photography: Michael Edminster
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The dogs at Skip Kammer’s place gather in greeting as a gold pickup pulling a metal box trailer maneuvers its way down the winding drive to the horse pastures off Broadford Road in Bellevue.
As the vehicle comes to rest next to the post and rail fence, the horses there look up from their grazing and take notice of the familiar rig and face that comes out every few weeks to take a look at them. The ruddy-cheeked man in the gimme cap is there to take a look at their feet.
The Hippocratic oath of the farrier is “No foot, no horse.”
The hoof doctor is in and he’s on.
Progress to perfection
The word farrier is derived from a number of assumed sources, but the basic term is thought to have come from “ferrarius,” which is Latin for worker of iron.
The first known horseshoeing was found among the Egyptians and Persians who wove sandal-like shoes from grass.
Warrior Genghis Khan upped the ante using rawhide cups to protect the feet of his cavalry horses.
It would take the American Industrial Revolution to advance warfare techniques and begin centralized manufacturing to likewise modernize the approach to horseshoeing. By then, not only were horses required for daily life, but they were also a crucial component in moving these developing metal miracles that were changing our ancestors’ lives. It was then that a more recognized U-shape horseshoe was first designed.
When the automobile came on the scene in the early 1900s, the number of horses in the U.S. went down and the nature of the horse population changed. There were fewer draft or heavy work horses and more pleasure and riding horses. That likewise raised the profile of the farrier as an essential component in horse health.
Life from down under
In this Valley, horses are used for farm work, hunting, trail riding, therapy, cutting, team penning, dressage, hunter jumpers and merely as pets. Farriers here have been called on to put shoes on miniature horses and wild horses, ornery burros and those built like VW’s. Some horses love
having it done, like a human loves a back rub. Some seem to stand taller in new shoes, just like we do when we find that perfect heel. There are horses that hate the process so much they have to be tranquilized, while some cooperate over a bucket of grain. They will have shoes to wear for parades, shoes to wear in winter and shoes for therapeutic reasons, to repair an off-kilter gait just as some children need corrective shoes.
Farrier Tyler Peterson spends time gaining the trust of a young mare, a rescue horse that has never worn shoes. Even though he won’t try to put shoes on this day, the bonding is an important element of a farrier’s job. Trust can make or break each encounter.
On this day, farrier Tyler Peterson is not there to put on shoes. This is just a simple trim. Think of it like cutting your toenails. Too long and they hurt in your shoes and could get painfully ingrown.
Too long on a horse can leave them vulnerable to cracking, infection and lameness or injury from tripping over their own feet. Leg injuries are among the biggest reasons an animal has to be put down, so prevention is crucial.
Peterson straps on his leather apron and prepares his tools before ambling over to greet Kammer and catch up on things before they turn their attention to the horses. “How’s Jesse been moving? Have you gotten a halter on Cotton yet, ’cause I’d sure like to get ahold of those feet—they’re getting long.”
Skip Kammer is one of those horse owners who isn’t embarrassed to admit that he and his wife take on a lot of broken-down, retired or otherwise compromised horses that are nothing more than lovable yard art.
His latest batch includes what remains of a herd of about 25 animals obtained from a Salmon horse breeder who had a contract to breed sweet-tempered horses for use in a therapeutic riding program that never came to fruition. The overwhelmed rancher was relieved of the animals which came to Kammer’s ranchette for some TLC and future adoption. Most have found homes.
Some have yet to meet their farrier, but their time will come. >>>