Laminitis

The vet prescribed reverse shoes for this pony that became laminitic about 6 weeks ago – she’d been in straight bars because she tore tendons in both front legs last year and so was basically retired. So these shoes are a temporary measure while she recovers and her hoof capsules stabilize!

I put some impression material under the frog plate and in the back half of her foot, which will provide lots of caudal support and take as much stress off the dorsal aspect as possible.
The toe had to be back up – with a 45 degree angle around the toe to bring break over back as much as possible – reduce any leverage on the front half of her foot.

Balance is in the eye of the beholder

So a unique thing about me is that I do not have binocular vision – I see primarily out of my right eye but am able to change which eye is “dominant” (but if I use my left eye as dominant, the angle at which I see something changes because my right side goes completely fuzzy; and conversely, what I see as “centre” with my right eye is actually not, because my left eye goes fuzzy when viewing through my right)…

Because I’ve had this problem my whole life, I never really gave much though to it (an example with other aspects of life are I’d always approach the jump slightly off centre, or go down the centre line a smidge to the right, or drive more to the right of a lane than the left), – when I trim and shoe, often times, things are just just just off – like 1mm out of balance, or wracked ever so slightly to the one side but I could never figure out where I was going wrong.

My girlfriend probably knows more about trimming, balance and practical “correctness” than most horse people because I go on and on about it and she actually listens, and I ask her advice on things often because she has incredible spatial awareness and just amazing overall practical skills. She has been looking at my work, and at photos of other people shoeing and noticed how and where I was going wrong – when checking for balance on the near side, my right side is slightly off centre, with my left eye over the centre of the limb – but because I can’t really see much out of my left eye when my right eye is dominant, she realized I was actually viewing the balance from off centre, which explains why, so often, I’m juuuust off – and why I haven’t been able to understand it – because it’s not a common problem people face, I guess?

Even placing a shoe – I tried it today – if I change dominant eyes while the shoe is in place, it changes “position” and looks wracked from one or the other view… it’s amazing that I finally seem to understand some of the nuances that affect my shoeing – all down to my wonderfully curious girlfriend (she helped me understand another concept on anatomical deviations at the end of last year, but more on that another time).

Now comes the fun part – playing around with this newfound information, and seeing how it all affects my final trim/shoeing job… I can’t wait!

Fun with seedy toe

I got called in today to reshoe a horse that has seedy toe. I know this horse from one of the racing yards I worked in a few years ago, and he had seedy toe back then too. It went away last year but came back with a vengeance this year.

It was my first seedy toe case I’ve done and I had the added bonus of having to chase time because of the load shedding schedule (we’ve got daily scheduled power cuts at the moment…) to get the shoe welded – I had it welded with 3 minutes to spare before we were powerless!

The foot had already been debrided a little but there was a lot more that had to come off to make sure there were no dark crevices with the infection brewing inside…
I put impression material under the frog plate and into the back half of the foot – my original plan had been to put a full sole pack in, but the vet was concerned he might have an abscess so I went with caudal support of impression material instead! My frog plate could’ve been a little shorter, but overall I was quite happy with how it came out.

Photo Day

I had a fairly easy, stress-free day with only a few horses lined up – my own horse needed a full set (he’s one of the fidgety-ist horses to work on, it’s infuriating!), a couple of trims and then one of the laminitic ponies I do has been given the all-clear to start working again so I popped her into a pair of Equilibriums – decreasing the amount of leverage on her toes is extremely important and these shoes bring break-over back almost an inch!

Is it a normal day, if there’s no blood involved?
My own boy’s little upright foot
An easy reset
A pair of Equilibriums on a pony who’s had laminitis but has been given the all-clear from the vet to start working again!

The day ended with a phone call from a fellow farrier, offering me a little stud farm of 15 horses which I will start on at the end of the month! A good day!

