Cowboy Shoeing For Real Cowboys

Keeping hard-working ranch horses sound challenges farriers in a variety of climates

A LONG WAY FROM THE BARN. Ranch horses are often used a long way from the barn as well as from their farrier. That means farriers have to shoe the horses so that the shoes will stay on.

Shoeing horses that work for a living can be a challenge. A ranch horse is vital to the livelihood of a cowboy or rancher, so proper footcare and protection is very important. But ranch horses are used in regions of the country with vastly different climates and terrain. Here’s a sampling of comments, tips and observations about shoeing ranch horses, from farriers in different parts of the West.


Galen Neshem is a farrier and rancher in west central Arizona (west of Prescott and north of Wickenburg), who depends on good-footed horses to help take care of cattle in big pastures and harsh country. While most of the shoeing he does today is for the horses on his own ranch, he shod for many other ranches until about 1990.

“We have rocky terrain — everything from granite country to malapai (volcanic rock and old lava). Many of our canyons have slick river rocks. We also have some limestone, so we have many kinds of rocks. All our horses have to be shod,” he says.

“It’s important to us to have horses with good feet, because if you lose a shoe out there, you want to be able to ride the horse home without crippling him,” he says.

Neshem raises registered Quarter Horses…

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Heather Smith Thomas

Heather Smith Thomas is a freelance writer based in Salmon, Idaho. She has been writing books and articles for nearly 50 years.

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