Danger lurks behind horseshoeing

By Baxter Black: PNT columnist

There are some skilled people that I envy — good ropers, flat top guitar pickers and songwriters to start with.

I’ve always prided myself on my ability to build a good fence. But when I’m ridin’ the fence line with a major domo wire wrangler and see him use fencing pliers with the dexterity of a surgeon tying knots, I realize my shortcomings.

The fleeting thought goes through my mind that if I only took the time to learn and then practiced for 20 years, I could be as good as them.

Another ability that I appreciate but don’t envy is a good backhoe operator. I watch them manipulate their bucket with the finesse of an Englishman using a knife and fork.

The same goes for farmers in tractors large or small, pulling Rube Goldberg-looking implements over fields that sweep and curve and dip and climb through coulees, swales, creek banks, rock piles and car bodies.

They turn their mighty machines on a dime and lay a line straight as a soldier’s backbone.

But I guess the one talent that eludes me most is my horseshoeing skills. I would never aspire to the level of those master farriers who build their own shoes from a steel bar over a forge and shape it to fit perfectly with just one glance at the upturned hoof.

I’m like a lot of cowboys who never took a shoeing lesson. I learned by guess and by golly. And, I actually enjoy shoeing my horses. I don’t shoe other people’s … most people can’t afford to have them lame that long.

Shawn’s dad and grandpa were horseshoers so he picked it up naturally.

He said when he was 13 his dad directed him to shoe Skeeter.

Skeeter was one of their good saddle horses. He was 16 1/2 hands and wore No. 2 shoes. To Shawn’s surprise, it turned out to be easy and so he was lured into complacency.

By the time he was 16 he’d shod Skeeter many times, so when he set about trimming him on that fateful day, Shawn was cool and collected. He pulled the old shoe off on the left front, picked up his nippers and went to work.

I can almost hear him humming a tune.

When he woke up, he was under the hitch rail. The shoeing box was broken, the foot rest overturned and he had a knot on his head the size of a lamb’s kidney.

Skeeter stood warily six feet away with the broken halter snap hanging off his chin. Salvo, the barn cat, was sitting in the windowsill licking his paw.

Shawn sat up and looked around. As his vision improved he noticed Skeeter’s hindquarters. Two sets of claw marks coursed from his rump to the lift-off like ski trails down a mountainside.

Shawn studied Salvo who continued licking his paw. “Don’t ask me,” he mewed. “I didn’t see a thing.”