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‘Ought’ to be the shoes

Horseshoeing a calling for local farrier

Dan Olsen

— When Luke and Grady Wilson head off to rodeo, they sometimes don’t return home for a couple of weeks. That makes it especially hard to get work done on their horse’s feet while on the road.

The team roper’s horses are critical to their sport, so Luke went to horseshoeing school to learn how to maintain the feet on the animals.

“It’s one of those things you need done,” Luke said about shoeing horses. “When you’re on the road, you need to do it sometimes, and it saves me a lot of money.”

The Moffat County High School graduate learned his trade at Oklahoma State University, home of one of the premier horseshoeing schools in the nation.

Shoeing horses involves more than merely placing a shoe on the horse and nailing away.

First, the old shoe is removed and the hoof is trimmed.

“You take the sole out and trim it to get the length off the hoof,” Luke said. “Then, I use this rasp file to make sure the foot is level. Take any flair off.”

Trimming a hoof is an important part of shoeing, and you can trim too much off and ruin a horse, he said.

Shoe selection – matching the right shoe to the horse – is next.

“Those shoes are ‘oughts,'” Luke said, pointing to the zero numbered horseshoe. “There’s ones, twos and triple oughts : up to sixes.”

Luke custom fits each shoe to the horse, working the steel shoe on the anvil with a large hammer.

His uncle, Dale Haskins, also was a farrier, and Luke knows of two others in the business locally.

“They’re really good,” he said. “I call them up if I have any questions.”

Nailing the shoe on the horse is the next task after the shoe is shaped. Years of practice make the nail curl out of the hoof at a 90-degree angle, where it is cut off and pounded down.

Luke uses a file to notch the hoof so the nail will set correctly, and leave nothing sharp sticking out of the hoof.

Clinching the nails tightens them against the hoof, and a file cleans up the finished shoeing job.

It takes from 45 minutes to an hour to shoe a horse, he said, “depending on how good they stand there.”

The cost is about $75 to shoe a horse, or $35 to trim one.

Sometimes, old shoes are removed and reused after trimming the hoof.

The horseshoeing line of work holds its hazards.

Luke said he has been kicked, stepped on, ran over and had nails raked across his leg by horses. Chaps are critical when shoeing a horse.

“The worst is hitting your thumb with the hammer,” he said. “People get their legs broken sometimes trying to hold onto the horse.”

Shoes on a horse will last six to eight weeks, depending on how fast the horse’s hoofs grow.

Most horses go the winter without shoeing due to a lighter workload.

Shoeing can correct some problems horses have, as with laminitis. Luke “square-toes” a shoe to make the foot break-over faster on a foundered horse, he said.

Clicking, caused when the back foot hits a front foot, can be helped with trailers attached to the rear set of shoes.

Luke practices his trade mostly for ranchers in Baggs, Wyo., Hayden, Steamboat Springs and Craig, and said he is staying pretty busy.

He takes emergency calls on occasion, mostly when people leaving for a ride or a rodeo don’t look at their horse’s feet until the last minute.

When on the rodeo circuit, Luke is the heeler, and brother Grady the header.

Knowing how to shoe a horse can come in handy.

“We’ll be in eight places in three days this weekend,” Luke said. “You have to be sure your horse has good feet or they won’t do good in the arena.”


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