National Farriers Week: An Open Letter to My Farrier

A draft with shivers is a big challenge.


Dear Ed,

It was a little over a year ago that I asked you if you were comfortable shoeing a pair of draft horses I was going to be adopting soon. I had heard from draft horse friends and other farriers not to expect you to want to take them on; plenty of light horse farriers don’t want to do those big draft horses and they certainly don’t want to do them without stocks. Oh, and the one horse had shivers. Would that be a problem?

No problem at all, you promised me. I was relieved — you were doing such an excellent job with our light horses, the perfect balace of patience with our aging crew and their various idiosyncrasies with firmness when they needed a reminder to stand up and behave themselves. You took your time, explained your work, and clearly loved the animals, and I couldn’t imagine anyone else taking care of my special needs pair of draft horses.

While Randy might occasionally enjoy pushing your buttons and slowly driving you right to that brink of frustration (Randy, just stand up, and please stop trying to pee on Ed), it was pretty clear from early on that you had a soft spot for Rocky, despite — or maybe because of — the shivers. Sure, there was no way we were ever going to get a pair of hind shoes on him, and even shoeing the fronts was an act of patience in tiny increments based on how long he could stand balanced without his “shivers leg” needing to wobble in the air, but you were so supremely understanding of my big horse’s special needs.

“He doesn’t do it to be mean,” you would remind us both on every visit. “He just does it because he has to.” I knew it must have put an ache in your back every time you had to slide the cradle or the foot stand away to follow Rocky’s feet on their unsteady wobbling, but you persisted, taking pride in a job well done no matter how long or how rough the journey was to get there.

We knew we were on borrowed time, coaxing the front feet into shoes each cycle while keeping the hinds as cleaned up as we could. And when the day finally came yesterday that we realized Rocky just couldn’t stand himself up for the application of shoes any longer, I know you took it hard from the way you stood with your head pressed into his shoulder, your hand slowly stroking down his neck as he stood there, his head wobbling endearingly, wondering what all the fuss was about. “I’m sorry, buddy,” you repeated over and over again to my big goofy horse.

We both knew that this was another step down the road towards the inevitable end; shivers, after all, is a degenerative condition that no horse gets over, no matter how hard they try. That didn’t make it any easier to just finish the trim and turn Rocky out, knowing that no matter how much we did for him he would only slowly, inexorably get worse over time.

But I thank you from the bottom of my heart for trying so hard for so long. It’s rare to find a professional that cares as deeply for my horses as much as I do, but your work with my little herd reminds me that horse ownership is truly a team job, and I’m happy to have you in our corner.

And Rocky’s not licked yet — I hope you’re on board to help us install some studs on some swanky new hoof boots I’m looking into for driving down the road. This horse has plenty of years yet, thanks to all of your help.

Rocky and the author. Photo by Kaitlyn Bentley.

Happy National Farriers Week, Horse Nation. Go thank your farrier — and go riding!

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