Sunday, July 08, 2012

Calgary Stampede Farriers: Potluck Forging Class Showcases the "Art" of Shoeing Horses (And Why That Matters)

People throw around the term "the art and science of farriery" a lot. What does that mean?

Professional hoofcare requires that the farrier use both sides of his or her brain. While they have to learn the anatomy of the horse and the mechanics of the job, they also have to be able to "right brain" the creation, adjustment or placement of the shoe or appliance being attached to the foot.

I think it goes even further than that, and a good farrier is separated from the pack by the ability to "see" with his or her right brain what the foot should or would look like and understand the left-brain concepts of trimming adjustment and support mechanics required to get it there.

Another aspect is the often unconscious right-brain knowing what the foot will look like in a few weeks or a few months as it grows out from the way it has been trimmed or from the effects of what is being nailed or glued on. It seems obvious that a lot of horses' problems arise not from how the horse is shod initially, but how the foot reacts to that mechanical message over time, especially if a shoe that wasn't ideal on Day One is left on too long.

So there is an "art" to it but sometimes people outside the profession don't see the art in the job, since it is invisible, unspoken and almost impossible to teach or even articulate.

You probably can't measure it, either. No judge in a competition can develop a score sheet for it and you can't design a test for it.

Until, of course, you get a group of farriers together and you hand them simple bars of steel and tell them to make something. Blacksmithing skills tell them how to make something...but what part of their profession is showing them what is inside that piece of steel, wanting to come out?

I think that the "art" side of farriery is something that horses can immediately recognize, and appreciate. Maybe some horses have never experienced it. Maybe, for other horses, it is all they have ever known and they have the soundness to prove it. Still others, the high-end competition horses, depend on the art side of farriery to come to their rescue and keep them going, often after the "science" side has failed.

Stand back: watch the art side take over a group of farriers from around the world at the 2012 Calgary Stampede World Championship. Enjoy the show.

(Note the show has 50 or so photos of the farriers and then it may keep going to other unrelated subjects posted by the Stampede. Sorry about that!)

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