Horse hooves grow like our finger- and toenails and can split and break in the same way. Horseshoes are used to protect the hooves when horses are ridden on stony or hard ground. Before the automobile was invented, the village blacksmith was also the farrier. He used his blacksmithing tools and a forge to make the horseshoes and fit them onto the horses' hooves. Today a farrier buys the shoes and travels to the customer's facility to perform his job.
Tools to Remove the Old Shoes
Horseshoes are generally attached with special flattened nails to the part of the hoof where there is no nerves and where they do not hurt the horse. The end of the nail that sticks out of the top of the hoof is called a clinch. The farrier wears a leather apron and goggles for personal protection. To remove the old shoes, he uses a clinch cutter to cut the clinches. He then lifts the hoof and uses a pull-off to grasp the old shoe and pull on it. The nails are pulled through the nail holes which enables him to remove the old shoe.
Hoof Trimming Tools
After cleaning any dirt and debris out of the hoof with a hoof pick, the farrier will assess the way the hoof has grown and how best to trim it. He trims the excessive growth with hoof nippers, which are similar to pull-offs but have sharp blades. He uses a hoof knife to trim off dead horn and clean up the underside of the hoof. The farrier uses a hoof rasp to create a smooth surface for the new shoes and a half-round file to round off the hooves. Clinch cutters, pull-offs and hoof nippers are all shaped like tongs with a rounded head.
Fitting the Shoes
Horseshoes come in a choice of metals, shapes and sizes. The farrier chooses shoes that are closest in size for each horse and will best stand up to the work each horse will be performing. Most shoes need a little adjustment to fit comfortably. In the past, hot shoeing with a forge to heat the shoes and hammer them into shape while they are soft was the norm. Now that farriers travel to their customers, cold shoeing is more common. The farrier holds the shoe with tongs and places it on an anvil. He then hammers it to bend it to shape. He then tests it on the hoof, and hammers it again until it is a good fit.
Attaching the Shoes
The farrier lifts the horse's hoof and holds it between his legs or rests the hoof on a hoof stand. He holds the shoe in place and uses a driving hammer to hammer the first nail through the hole in the shoe until it is all the way in and the head is flush with the hole. He uses a clincher to twist off the end of the nail, which is protruding from the outside of the hoof. The twisting action secures the nail and holds it in place. He repeats this action until all the nails are in and the shoe is firmly secured. He then hammers down the clinches and uses a rasp to clean up any overlapping hoof edges and proceeds to the next hoof.