by Cindy Dawn Eldstrom

Reprinted with permission from the Western Canadian Earners Association Newsletter

"Do not shoe badly behaved or undisciplined horses. There are NO good reasons to put yourself in greater physical danger." The words were no sooner written when my phone rang.

It was a person who couldn't find a farrier to shoe his horse because during the last two shoeings, the horse had been incorrigible. I refused the job and suggested they hire a trainer. The next day I had lunch with some riders, trainers and barn managers, and the topic of the very same horse came up. I asked a lot of questions, and it appeared to be a comedy of errors: bad horsemanship, not a bad horse. From what I could discern, the mare was a young Thorough-bred, just two days off the track from California. She was not settled in, and the horse owner and shoer had taken her away from the other horses and into the barn alone. When the horse became anxious, they began to get angry and discipline her. A fight ensued. The farrier was able to get front shoes nailed on, but refused to do more. The mare came up lame in front immediately after being shod, but improved over a period of a week. Six weeks later, the farrier came back and, under the same circumstances, tried to shoe the mare again. He was able to pull off the front shoes, and that was as far as he got. Evidently there was quite an explosion that scared everyone who witnessed it! Other than shoeing, the mare got first-ratecomments on all other aspects of temperament and behavior.

A very valuable saying worth mentioning is: "Horses never lie." We may not hear what they are saying; we may not interpret correctly, but horses never lie.

Something didn't add up in my mind about this horse. Before going home that night, I went to see the horse. She was in her stall, with all her pasture buddies around her in their stalls, and they were all quietly munching hay. The mare showed some concern when she smelled farrier odors on me, but continued to eat while watching me carefully. Within five minutes I had picked up each foot, held them in various positions and tapped them with the hammer, and she remained totally relaxed.

I agreed to try and shoe her and set up some stipulations with the owner.

I. I would bring my own horse handler (Hank McEwan), and the owners would have to pay him for his time and expertise. In a situation like this it is safest to have a horse handler whom you've worked with a lot, who thinks like you and can think like a horse. When Thoroughbreds explode, there's not time to be instructing in the art of horsemanship.

2. No one else except the barn manager was to be present. Horses sometimes take exception to particular people.

3. 1 would charge on a time basis and would expect to be paid whether the work could be completed or not. This

allowed me to take extra time, if required, without getting angry or resentful.

4. At any sign of a fight, all work would stop.

Then, just for luck, I wrote the appointment in my book:



After all, even with McEwan to assist me, I like to take care of the superstitious side of my nature.

The day came, and the barn manager brought the mare and her horse friends into their stalls. I introduced myself and Hank to the horse. She sniffed us all over, decided we were okay, and let us go to work. We had a set of four shoes on in 40 minutes and a horse that was so relaxed we had to keep waking her up to get the last two shoes nailed on.

This was a good horse! So what happened the last two shoeings that got her blacklisted? I can only guess.

First, she was young and had had a major disruption in her life with the move from California to Canada. She was insecure and concerned about being separated from her herd — her only form of security. Perhaps she would have remained calm if the shoer or horseman had brought another quiet horse into the barn to keep her company. After all, horses do have a herd mentality. The mare was also a bit claustrophobic — a gentle tug with her front foot indicated she wanted to put it on the ground. As she realized that I would listen and give the leg back, she relaxed, sighed, chewed and let me hold each leg for longer and longer periods. Perhaps the last farrierdidn't listen, but instead tried to hold the leg and teach the mare a lesson.

When I was shoeing the mare, I noticed the white line on both front feet was full of blood at the toe (sole pressure?), there was an old abscess at the toe nail (quicked?) and she was initially tense about the nails being driven (pain?). Possibly the horse had reasons for misbehaving.

I'm not an extraordinary horsewoman, and every day I learn more from horses. However, before blacklisting a horse, I do like to give horses the benefit of the doubt and always look to horsemanship as the root cause of unusual equine behavior.

Reprinted with permission from the Western Canadian Earners Association Newsletter

Anvil Magazine 08/1996

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