Sunday, 17 August 2014

Post 39. Shoeing draft animals

Crate for shoeing oxen
In France, oxen were used on farms as draft animals until the 1960s. To shoe them, they were put in a crate and suspended from slings and their legs were tied up. Many towns and villages still have these crates. These crates or 'crushes' can also be used to restrain cows, while their feet are trimmed or medicine is administered. Wooden crates like these were also used in Britain, but have mostly disappeared, farmers have steel ones.
Crate for shoeing oxen with slings
Cows and oxen have cloven hooves, so you need a pair of shoes for each foot, the clip goes on the inside of the cleft and the shoe is nailed on the outside edge. Sheep, goats and pigs also have cloven hooves. Animals with cloven hooves can get 'foot and mouth' disease, donkeys and horses cannot.
Ox shoes
These  ox shoes l found at a brocante sale and were made in a factory, one of them had never been used.
Clips on shoes of oxen.
By the end of the 19th century, there were about a million work horses in Britain, they needed shoeing at least four times a year, each horse has four feet, so that's  at least 16 million horse shoes and at least 112 million nails. These were heavy horses, each shoe weighs nearly a kilo, 16,000 tons of iron, it was a motor for the industrial revolution. It made sense to try and produce them in factories more efficiently and the mechanised production of horse shoe nails was important.
Good farriers can still make shoes by hand, a skilled farrier can forge a shoe in about 15 minutes and stamp the holes for the nails. It takes a lot of practice to do well.
There are many farriers who are not very skilled, they may well shorten your horses life and prevent you from succeeding in what you are trying to do with your horse. I watch my farriers carefully and see how they work and behave. I watch to see if they are clumsy, if they are struggling, do they handle the horse confidently and knowledgeably, are their tools worn out or in bad condition? There are lots of clues to look for, l avoid ones that are very overweight or alcoholic, ones that are nervous of horses. I look for ones who are interested in what l am doing with my horse, ones who have a passion for their work, ones that don't rush. Often the route l choose to take is decided by whether l know a good farrier in that direction. Good farriers are calm and patient.
It's my duty as the owner of the horse to make sure my horse behaves itself for the farrier. I make sure it knows how to stand still and be patient and can tolerate having its legs handled really well. If my horse is fidgeting, ill-mannered, disrespectful or frightened, it's dangerous for the farrier and horse and it will be difficult for the farrier to do a good job. I have heard of people sedating their horse so it can be shod. This is a very lazy, expensive shortcut. Learn how to train your horse. In the old days horses were glad to be shod, it was a chance to rest. If your horse messes around when you pick up its feet, ride it hard for 20 miles, it should be all sweaty and its head hanging low, then pick its feet up again. If it messes around, straight-away jump on and ride it hard for 10 minutes then try again, your horse will soon get the idea. A tired horse is not a bad one. Fat, lazy, underworked horses are trouble.
The shoes for my horse are made out of flat mild steel bar, 12mm thick and 25mm wide. They have 6 tungsten pins in each shoe, as well as giving extra wear the tungsten pins help the horse grip the road surface. [Shoeing horses is a compromise, ideally they would be unshod, but a 'road horse' doing 2,500 miles a year has to be shod]. Sometimes people tell me it's very bad for the joints of the horse to be shod like this. Interestingly my horses rarely have any health problems, l had an old mare who worked pulling a wagon until she was about 25 years old. After that she continued to be ridden lightly until she was 30. She was still sound then. Tarateeno, the gelding l'm using now has pulled my wagon, to date, more than 8,700 miles and has done several hundred hours of ridden work, shod like this. He's 8 years old. What really plays havoc with the health of a horse is, being overweight ,lack of exercise and boredom, which is sadly the lot of many horses.
Two semi-fullered shoes and plain stamped
I typically get about 500 miles out of a set of shoes. I have had a couple of sets that did a 1,000 miles. This is extreme shoeing, most horses couldn't take shoes like this.

Tools to fit a shoe on cold
Sometimes l lose a shoe on the way. I have to be able to remove loose shoes and fix them back on . I have a few special tools. I can normally do it 'cold.' Sometimes l heat the shoes in a stick fire outside or if it's winter, in my wood burner. I have a pair of molegrips to hold the hot shoes and a pair of welding gloves. 
Molegrips and welding gloves to hold to hot shoe

Heating the shoes makes them soft and l can shape them a bit, l use the head of my sledge hammer as an anvil or sometimes the edge of the curb or a stone. I have to improvise, because there is a limit to how much it's reasonable to ask a horse to pull, its not possible to have every tool l'd like, the tools l have normally perform more than one task. I would always prefer to have a good farrier to shoe my horse, but sometimes l'm in the middle of nowhere and l need it done straight-away. Occasionally l've found a farrier and they've been so bad at it, l wished l'd done it myself.
Granite lintel, at old blacksmiths, Bussiere-Boffy