Saturday, March 8, 2008

Finding a good farrier

Horsekeeping offers many challenges: finding a good hay supplier, finding a good farrier, finding time to ride your horses between all the horsekeeping chores. I have a few farrier stories to tell, but this one tops them all.

When I got my first horse, Emmy Lou (Lyle’s mom), I knew precious little about anything equine-related, so I relied upon the advice of several horse-owning friends to accelerate the learning curve. As soon as I brought her home, I made an appointment with a recommended farrier to trim and reset Emmy Lou’s shoes. For purposes of this story, I shall call him Butthead.

The first time Butthead showed up, sweet-but-a-little-lazy Emmy took to leaning on him when he was working on her. Butthead didn’t appreciate this very much and yelled at her a few times, finally resorting to whomping her once in the belly. Hmmm, I thought. I guess that’s what farriers do.

The next time he showed up, I observed that Emmy Lou wasn’t leaning on him; maybe it was because he had her back leg stretched out REALLY far to the side? Hmmm, I thought. Why didn’t you just do that last time instead of whomping her? Being a horse-owning newbie, it seemed logical enough.

So Butthead has three feet done and he moves to the last one, her left hind. I’m standing off to the left side of Emmy’s head, holding the lead rope, theoretically the safest place to be at this point. Butthead has Emmy’s leg stretched out REALLY far to the side, he’s bent over with her hoof between his knees, and she’s not leaning on him. Of course she’s not leaning on him - she’s in such an awkward position she can barely stand up! She’s uncomfortable, she’s getting pissed off, and she finally says, “Enough of this sh*t, Butthead.”

She kicks her leg back, with him still hanging on to her foot, then she kicks her leg forward, launching him like a missile. He sails through the air in an arc and lands...directly on the side of my right knee. I drop to the ground. Butthead stands up and starts screaming, “That horse is a devil, she should be put down, she’s not safe to be around!” I’m still sitting on the ground. “She bent my glasses,” he whines.

“Excuse me, Butthead? There’s a phone hanging right inside that tack room door. Could you hand it to me, please?” “Hello, 9-1-1 operator? Could you send an ambulance to 39 Juniper?”

“Are you hurt???” asks Butthead.
“Yes, as a matter of fact. I can’t seem to move my leg from the hip down.”

A fire truck finally arrives, 45 minutes after I made my call. (And this is when I was living in the middle of somewhere.) The very cute firemen make their apologies for the late-arriving ambulance...seems the regular unit is in for repairs so one would be arriving ‘any minute now’ from Albuquerque. They were trying to make me as comfortable as possible in the meantime and I’m praying I don’t puke all over them. Cute fireman #1 is kneeling next to me taking my blood pressure when he looks up and shrieks, “There’s a pig on your lawn!” Yes, city boy, it’s a pig. Now could you just call and find out where that ambulance is? I’m in trouble here.

An hour goes by while the cute firemen keep me entertained and Butthead stands around shaking his head and whining about my she-devil horse. The ambulance finally shows up and off I go to Albuquerque, only to learn my leg is broken in a dozen places. The doctor called it a “tibia plateau fracture” and warned me if I dared to put any weight on it during the next four months, he wouldn’t be able to put me back together again. So, just eight weeks after getting my first horse, I spent the summer in a wheelchair with a hideous mechanical device clamping my leg together, unable to be with her or take care of her, let alone ride her. And it just about killed me.

A new farrier came out the day after “the incident” and finished shoeing Emmy’s foot, and he remained my farrier for six years until I moved to the 7MSN. Finding a competent, reliable farrier willing to make the trek out here was almost as painful as the broken leg. Farriers are usually either competent or reliable, but not both. After a succession of them, then a decision to spend my next vacation going to farrier school, my vet recommended a guy named Shorty. Don’t let his stature fool you - he’s darned good.

Kidding. I saw this picture and couldn’t resist posting it. (Thanks, Mark Eve, at the Buckeye Ranch.) The real Shorty isn’t short at all, so I don’t know why that’s his name. And except for a few months last summer when HIS leg was broken (and my bad farrier karma had nothing to do with it), he has reliably and competently trimmed the boys' feet. And I’ve never had a reason to call him Butthead.


  1. What an amazing story! I shudder to think of the horror that ran through your mind as you realized how seriously you were injured and started wondering how in the WORLD you were going to care for your animals now. Stupid Butt-head.
    Your "picture of Shorty" made me laugh and laugh...
    You're a wonderful writer.

  2. I'm finding your story a hoot, except when I got to that broken leg part. I had a "tibial plateau" fracture from skiing at Angel Fire during Christmas, 2000. The injury is pretty horrific and I still set off alarms from time to time at airport security, most recently at ABQ Sunport where they did a 10 minute secondary search causing me to miss my plane for our Christmas vacation in Williamsburg. Still have a metal plate and 8 screws that the orthopedic surgeon said I could trade in for a fake knee in my senior years (no discount for the trade-in, I'm sure). You are quite the woman to have dealt with that while trying to take care of your animals, I just had an office job to attend to using crutches after a month in bed.