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Every shoeing session begins with the farrier gaining control of the horse. As a practical matter, most farriers secure the horse between cross-ties — a practice not everyone thinks is safe — while luckier shoers can call on an assistant or stable hand to steady the animal with a lead rope. Either way, most horses take the hint and stand still long enough for a relatively smooth, uneventful trimming and shoeing.
But not always. Untrained or unruly horses sometimes need a bit more persuasion. The farrier’s long-term health and career depend on gaining and maintaining control.
Beyond the risk of traumatic injury from a kick, a bite or a crushing incident, “Just having the horses lean on you for years will break your body down. You can’t let them do that,” says Frank Gravlee.
Gravlee is an equine veterinarian and founder of Life Data Labs of Cherokee, Ala., which manufactures equine nutritional supplements and hoof-care compounds. He now sponsors farrier safety clinics at numerous shoeing schools across the United States, saying he wants to give back to the industry that provided him a long and successful career.
“Going to farrier meetings, I see so many shoers who are practically crippled and they’re retired early,” he says. “Going to these meetings can be like going to a rehab center because so many of them can’t even stand up straight anymore.”
If the horses were properly trained and controlled, many farriers could work a lot more years, he says.