some additional details or guesses, based on the dress and uniform details?

In February 1918, virtually all of Europe and the Middle East were torn apart with the war; millions of horses took to the battlefields, never to return to civilian life--or any life at all. 

Over one million horses and mules were shipped to Europe from the United States alone, long before any US soldiers were sent abroad.

The photo shows what appears to be seven men involved in the task of shoeing two horses. Perhaps there are more farriers who are hard at work somewhere inside the forge, making or heating the shoes.

Someone has to hold the horse's head. Someone (most often the horse's groom or, in military cases, the rider) had to hold up the hoof. Someone has to trim the foot and nail on the shoe. Someone else has to run back and forth between the shoeing floor and the forge, where more people are forging and striking and tending fires.

And let's not forget an officer of the forge to oversee the whole operation.

This photo is unique, however: the presence of the small anvil in the center suggests that perhaps these fellows are doing resets, and had a portable anvil for shaping shoes close to the horse. Who knows? If war conditions were tough enough, they might even have been cold-shoeing.

The photo was purchased in Germany, but where in Europe would these handsome farriers have been working in their shirtsleeves in February?

In our special book, Horses of the German Army in World War II, the grooms at the Germany state stud farms are shown wearing white jackets like the hoof holders in this photo are wearing 25 years earlier, but they also wore white pants. Suggest to any hard-working groom you know that he or she should dress in white to clean stalls and care for horses!

If anyone has suggestions about this photo, please click on the comments button. Thanks!

Horses of the German Army in World War II is available for sale by Hoofcare's book division.

--Fran Jurga


badinfo said...

Howdy. Those are German soldiers. 3 are wearing the white fatigue jacket, 3 are in shirtsleeves, the guy in the very back has on a 1910 pattern tunic and the other guy in appears to be wearing a 1915 pattern tunic. Not an unusual mix.
They are all wearing the "feldmütze" which was the standard German headgear, not really a beret as such. The chap in the centor has a visored feldmütze, usually worn by NCO's, I would guess he is the sergeant of the bunch.
I cannot tell enough about the insignia on their hats to determine any further info as to where they are from.
Hope that helps...

Fran Jurga said...

Thank you very much! That is most helpful! The concept of a white fatigue jacket is interesting in and of itself! You are very kind to help, thanks again! I will let the photo's owner know.