Freelancing farrier

I freelanced with another farrier (the only other female farrier in the our area) twice this week – it was really fun! One of the reasons I’m so excited to be opening this self-employment chapter of my life/career path, is that I’m hoping to expose myself to a range of horses, shoeing styles, work styles and just overall farriery by working with different farriers.

We jumped right in on the first day – no easing back into this profession after nearly 3 months off! I did two full sets, two half sets and two trims – not a hell of a day, but at the end of the afternoon, my hand was aching so it was enough. It felt great to be hot shoeing throughout the day, cold shoeing every once in a while, sweating and getting dirty – I’ve really missed it!

On the second day, I did 3 full sets and 6 trims before admitting I couldn’t do anymore shoeing – two days of pushing my hand had made it very sore and stiff. I was feeling so much more comfortable with my tools and forging though and she showed me little tricks that I haven’t seen yet in my career so I’m learning stuff! She shoes horses slightly differently to how I do but there’s many ways to skin a cat and I want to learn them all, so I’m trying to take in all the titbits I can!

One of the cold shoeings – he was quite overdue, had grown rather out of balance and had started to form a toe crack so I backed him up as much as I could and see the shoe under a little to reduce the leverage on his toe. My nailing and clinching has suffered a bit since returning to work but I’ll get it back to what it was, high nails and small square clinched!

I’m hoping to work with her again next week and then contact some of the other farriers in the area to see if they need any help on busy days – I want to expose myself to as much as I can while I build up my clients!

I decided to have a day off today to rest my muscles – woke up feeling very achy still and they warned me against pushing it too much while it ached – just a day of catch up and admin; before doing a full set, a trim and a half set of my own tomorrow. The half set is a laminitic pony that had an acute attack at the end of 2019 and had to go into W-bars – good news now though, is that the vet says she is ready to go back into normal shoes! I’m going to put her into a pair of Equilibriums – which will keep her point of breakover as far back as possible, and reduce as much leverage as possible on the dorsal aspect of her foot. The rider is hoping to enter her in a national competition towards the end of the month so we’re hoping for a smooth return into normal work for her!

Back into the books

I’m going to be using most of my “days off” for continued education. When I qualified as a Certified Farrier, there was a decent amount of anatomy and physiology you had to know, but my goals and aims are much higher than just the basic certification.

I haven’t had time since qualifying to really get back into deep studying and I spent this morning with my head buried in numerous textbooks and started making notes again – I know that I’m incredibly lucky to be studying and working in a field I have such a passion for!

First Full Day

I had my first “full” day’s work on Wednesday – they were 5 horses that I’ve been doing for about 18 months so I know them (and their owners) well.

The day started off a little crazily – I forgot I hadn’t refilled my gas bottle ( and I was NOT cold-shaping everything my first day back!) so I had to find a place to swop out my old bottle for a new one. I arrived at their beautiful farm in the countryside around 8:30am and caught-up with the owner, so started shoeing around 9am.

There were two full sets and three trims – I decided to try the full sets first and if needs be (or hand-related pain be), return the next day to finish the trims. I started with the big boy, this beautiful carriage horse who’s got really nice, open feet.

Pairing out was painful again – I used a little butane torch to soften the sole and frog but I went for function over aesthetics – it’ll be a little while before I can be pedantic about pretty solar views of feet again.

His front shoes were an easy reset so I didn’t get the shoes hot (he isn’t the biggest fan of burning shoes so I’d rather not have to fight). Initially all my tools, which, up until my accident, felt like an extension of my hands, felt foreign to me. It took a little while, but eventually I was back in the swing of things. I hot fit his hind shoes because they weren’t a reset – the hot shaping, thankfully, felt absolutely fine and didn’t cause any pain.

I was constantly worried about my hand though – when I saw the surgeon and OT last week, they were very happy with my progress and the fact that the plate hadn’t shifted or anything, so I didn’t want to do anything to jeopardise my recovery!

The next full set was a reset all-round – a nice Nordic pony with solid feet/body/everything! There was not much to do on the trims – their feet were just very hard so snipping was a little uncomfortable. But all in all, I was very happy with how the day had gone. My hand swelled up a lot in the afternoon – I had to ice it on and off to get some range of movement back without pain. I’ve lost all my shoeing fitness though – my body was very stiff yesterday!

