COLUMBIA — Just as the sun begins to rise, a man pulls his boots on, says “I love you” to his wife and children, and heads out the door to a barn somewhere in Boone County.
“I shoe horses, what’s called a farrier, and that’s just a specialist that takes care of horse’s feet,” Travis Smith says.
It's cold outside. He puts on his leather and canvas apron and starts unpacking his truck at the first barn. He has to shoe three horses. It is a highly physical job that demands a lot of attention.
Smith first analyzes how the horse moves toward him and how the animal stands so he can see if there are any issues with the horse's feet. The farrier chooses which type of shoe will be used based on what the owner uses the horse for. He starts with the clinch cutter and the hammer to remove the old shoe. Then he cleans the edges of the hoof with a rasp and cuts just enough of the hoof to remove the excess while avoiding the horse's live flesh.
“It’s extremely important, probably the most critical step is the shape of that shoe and this is what gets people in trouble the most," Smith says. "It’s the improperly shaped shoes. Or people putting the shoe on the feet and shaping the feet to the shoe. The shoe is a piece of iron, it’s malleable, but the foot isn’t."
The sound of the hammer pounding the shoe on the anvil breaks the morning silence. “If you are going to drive iron nails in there you need to get the piece going around the hoof wall right. Once you get that shape, you get that where it fits, then you begin nailing.”
Farriers take pride in their craftsmanship and their ability to make nails look even and make nice, fine clinches. “Once I got those nailed in I have to cut the nails and create hooks at the end, those are called clinches," Smith says. "And it’s come down in our language, is clinching the deal.” A few more rasp strokes finish the job.
“The shoeing is very important for the horse because that’s the foundation," says Sharon Rose from the Greystone Equestrian Center in Hartsburg. "If the horse does not have accurate shoeing, accurate trimming, if it doesn’t have shoes then the balance is off for the horse and the horse has difficulties in doing his job.”
Smith returns every other Friday to keep up with the six-week rotation schedule for shoeing the 48 horses at the center.
“We call them snickers, we give them new snickers,” Rose says. “Travis does many vital things for us to keep the shoes on for the jumping horses and to keep the angles correct and the feet correct so that the horses can be at their best when competing.”