Thursday, June 10, 2010

Spring Horseshoeing

Our Percheron draft horse, Zebediah (Zeb), came to the shop recently to have his hooves trimmed and shoes reset. Why is this done? The same horseshoes that protect his hooves from excess wear and damage also prevent them from wearing as they grow. Every two months he is visited by his farrier to check his hooves, trim them to proper length, and get new shoes as needed.

Dan and Zeb

The old shoes are removed. Then Zeb’s hooves are trimmed to a proper length and angle. Any problems are corrected. Then the shoes are adjusted to fit. Zeb’s shoes are hand forged, and each one is fitted to that foot. The front shoes are shaped differently from the hind shoes, and the lefts are different from the right.

Shoes may be used a second time if they aren’t too worn. Even shoes being reused are adjusted to fit the newly trimmed hoof for a perfect fit. Zeb’s shoes are hot fitted. That means that after the hoof has been trimmed and rasped smooth, the warm shoe is pressed to the horn-like hoof. A puff of blue smoke drifts away. A black line shows where the shoe has perfect contact on the hoof. Any white marks are spots the shoe isn’t in contact, and needs to be corrected to prevent the shoe from working loose and being thrown. You can see in the pictures that Zeb is relaxed, and that it doesn’t hurt him at all.
After the shoes are perfectly formed and fitted, each is nailed on and clinched. The nails are specially formed to fit well and stay in the hoof wall. It doesn’t hurt Zeb any more than getting your hair cut hurts you. The whole purpose of shoeing is to prevent the pavement and abrasive gravel from damaging and hurting his hooves.

Zeb really doesn’t mind the shoeing.  Once the shoes are well fitted and nailed in place Zeb is ready to work.  If you visit, look for Zeb at noon pulling our farm wagon.  He is an essential and popular part of The Farmers' Musuem.

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