Climbing Horseshoe Mountain

The first shoe I ever pulled off a horse took 45 minutes. My arms, hands, back and legs were screaming at me why are you doing this??? Beads of perspiration dripped into my eyes as my fingers gave their best death grip on tools that felt awkward and heavier with each passing second. Still, the shoe would not budge.

My farrier mentor, Rodd, read a magazine, occasionally asked if I wanted help, but otherwise left me alone. Grateful for his lack of pressure, and bewildered how he could have removed the other shoe in less than a minute , I was determined. This was my first test of many to come, and the instant the shoe came away from that patient old chestnut’s hoof, I beamed with pride and exhaustion.

Every day of my apprenticeship I was climbing a steep mountain. My physical, mental, and emotional limits were pushed to the brink. Each hoof I worked on felt like a whole new world of learning, and I would be sweating out of nerves before even touching a leg. I was terrified of hurting one of these noble beasts that had become so dear to me, and I knew that could easily happen with one swipe of my knife in the wrong place. There was also tremendous pressure from the human clients who hated the idea of a newbie working on their horses.

IMG_3402

My hands and forearms were cut daily from my tools slipping, and burns dotted me like freckles from bits of red hot metal flying up while working at the forge. My shins seemed to be constantly in the way as the horse would jerk a leg back off the stand and collide with mine.  My entire body had a constant ache as I forced it to readjust to a strange bent over position, wrestling with a creature ten times my size and strength, all the while attempting to do precise work with less than a millimetre margin of error.

Somehow, with great persistence, sheer stubbornness, and a drive to learn, I managed to stick with it. I had a great mentor who was patient and encouraging, forgiving and open minded clients, and some wonderful horses who put up with me. I can truly say I love my job. There is nothing more rewarding to me than knowing I am making a positive contribution to the well-being of these magnificent creatures.

Pulling a shoe now takes me about 30 seconds, and each time I give thanks to the years of torture it took to get me here.

How has life inspired you to persevere? Leave me a comment!

This is part of a continuing story, click HERE to start from the beginning.

I post every second Tuesday, SUBSCRIBE to receive the next instalment.

 

Become A What?

The first time I heard the word farrier, I thought it had something to do with taxidermy. No, I was told, it is the person who cares for the horses hooves. The horses need regular trimming and sometimes shoeing, and the farrier travels around to different barns to provide this service.

My highly opinionated project horse, Contessa, did not like the farrier. Contessa did not like many things, including doing as she was told. For the farrier to do his job, she “had” to pick up her feet and stand quietly, but this never happened. It looked more like a rodeo with the farrier trying to get out of the way of her kicking, biting, jumping around, slamming her feet down, and being generally miserable. The first time I watched her get trimmed, I had to remind myself to breathe as my gut clenched each time a blow was narrowly escaped.

IMG_3305

Her “I would rather not” face.

This seemed like a great goal for me to work on with Contessa: keep the farrier alive on trim day!

Considering I had no experience manoeuvring around the legs of these thousand pound creatures, and I had trouble simply leading this spicy filly, my goal was much more challenging than I imagined. Contessa, knowing my limitations, would get my heart racing each time I tried to lift a foot. We would engage in a dance of determination, with a powerful kick threatening each move. She took great pride in leading this dance, and it felt as though she was laughing each time I retreated. I was angry. I was afraid. I was defeated.

Eventually, I gave up. I decided I was teaching her more bad habits than good, so I changed my focus. I tried to make each interaction we had positive for both of us, and the only way I could succeed was by choosing small activities where I felt confident. Little by little, I found my own footing with a wider range of work on the ground. She began to enjoy my company as a respected companion instead of a play thing.

Every six weeks I held Contessa for her trim, and each time she showed improvement. Despite the fact I wasn’t the one picking up her feet, I felt my heart expand as I watched her begin to behave and let go of the fight.

IMG_3114 (2)

Seeing the light after a storm.

Working with Contessa this way always gave me a great excuse to get out of weeding the garden or mucking stalls since I had to hold her for the farrier, Rodd.  He and I got to know each other through these interactions, and I would often pester him with questions about hooves.

Seeing how much Contessa had changed and recognising my interest in his work, one day Rodd offered to mentor me. I laughed him off, thinking I was not destined for farriery! I didn’t even know this job existed less than two years ago, never mind become one…

I was still chuckling to myself as he drove away, then stopped dead in my tracks as I realised a farrier is exactly what I needed to become.

IMG_3297.JPG

Have you had a surprising moment of inspiration? Would love to know, leave me a comment.

This is part of an ongoing story – click HERE to start from the beginning.

I post every second Tuesday morning, hope you SUBSCRIBE to follow along, and please like and share!