There's much more to the job of a farrier than simply nailing shoes on a horse's hooves.

A farrier is responsible for the horse's foot health, so some veterinary knowledge is required. Many farriers also employ blacksmithing skills to adjust prefabricated horseshoes or even to make their own horseshoes in order to better treat their "patients."

"A lot of it is anatomy," says Wes Sharp, a certified journeyman farrier from Diamond Valley, Utah. "You have to know everything from the hoof down."

The science behind it is what drives Sharp's interest in horseshoeing. He finds it especially rewarding to take an animal that has been considered a "hopeless case" and turn it into a usable horse through proper care, enabling him to improve the relationship between a horse and its rider.

Horseshoes are used for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they provide traction for various equestrian events.

"Without shoes, they wouldn't be able to perform at their peak," Sharp says.

They are also used to protect a horse's foot or even for therapeutic purposes. Before horseshoes, sandals were sometimes put on horses to protect their hooves from wearing out. Yet the hooves are designed to have horseshoes nailed on, Sharp says.

That doesn't mean horses have to be shod. Some are maintained without horseshoes for various reasons. Some simply don't need them because of how they are used.

Bruce Hudson of New Harmony has been a farrier for 12 years but enjoys the opportunity to learn from Sharp. They often work on jobs together.

"Anytime you can work with a colleague, you learn something," Hudson says. "We enjoy the company, and we enjoy the work."

It can also be helpful for safety reasons. If the horse's owner isn't around during the shoeing process, having another farrier there can be beneficial.

Yet Sharp's favorite part of the job remains his clients - both the four-footed and two-footed kind.

"The thing I like most is just being around the horses," he says, adding: "Horse people in general are good people."

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