In a previous article I praised the advantages of a shoeing bay, and offered plans for the construction of the same. The overwhelming requests for plans that I have received has been amazing – it gladdens the cockles of this old farrier’s heart to think of shoeing bays springing up all around Australia, making the workload of the farrier so much easier and safer.

It was when one such request also included the question ‘what if I just make a rail on one side, and use the wall on the other’ that I decided to clarify just why the dimensions of the shoeing bay and its construction are so important.

It is so easy to accept the method of carrying out any simple task without questioning exactly why the task is carried out in that manner, and I thank him for asking that simple question.

I remember the story of the young bride who always cooked a leg of lamb after cutting off the knuckle and discarding it. Her young husband queried why she did this, after all it was his favourite piece, and she said in some surprise that she didn’t know – her Mum had always done it, so she assumed it was the right thing to do. On asking Mum why she cut the knuckle off, the reply was that her roasting dish was not long enough to fit the knuckle. Moral of the story – always ask the question why.

Back to the shoeing bay – the height of the rails, four feet from the ground, not only contains the horse but also allows the farrier an escape route on either side. To be boxed in, especially against a wall, by a horse that erupts for whatever reason is sheer folly. The height of the rails allows the farrier to move or throw himself sideways and under the rails if there is any trouble. All the farrier has to do is remember to duck his head the first time. It’s guaranteed that he will remember to duck his head if it happens a second time.

The length of the shoeing bay, ten feet long, is comfortably long enough to contain the horse, and to allow him a little leeway to move on his restraint. I always cross tie using two lead ropes. The shoeing bay is long enough that a light breeching rope across the back of the shoeing bay does not cause him to feel overly contained. The breeching rope can be moved forwards or backwards to allow for the length of each horse. The breeching rope is an added safety measure in case he moves back, and again gives the farrier an easy exit path.

The diameter of the pipe used for the construction of the bay, 2.5” galvanised pipe, offers strength and stability and is not going to buckle or give way under any circumstances. Using galvanised elbows or a pipe bender to achieve the bends eliminates any bolts or seams that can snag either the horse or the farrier. I have bolted flanges to the floor, rather than setting the poles into concrete, which gives me the flexibility of removing either or both of the shoeing bays to increase space for demonstrations, discussion groups or for the occasional outdoors party.

The conveyor belt rubber attached to the floor with dynabolts serves a three-fold purpose – I use canvas conveyor belt so an agitated horse will not slip on it, even if urinated on, and the matting actually helps the acoustics, deadening the sound of the hoofs, and consequently calming the horse. Also, a restless horse will not wear out his feet like he would on a concrete surface.

A purpose built bay for your own horses can certainly be situated in a smaller area than I would use. I have a lot of horses brought to me for reconstructive hoof work, horses that are unbroken and have never been inside a shed. My blacksmith’s shop to cater for this is forty foot square, with fifteen foot ceilings, and is a very open space, containing only two shoeing bays both with canvas conveyor belt floor covering. Anvil stands, plus forge and tool trolley are the only other goods in the shop, and I have yet to find a horse, unbroken or otherwise, that has objected to entering the shed or the shoeing bay. The largest horse I have shod in the bay was a 19.2 hands Shire horse, who had never been inside a shed and who stood quite happily for two hours while I hot shod him with size eleven shoes.

The addition of some relaxing music in the background results in an environment as good as it gets for both farrier and horse, and while I have the occasional objection from clients who don’t want to listen to classical music, I’ve yet to find a horse who objects.