Thursday, July 14, 2011

Shoein' Horses

As I mentioned in an earlier post, we move our cattle to a new pasture every week in the early part of the summer to give the grass a chance to grow out and mature.  While most ranches have gone to “Japanese Quarter Horses” made by Honda or Polaris to work their cattle, we can’t get to most of our range with any type of wheeled vehicle.  Our horses are out in a pasture of some 160 acres where we can travel with a four-wheeler, however, and with the help of a dog we can run them into the corral where they have been bribed with oats.

            When we began catching our mounts for the ride, we discovered that two of them had thrown shoes.  While most horses are never shod, ours require shoes for both protection of their feet and for traction.
            Horseshoes must be reset every 6-8 weeks.  Their hoofs are the same material as your fingernails, and grow at the same rate.  So in a month their hooves have not only gotten longer, they have gotten wider, and they now lap over the shoes.  Not only does the extra length impair their movement, but the horseshoe nails loosen up and the extra hoof can break off.  Without shoes the horses would quickly become tender-footed and unable cover the country necessary to gather and move the cows.
            Not only are their hooves shod with iron, but I also lay a bead of hard-surface rod on the heel and toe calks to give them added grip and wear.
            Everyone agrees that shoeing is hard work.  There were a number of years when I made much of the family living crouched down with a foot between my knees.  During those years I often shoed 8 horses in a day.  It’s been a few years since I have done any outside horses, but I still keep my own shod.  Today I had only two to do, and they really gave my legs a workout.  Then I had to spend a few hours riding – another pursuit that works the thigh muscles when you’re traveling at a long trot as we often do here.

            There are folks who believe that a gym membership is necessary to maintain a fit body.  But whenever I feel the urge to exercise I just go out and set a fence post or shoe a horse until the urge passes.

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