December 7, 2012

A school for horseshoeing and blacksmithing has some special guests for the next few weeks.

Soldiers from the Honor Guard stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas are attending Shurshod Horse Shoeing School in Grovespring. They're learning skills to help the Honor Guard maintain its own horses.

Sergeant Christopher Frost has been to Iraq and Specialist Cody Abshire to Afghanistan. They'll be riding in the inaugural parade this year and need to learn how to care for the horses.

"It's kind of a dying art," says Kelly Case, instructor and owner of Shurshod Horse Shoeing School.

"We are one of the only mounted color guards that actually do our own farrier work," says Spc. Abshire.

"If we can learn how to properly take care of our horses," adds Sgt. Frost, "then it will be a better overall thing for us as a team, our horses in general with their health, and everything else."

They are spending four weeks learning tricks of the trade.

"We're teaching them as much as we can about corrective pathological shoeing and shoeing for safety and soundness because they do ride in so many parades and Calvary demonstrations," says Case.

"Back in the day the Calvary was actually a big part of the military," adds Sgt. Frost. "However, over the years, with technology and time change and things like that, horses are not necessarily used as much, they are still uses, regardless of popular belief."

"In the Army, our horses come first, then we come last," says Spc. Abshire.

Case says it's an indispensable skill.

"It also is going to save the military a ton of money, because one, it's going to cut down on vet bills with these horses being shipped as much as they're shipped. Two, they don't have to hire a civilian farrier and have to have him travel with them or just pick up a shoer in some town that they don't know."

"We try to do as much of our own work as we can," says Sgt. Frost.

"It's a great way to also connect with the horse," says Spc. Abshire. "Once you understand the pathology of the hoof, and the gait of the horse, you also get a better understanding of that horse itself."

After this schooling, the soldiers will be able to bring back what they've learned to their post and properly care for their horses.

"It's a win-win situation for the horse, the soldier, and the military budget all the way around," says Case.