The end result of correct hoof care is survival.
Many years ago, in 1954 to be exact, I learnt to shoe a horse while employed as a jackeroo on a remote station. It soon became obvious while out mustering that if the shoes did not stay on, the horse soon became lame and I had to walk home leading him, regardless of the weather conditions and time of the day. This taught me very quickly to put shoes on to stay on.
Now forty-nine years later, I guess it never crossed my mind that those needs would still apply in today’s modern world with our rapid transport and communications, but they certainly do.
On a recent working tour of our far-northern areas, it was a huge reality check to find that now, perhaps more than ever before, it is so important for our working stockhorses to be shod correctly. Today’s horsemen and women, employed seasonally on stations to work cattle and horses, come from many and varied backgrounds where the instincts of survival are not as critical as they are in the bush. The regular staff do a great job to train the new recruits in preparation for the muster, together with enlisting the aid of visiting tradesmen for specific skills training.
It was with an enormous feeling of déjà vu that I now began teaching these young ringers about shoeing and hoof care, and began to realise that out here in this really isolated area it could impact on their safety and survival in a big way. Despite modern technology, Mother Nature still holds the upper hand in the vastness and heat of the outback, where a lost shoe in the midday sun could spell disaster for the rider without the ability to do an immediate and adequate repair.
The old quote ‘no hoof no horse’ was never more obvious as the fresh ones were lined up to be shod, and it was about then that I really began to get excited about the continuing need for such basic skills and the passing on of knowledge to these young ones.
Some folks think I have spent too long in the sun after making a comment like that, but the simple truth is, I like shoeing horses, and have over the years developed a system which makes the task really easy and safe, especially for the beginner, while at the same time it manages to put a big grin on the faces of the seasoned horse shoer.
My system is one hundred and fifty per cent non violent, which quickly gains the confidence of the horse, and thus allows us to calmly prepare the hoof to a balanced condition which then makes the fitting of a shoe so simple.
The resulting benefits are that we now spend much less time under the horse, reducing our risk of injury, plus we have been able to correctly balance the hoof, even the bad ones, thus allowing the horse to move freely and safely in any direction, and most important of all we have reduced the risk of losing shoes, because they fit better. All of which are further examples of survival.
I was impressed by the eagerness with which the Territorians accepted this system of teaching, and the end result of their own efforts certainly proved worthwhile.
For me, the greatest reward of all was to see that by passing on information and experiences, it had made a difference to so many people and their horses.