False Prophet, false sole, and other tales of the farrier’s trade

...and on the eighth day God created the horse in perfect image, to romp, graze, gallop, play, and make manure wherever it darn well pleases, in divine grace.

So I woke up one day and said, “I think I’ll be a blacksmith.”

I had no experience as such, but I mean, how hard could it be?

I had watched the various farriers at our barn over the past 35 years, and noticed a pattern of procedure: Clean the hoof, get the paring knife, view the bottom of the horse’s foot, check for abnormalities, then get the nippers, and finally the rasp.

Easy-peazy, right?

So I bought a pair of nippers, and I already had a paring knife, hoof picks, and several rasps.

Wispy visions of a smiling-me and perfectly-rounded horsey-toes, nice heels, and beautiful frogs paraded through my mind, like a herd of smooth-moving, comfortable equines.

I thought I would buy a new leather show halter, bridle, saddle, saddle pad, lead rope, etc., and more dreamy catalog items, with all the money I would be saving by not having a professional swinging by the barn every time I turned around.

My confidence was high as I began this life-changing event, why, a lot of women trim their horses’ feet and even become farriers by trade.

I had experience in the field, with abscesses, founder, soaking in Epsom salts, Easy Boots, medicine boots, sore soles, etc., and if they could do it, so could I.

I had plenty of treats lined up for the animals, fly spray at the ready, and a smile on my face as I set out to try my new craft.

I started small.

The minis and Shetland Ponies were easy; their tiny hooves and gentle manners made me think I was a natural-born farrier. Clip and snip and done.

Smile still on my face, treats given to the best little ponies who always stand still and never kick, I could almost smell and feel the new leather gear I was going to purchase.

My back felt great and so did my hands and arms, so I moved on up to the saddle horses and heavy drafts.

Good thing I had practiced with my horses on them picking up their feet and holding in a frozen pose, because I wasn’t going to win any contests for fastest trims.

Most certified farriers can trim a horse in about 25 minutes, giving themselves 30 minutes per horse, at any given barn.

This means a well-behaved beast with clean, healthy feet, no shoes.

It excludes old, arthritic animals or animals with hoof issues, or young, silly, and uncooperative animals.

Or lazy ones, too.

So my saddle horses gave me a wary-eye, but said okay, proceed.

I didn’t count on tough hoof walls and a dull paring knife, not to mention that by the time I got done with the minis, it was noon, and so hotter outside with more flies.

My new nippers were meant for a man’s hands, not my little-Pennsylvania-girly-hands, so my trimming went along in a stilted, chopping motion, almost like a crazy sewing machine whose bobbin thread and peddle had gone wild.

Follow the white line.

And a couple of tra-la-la’s.

(I did remember to take off the plastic, protective covers from the nippers.)

Chopping being the key word, I was too many thumbs and wound up nipping a part of my own right hand, at the base of my thumb.

Blood was seen, I was cryin’ for my mama again, and the horse was looking at me like WTH??

I’m glad nobody saw me or stopped by the barn that day to see me at my finest, as I tried out my new endeavor as a “ Natural Horse Trimmer-Owner.”

The rasp became a story unto itself as I tried to hold horse hoof between my knees and run the hateful instrument along the toe.

Did he just roll his eyes?

Sans gloves once again, I was rasping my own hand, yelping in time to the strokes, while the bandage gauze from the nipper mishap got caught up in the middle of it all, shredding into tiny red pieces down in the dirt and debris and my tears.

And I hadn’t even gotten to the draft horses yet.

Babe’s kind, matriarchal eyes took me in, as if to say, “It’s all right, little lady, I understand you wanting to try out this frivolous whim of yours...”

She smiled at me and told old WTH he looked good with one shoe on and one shoe off.

The lazy part of Babe the Belgian worked to my advantage here, because she just rested her big foot on the ground while I attempted the nippers once again. Even two-handed snipping wasn’t working so well for me, as my girly hands kept slipping, couldn’t leverage, and some of the hoof got trimmed and the other part didn’t.

I ended up with the thing I hate the most - - Spade-foot and a forward-slung heel.

Oh no, poor Babe; was that a smirk? She lowered her head toward me, but I couldn’t quite make out what she was saying.

Then lazy Babe was leanin’ on me, and my back didn’t feel so good.

By this time my nipper cut had drawn the attention of the resident stable flies, who were eyeing the gauze remnants as a suitable nesting site for maggots and friends, my hair came undone and was straggling into my face, my hands were filthy dirty, my back was broken, and the sweat from the mid-day heat had filtered through and was dripping into my eyes.

So comely, so fetching.

The sadness of the over-all venture was complete as I stood upright, rasp in hand, and used my arm to swipe away the flies, hair, and sweaty accessories, clunking myself with the hateful instrument as I did so, nearly passing out.

Good thing Babe knew her own way back to her stall.

As I slowly clawed and thumped my way through the yard, back up toward the house, my startled mother peered out of the kitchen window and beheld an odd spectacle. That of her sway-backed offspring down on all fours, hair straggling into a filthy, tear-streaked face, strips of bloody gauze trailing along behind, and a cloud of flies for an escort.

She remarked that I hadn’t taken the trash out yet, could I please hurry because she thought she heard the garbage truck approaching, and that I had missed the especially lovely supper she had cooked for the family.

My visions of grandeur on a high-stepping steed in all the fine, new leather saddlery I was to have, slowly dissolved into the grimy, painful, stark reality of my gnarled-up, girly-hands dialing the chiropractor’s phone number for my broken, distorted back, and that of the professional farrier, fired and now re-hired.

Just another day in the life and times of Roseanne Staab.

That stupid nipper cut actually got proud-flesh and I had to go see a medical doctor, too.

People were asking me what I did to my hand, and they looked at me queerly when I told them that I woke up one day and thought I’d be a blacksmith.

Folks, it has indeed been real.

We will discuss False Sole in an upcoming edition of Horsin’ Around.

No false prophet here, I am leaving you once again with the immortal words of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, “Happy Trails to You.”