My next day of work is Tuesday next week – I’m freelancing with the only other female farrier in the province and it’s my first time working with her so I’m very excited! I’m seeing the OT again on Monday – hopefully the last appointment!

First client of 2020 – what an ass!

So technically, she wasn’t my first client / my friend was doing all my private work for me so that they wouldn’t go months without being shod, but this little donkey was my first trim after my injury/surgery/recovery!

She was a little feisty but I was able to keep my grip on her feet when she tried to pull away. The pairing out was surprisingly painful – a combination of loss of muscle and the recovering tendons… unfortunately I think it’s going to take a while to get that strength back, and the presentation of my work will suffer for it.

Self-employment

The more I think about it, the more excited I am about officially being “self-employed”. I will have the freedom to set my own schedule, the freedom to accept or decline work I do/don’t want to do, the freedom to choose who I want to freelance with. What an enthralling start to the year!

I’m going to see my surgeon and OT this afternoon for (hopefully) the last time! My hand feels a lot stronger now than it did even a week ago, but it is still very stiff in the mornings. I’m curious about how the concussion of hammer against anvil is going to make it feel… but I’m not attempting anything until I get the all-clear from the doctor – cannot risk reinjury!

Now time to send invoices out for the work my amazing farrier friend did for me over the weekend!

Hello!

I guess the only way a first post can go is in the way of an introduction, so here we go!!

My name is Sara and I am a 26 year old farrier based in South Africa. I have an incredible partner, two mischievous miniature schnauzers, and a 19-year old (going on 3) TB that I’ve had since he came off the track many moons ago.

I was introduced to the farrier trade through having horses of my own and I realized there was a lot more to the whole “shoeing thing” when my horse kept getting abscesses after jumping shows, exacerbated by thin soles and shitty angles; and through vet/farrier communication, they got him 100% sound. I shadowed a couple of the guys in the area a few years later and decided that this was what I wanted to do…

I went to a shoeing school in the US in 2015/2016 for 6 months, and then apprenticed under one of the best farriers in SA for nearly 3 years. I became a FITS Certified Farrier (CF) under him towards the end of 2018 and worked as a qualified farrier for him for just over a year. Under him, I’ve shod countless race horses, trimmed hundreds of broodmares and foals, and was exposed to some of the best farrier work I’ll probably ever see.

Just when you begin to get into the swing of things, life always seems to throw you a curve ball – at the end of last year (2019), I broke my 5th metacarpal on my right hand through my own clumsiness (not even work-related!), and as such, I had to take a lot of time off work. After nearly 4 weeks of “healing”, we realised something was not too happy in my hand and so I went to see a surgeon who informed me that I’d need surgery to get back any resemblance of normal hand use. The surgery resulted in them having to rebreak my half-healed bone and untangle a ligament and a nerve that had gotten stuck between the broken pieces (fun!)… I am now hopefully two weeks away from being able to go back to work full time, and I am returning to “work” as a self-employed farrier.

This blog is going to follow my journey of building up my own client base, the process of building a reputable “business”, the weird and wonderful cases I might see along my way, and the experiences of freelancing for other farriers on my quiet days. I’ll try include any and all trials I have to go through – such as stocking up my shoeing rig, building up my remedial/medical kit, and the joys of scheduling and invoicing!

D-day is a couple of weeks away still, but I’ve got quite a bit of prep work to make sure I’m fully stocked up and organised – I’ll keep you posted!

PS: While I was at the shoeing school, I kept a Tumblr blog – thefarriersapprentice.tumblr.com – which followed the whole 6 months I was there – from learning how to hold my tools, to doing my first full set – it’s interesting for anybody who’s thinking about becoming a farrier and wants to see what getting started is like!

The notion that all thoroughbreds have thin walls and shoddy feet is absurd!

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