By Carmen Theobald, APF
The first shoe I ever pulled off a horse took 45 minutes. My arms, hands, back and legs were screaming at me why are you doing this??? Beads of perspiration dripped into my eyes as my fingers gave their best death grip on tools that felt awkward and heavier with each passing second. Still, the shoe would not budge.
My farrier mentor, Rodd, read a magazine, occasionally asked if I wanted help, but otherwise left me alone. Grateful for his lack of pressure, and bewildered how he could have removed the other shoe in less than a minute, I was determined. This was my first test of many to come, and the instant the shoe came away from that patient old chestnut’s hoof, I beamed with pride and exhaustion.
Every day of my apprenticeship I was climbing a steep mountain. My physical, mental, and emotional limits were pushed to the brink. Each hoof I worked on felt like a whole new world of learning, and I would be sweating out of nerves before even touching a leg. I was terrified of hurting one of these noble beasts that had become so dear to me, and I knew that could easily happen with one swipe of my knife in the wrong place. There was also tremendous pressure from the human clients who hated the idea of a newbie working on their horses.
My hands and forearms were cut daily from my tools slipping, and burns dotted me like freckles from bits of red hot metal flying up while working at the forge. My shins seemed to be constantly in the way as the horse would jerk a leg back off the stand and collide with mine. My entire body had a constant ache as I forced it to readjust to a strange bent over position, wrestling with a creature ten times my size and strength, all the while attempting to do precise work with less than a millimetre margin of error.
Somehow, with great persistence, sheer stubbornness, and a drive to learn, I managed to stick with it. I had a great mentor who was patient and encouraging, forgiving and open minded clients, and some wonderful horses that put up with me. I can truly say I love my job. There is nothing more rewarding to me than knowing I am making a positive contribution to the well being of these magnificent creatures.
Pulling a shoe now takes me about 30 seconds, and each time I give thanks to the years of torture it took to get me here.