Over the years, I have advised everyone who has apprenticed or ridden along with me to be aware of and avoid what I call the “YTI” syndrome. “YTI” is the illusion many farriers entertain in the early stages of our work, where we think of ourselves as “Young, Tough and Immortal.” I tell those farriers “you may be young, but that is a temporary situation, you may think you are tough, but you just haven’t met the right horse, and you definitely are not immortal.”
I recommend approaching your daily work in such a way that you always have the next appointment in the back of your mind, and never ignore the little voice that tells you something isn’t quite right about the horse in front of you. I have many memories of when I should have followed my own advice.
I remember an occasion when a long-time client brought me a new horse and was eager to get a fresh set of shoes on her so she could check her out on some of the many trails in the area. We got through that client’s other two horses without incident. Then she brought Jet out from her stall.
The mare walked calmly up and down the barn aisle while I watched her gait. When I put her in the cross-ties, Jet seemed somewhat nervous, but I was sure I could work her out of that. The front end went smoothly. I then started on the hind.
I had the first hind shoe nailed up and brought it forward to clinch. At that time, I was definitely under the “YTI” spell and rather than use a hoof stand, I pulled Jet’s foot forward. Although she felt somewhat stiff and nervous, she rested it in my lap for the procedure.
Apparently, this was something she wasn’t comfortable with because she immediately sucked her foot under her belly, trapping me in a vise-like grip between her lower limb and her gut. She leaned away from me, causing both of us to lose our balance and a moment later we were both on the floor mat. On the way down, Jet had kicked out with her hind foot — the one with the shoe in place — and made a direct hit on my right ankle.
“Never ignore the little voice that tells you something isn’t quite right…”
After both Jet and I regained our footing, the horrified owner asked if I was alright. I wiggled my foot around in my boot and sensed nothing amiss, other than the pain I expected after such a scare. I then brought out my hoof stand and finished shoeing Jet, though both she and I had grown very wary of each other. The owner apologized profusely and suggested that I get my foot checked out by a doctor.
Arriving home, I found my wife and daughter absent and decided to survey the damage done to my foot and ankle. The first thing I noticed was my sock. It was soaked with blood and the blood then started to pool in my boot. I have always had a high threshold for pain, and I usually have to see blood before I know I have been cut. This was no exception. What I had received was a deep cut. It was the kind of cut boxers get as a result of a blow from a padded glove. The sheer impact of flesh being crushed against the bone beneath causes the skin to rupture. As such, a deep cut results.
My wife and daughter arrived home shortly thereafter with a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. KFC is one of my junk-food weaknesses and though they were appropriately aghast at the extent of the injury, I insisted on eating before heading to the emergency room, where I received numerous stitches and exited with the limp I would walk with for weeks to come.
The end result of the whole episode was that thereafter when presented with a horse that I judged too nervous or rank to mess with, I would explain to the disappointed owner that this was how I paid the mortgage and that I had other horses to do after theirs. I couldn’t risk being laid up due to an injury caused by their unruly horse. I would tell the owners that I was a pretty good horseshoer, but that I wasn’t much of a trainer. You wouldn’t call a plumber to fix a light switch. After their horse was deemed civilized enough to stand quietly, I was more than willing to tackle the job of shoeing them.
While this may have disappointed or rankled some of my clients, I never received a similar injury for the rest of my career.