Modern warfare for the common soldier does not need the noble horse. That’s not to say that there are no times when a special forces soldier in an unusual place might find a local animal to help get the job done. For most, though, the horse in battle is a thing of the past. To honor that past and the role that horses played in it in America, the United States Army still maintains several horse detachments manned by modern soldiers.


  • Farriers can implement military shoeing, such as hospital plates, into their hoof-care practice to protect the foot from serious wounds, as well as for treatment of pathologies.
  • The last United States Army horse detachment faces challenges in horsemanship and hoof-care education because of a lack of experience.

In some places, horses still serve an important role in the armed forces. I have a great farrier friend named Guy Karsh who shoes all the Israeli military horses. These horses play an integral part in the armed forces there. Karsh employs some special shoeing to protect these horses and the soldiers in that region. He employs an ingenious design that allows the soldiers to cover the sole of the foot with a solid hospital plate to protect it from the bent and welded nails called caltrops that are designed to stop the horses from advancing.


Guy Karsh creates a hospital plate-style package (left) for Israeli mounted police to protect the hoof from weapons such as caltrops (inside shoe), which are designed to wound the horse and prevent it from advancing. Photo by: Guy Karsh

The design can be used as a hospital plate. This might be easier for clients to use and you to make than the four-bolt model.

The Last Detachment

The name “cavalry” historically refers to a horse regiment. Modern U.S. Army cavalry units are mainly Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles. There are still live horses being ridden in the horse detachments, but there’s only one horse detachment using soldiers to shoe horses — the First Cavalry Horse Detachment at Fort Cavazos, Texas, formerly Fort Hood.


Members of the First Cavalry Horse Detachment at Fort Cavazos, Texas, dissect a cadaver limb. Photo by: Chris Gregory

I was doing a clinic in 2017 for Camp Cowboy, a place where veterans learn to deal with trauma through horsemanship. Camp Cowboy was founded by Scott Robison, a long-time friend of mine. A retired Army lieutenant colonel Green Beret veteran of 23 years, Robison knew what it meant to be on the battlefield and what a horse could do for those who have been there, so he put together this great program. Camp Cowboy is close to Fort Cavazos and Robison invited the farrier soldiers and Don Davis, the stable master, to attend the clinic.

As the clinic progressed and I worked with the soldiers, Mr. Davis visited with me about some of the problems that they had with the shoeing. They invited me to visit the First Cavalry Horse Detachment, and I saw firsthand what these soldiers do for a living. It’s a fantastic job for a soldier, but with no U.S. Army schools teaching farriery, the soldiers were a little bit hampered in their education.


Don Davis, stable master for the detachment, holds a horse for soldier farriers while shoeing in the shop. Photo by: Chris Gregory

“We have some special issues,” Mr. Davis explains. “In pre-industrial times, soldiers entered the Army with years of horse experience. The soldiers coming to the horse detachment may have no experience at all, so we have to make up for that in their training.”

These horses are used for military ceremonies, demonstrations and parades. One of their big ones is the annual Rose Parade in California. The soldiers ride in formation and perform historical cavalry movements and some exhibition riding, which is an admirable thing to achieve when you consider the soldier may have only touched his first horse mere months ago. As I toured the farrier shop and the rest of the grounds, Mr. Davis invited me to return to do another clinic just for the soldiers. He also suggested getting some of the farrier soldiers to visit Heartland Horseshoeing School, which we have done as well.

We’ve had several clinics since then and even the Army veterinarians are involved in some of the training. It is important for a veterinarian to gain an appreciation of our job, so that has been a rewarding part of these trips, as well.

Learn More Online

Want to learn more? Check out this article and read the step-by-step guide to make a hospital plate here!

As a farrier, you know how hard it is to get good at shoeing a horse. The task is so much more than making the foot flat, shaping a shoe and nailing it on. Through Mr. Davis’ leadership and the soldiers’ desire to learn, the shoeing at Fort Cavazos has improved greatly. It’s been a lot of fun to see, and I’m proud that I’ve played a small part in it.