Back to shoeing business. I have not been writing much about shoeing for a while. This lack of inspiration happens every winter. I don’t feel my job very rewarding this time a year. I feel it’s mostly just nailing on shoes with studs and snowpads. Snow and cold creates so many extra difficulties that there is not really time and energy to think about lots of anything else than getting the shoes on. And the studs and snowpads anyway ruin a lot you try to do for the horse.
But what I have been concentrating on this winter, is trying to be better in details. Just basic details in basic shoeing work. It started already in the August when I returned from my first visit to Norway. After that I started to train my eye and skills in trimming to get the hoof better levelled. Next was shoe fitting and and finishing. Although I have been shoeing horses many years and my customers have been happy (at least no one has complained me a lot.. :)), yet there is sooo much to improve. The biggest mistake one can make is to think that one knows already enough. That’s a certain downhill. Well, you can put the shoes on, take your money and lose your interest, but it’s certain that the quality of your work will decrease over time. Improve your work or let it go worse, but don’t think it will stay the same.
This is nothing fancy, just a usual job. Concentrating on some details. Hoof trimmed flat and level, hoof shaped and flares taken off, shoe fitted cold. 4 studs and snowpads. Here is a sideclipped shoe, but this shoeing could have been done as well with a toeclip. With toeclip I would just make room for the clip on the toe to get the shoe back enough. You see how much the toe comes outside the shoe, so with the toeclip I need to pay attention to make room enough. The sidewall is a bit cracked due to taking the flare off, but when this horse is shod this way couple of times, the wall will grow down straight and strong.
Those small details matter to the horse. This is the same horse before. This is an old shoeing, so it may have looked quite ok immediately after shoeing, but you can make it so much better just by paying a little bit more attention. The flares have not been taken off, and the shoe fitting has not been very precise, and that makes a proper nailing difficult. Rasp has been only lightly used on the toe to pretend that there is a place for the clip. But the shoe was still 1cm too much forward and the toe axis is badly broken. The joints and tendons don’t like it. Notice also, that the shoe size is same, but see how much more support there is on the heel on the first pic. The shoe is so much more back.
Very often a couple of changes will make the whole work much better. Usually it’s the shaping of the hoof while trimming, fitting the shoe precisely and… fitting the clips in the hoof to get the shoe to the right place.
Although this looks ugly, I don’t consider this very bad for the horse. Anyway there is almost the same problem as in the photos above. The axis after trimming has been ok, but then the shoe was just nailed on without thinking where it should be, and the benefits of the good trimming are lost. Outside branch of the shoe was also shaped too large and there has been problems with nailing on the flared wall.
I reset the same shoes, but shaped them new before nailing them on. Flares off, and again we’ll get the hoof to grow down straight and strong.
My own shoeings are very far from perfect, also on the pics above can be found those important details that could have been done better. For example the fitting on the last pic. The heel should be a bit more in. Usually I also grind the shoes, but this time my excuse is that I reset the old shoes that were not grinded and I didn’t want to go outside to the freezing weather to my car I had to park far away from the stable because of the snowmass outside the stabledoors. I decided that this time the grinding detail wont do lot’s harm in the big picture. One or two compromise won’t ruin the whole shoeing, but at least I have to remind myself all the time not to make too many excuses! There is no perfect shoeing, but when there are too many excuses, the work isn’t anymore good for the horse.
During this winter I have learned again (yes, again, I have always known it, but it’s so easy for me to forget) how important it is to pay attention to those details. When I started to use 5-10 minutes more time per horse to train my skills in trimming, fitting and finishing, there has been a difference. I can see that my shoeings look better, the hoofs are in better condition and now I start to feel that in fact shoeing has become easier. And soon I can keep up this quality without that extra 5-10 minutes. Then it’s possible to start to concentrate on new details and make it better again.
If you don’t see better shoeing than yours, it’s easy to think that this is ok and good enough. I think that’s the reason for bad quality in most of the cases. If you’ve never seen anything better, you naturally can’t even have the idea that something is wrong. You just think, that the horse has so bad hooves or legs or living conditions or whatever. It has nothing to do with your own work…
Next week I’m traveling to Denmark to the Nordic Championships to compete and train myself. There I can see masters at work and the quality they produce. Competitions and clinics are always a motivation boost that makes me realize how much better I could make.
The spring is coming after the long and cold winter and the trip to the warm Denmark is every year a start to that! (In Denmark it is warm from Finnish point of wiew :)) Next time you’ll get a report from Herning!