I remember, as a child, cycling from my home in Kettering to the village of Weekly during the summer holidays. I never told my Mum that was where I was going because she would have forbidden it, but I wanted to go and see the blacksmith at work. I had always wanted a horse of my own but knew it was impossible so it was my best opportunity to get close to a horse and see how to care for it.
Now I am the proud owner of Raja. Twice in the first few months since he came to us we had the local smith out to fit shoes. I wasn’t happy with what I saw being done and so bought a rasp to try to care for his feet myself. As a first time owner I had no experience but felt that what I was doing was better for Rajas feet and have been riding him ‘barefoot’ for seven month now. As I am on a visit to the UK, my friend Lorna has shown me how to keep a horses feet in good condition without shoes, and I’m happy to know that we have been doing things just about right -certainly better than the local smith.
Don’t get me wrong, he’s not a cruel man but his skills are traditional and basic, a far cry from what we find in the western world.
Here in rural India horses are cold shod and the first job is to prepare the nails to be used.
The part of the shoeing which has concerned me most is trimming the hoof. No hoof knife here, the smith simply uses a chisel to cut off excess hoof. This can obviously cause pain and bruising to the foot and also damage if not done correctly.
The hoof is finally filed to get the correct shape before the shoe is fitted.
As there is no forge the shoe if roughly shaped by hand and is not a perfect fit.
After my visit with Lorna I now know what I need to do to care for Rajas feet and have the confidence to continue caring for him myself, leaving the smith to continue his usual work with the local ponies.
I suppose you could say that Raja has landed on his feet in finding a home at Lakeside!