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Farriery 101

  I was born "horse crazy".  So much so, that after I got out of college, I learned that my foster father bribed a neighbor not to tell me he & his wife had horses.  Actually, ponies.  They had show hackneys.  No matter - 4 legs, a mane, a tail, & they whinnied.

  I have had a lot of "firsts" in my life.  I never did anything in order to be the first one to do it; I did whatever it was because It Interested Me.  Shoeing horses Interested me, as did Blacksmithing.

  A blacksmith is one who forges iron or iron alloys, but doesn't necessarily know squat about horse-shoeing, which is properly called "farriery".  A farrier is one who shoes horses, but doesn't necessarily know squat about blacksmithing.  Blacksmithing is broken down into such categories as general founding, bellfounding, cutlery, surgical tools, architectural work, etc., etc.  Farriery is broken down into hot shoers, cold shoers, and shoe-makers; as well as by the types of horses shod.  I am hardly the first female to either be a blacksmith or a farrier.  I've been asked this question so many times, I've lost count.

  Eventually, I did some research to find out if there was any information on the history of women who work iron.  I found out that I was right in suspecting that the first blacksmiths were more likely to be female than male, because in hunter-gatherer cultures, men built tiny little fires - if any - to cook with, because larger fires tell other hunter-warriors where you are.  Not wise.  People have been battling over land 'forever'.

  Women, on the other hand, "kept the home fires burning" so had far more motivation to notice what happens in a fire.  And of course there have always been women like me, who found almost everything more interesting than getting the spots out of clothes or what makes the best diaper stuffing.  Such women traded cave-cleaning for whatever they made - better napped flint knives, & later, better forged metal ones.

  So when I decided I wanted to learn about shoeing horses, it was - predictably - another uphill battle.  But eventually, I persuaded an old man named Clint - who was probably in our area when the Original People came to settle here.  We agreed that we HAD to keep my newest learning project a secret from both my parents & from my Grandmother Pearl.  We did - no one in the family knew about it until after I graduated college, was struggling horribly hard financially, & I went back to shoeing horses, because I made far better money at it, enjoyed it far more, & gravel truckers were making better money than chemists, who had better job security, at that time. 

  When I first began to badger old Clint, he said, "You're a girl!"  I replied, "So what?!"  This stimulating conversation continued for several months until I finally replied, "It doesn't take anything uniquely male to shoe a horse!"  Clint turned phenomenally red, & agreed to teach me, "if you'll go away & quit bothering me once I've taught you all I can."  I agreed.  I didn't find out for several years that when I said "uniquely male", he thought of physical parts, while I was thinking of brains, muscle, & skill.  Slight mis-communication.  Oops!  Ah well..

  Also predictably, when the family found out, they had litters of kittens over it.  They said such things as, "It will ruin you for having children!"  I shot back, "Get me more horses to shoe!  Fast!!"

  After 5 - 6 years, Clinto told me one day that he had taught me all he could, & I shouldn't show up the next day.  I said, "OK!"  And showed up promptly at the correct time the next day.  About 3 p.m. that day, he stopped shoeing, looked at me over 1 hip, & said, "Say - I thought you said if I taught you how to shoe a horse, you'd go away & quit pestering me!"  I replied, "I lied!"  He smiled a little & said, "You'll be a horseshoer."  It was a fine life in many ways.

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Reader Comments  (2) | May 25th 2012 at 1337947947

What a story :):):) I loved it. So did old Clint forgive you for lying?????????? Way to go, girl!!!!!!!!!
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C Two-Eagle | May 25th 2012 at 1337965918

He did. I worked with him for several more years, until I finished high school & started university, when I was too busy, working my way thru, to shoe. There's another story there.. Read on. ;-)

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