Laverne Mast has come up with an interesting way of taking a little of the chill out of shoeing in winter. The Middlebury, Ind., farrier has rigged up his shoeing toolbox with a heater.

The owner of First Choice Farrier Service called me to share his idea earlier this week. While it’s been a relatively mild winter, northern Indiana can get plenty cold, and many of the barns and stables he shoes in are unheated. He spotted the small ceramic heater (about 6-by-6-by-10 inches) while in a Menards’ store.

“I said I think I can use one of those,” he recalls.

The heater has two settings, 1,000 watts and 1,500 watts. He can run it on the barn’s electricity, or use the generator he has on his rig.

Warm Tools, Warm Hands

As you can see in the accompanying photos, he sets the heater up so the heat is vented upward across the two shelves of his aluminum toolbox, then on toward his hands. The heat warms up not only his hands, but also the handles of the tools stored in the box.

“Picking up warm tools really makes a difference,” he says. “And this type of heater is cool to the touch and there’s no open flame. It also makes it easier to use my Vettec products when it’s cold.”

Heater _AFJ Ezine 1.11.13

Ceramic heater likes the one Mast uses provide heat without a flame.

Mast knows the idea probably isn’t of much use to farriers working in Florida and similar climates, but he thought other cold-weather shoers might find it interesting.

A number of years ago, I spent a “Shoeing For A Living” day with Tom Martin, a farrier on upstate New York. Martin also believed in the warm tool approach. As we traveled between stops, he put his nippers and clinchers on the dashboard of his shoeing rig, where the heat from the defrosters would keep the reins warm. Martin also did his shoeing out of a converted ambulance, which had enough room inside the bay that he could keep his anvil inside and shape shoes in heated comfort.

That particular year, upstate New York was buried in snow early and spring came late. Martin said he’d never appreciated his heated ambulance bay more than that year. After spending just one semi-frigid day in February with him, I was in complete agreement.

Warm Feet, Better Days

Another winter adventure occurred one January when I arranged to spend a day with Sauk City, Minn., farrier Renee Dohmen. On the morning I was to meet her, I woke up to find that the temperature was far enough below zero to actually sound scary.

As it turned out, Dohmen’s schedule for the day called for her to work on horses in what she described as a “partially heated” barn. That helped. But the barn wasn’t big enough to allow her to set up her forge and anvil inside. Instead, she set it up outside, in an area protected from the wind by the barn. While the day was frigid, the sun was bright, and with the work she was doing, plus some heat from the forge, being outside for limited amounts of time wasn’t too bad.

Heater & Generator_AFJ Ezine 1.11.13

Laverne Mast’s shoeing box, equipped with a small ceramic space heater.

But Dohmen didn’t take any chances. She dressed in layers and wore thick, insulated boots that protected her feet from the cold that can seep up through concrete barn floors. I was wearing work boots and thick socks, but I didn’t get full feeling back to my feet until halfway through my drive back to the Milwaukee area that night — with my car heater blasting all the way. There was a lesson, I thought. If you’re going to work outside in frigid weather, don’t skimp on footwear.

Not that shoeing in cold weather is all bad. I was with Ken Norman, a West Pawlett, Vt., farrier, in early spring. It wasn’t a particularly cold day, but there was still snow on the ground in the Green Mountains. At a stop where he had a couple of trims and just one shoeing job, rather than time to fill his water bucket, Norman simply quenched his hot shoes in a handy snow bank. Now that’s something you can’t do in Florida.

On the other hand, a couple of years ago we asked farriers to share some cold-weather tips with us on our website, one Florida farrier told us he didn’t need to use as much sun block in winter as he did in summer.

I’m assuming he won’t be attaching a heater to his shoeing box.