Intriguing things go on at Casalae Farms. For instance, the stable’s farrier (blacksmith) was working on a horse’s hooves there one afternoon.
(Wikipedia offers a succinct definition of ‘farrier:
... a specialist in equine care, including the trimming and balancing of horses hooves and the placing of shoes on their hooves, if necessary. A farrier combines some blacksmith skills (fabricating, adapting, and adjusting metal shoes) with some veterinary skills (knowledge of the anatomy and physiology of the lower limb) to care for horses' feet.)
I’d never seen such a thing and asked if I might watch.
“No problem, ” he responded.
As he labored I began to appreciate that this important job requires considerable knowledge, nimble hands, a strong back, and sharp eyes. (In late September he’d spotted the minute beginnings of a serious hoof problem in one champion and immediately began addressing it. That horse is doing very well.)
Fun fact: Keratin, a protein, makes, for example, rhino horns, warthog tusks, camel knee and foot pads, human fingernails and - horse hooves. It’s tough stuff, so farriers need specially crafted, very sharp knives to trim hooves, a task requiring concentration. An unfocused farrier courts serious injury. I stifled my questions and learned by looking.
(Dinosaur claws were formed from keratin, too. This protein has been refining itself for millions of eons. *Dark, leafy green veggies encourage it to build strong nails in humans...)
All foals are taught to allow their feet to be handled. This 1100-pound animal had no problem with what was happening below. Balanced on three hooves, with the fourth on the bent man’s lap, equine eyes drooped as he spaced out, half asleep.
The farrier tapped another foot, signaling that it should be raised, next.
The horse shifted his weight and offered it.
Footwork can take anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour per horse.
Hooves, like fingernails, need routine trimming every month or so. As there are over thirty horses living here, this farrier’s work is never done.
Sometimes a horse’s teeth grow unevenly, or develop sharp edges, requiring farrier dental work. He’ll file the tricky tooth just a bit to fix an uneven bite.
A horse can starve if unable to chew food properly.
Breakfast happens at around 8, dinner at 4-ish. A few horses will hoof-whack their stall wall and whinny and rattle food buckets if their caregivers are tardy. (Horses know what time it is.) This behavior can spread. The resulting din is both amusing and irritating.
Almost all horses expand their bellies when being saddled, so it’s wise to lead them about for a minute to encourage deflation, and then tighten the cinch a bit more if necessary. If this final check is neglected one might find one’s self sitting upside down, or shifted 45 degrees, from LCS- ‘Loose Cinch Syndrome.’ Imagining this ‘never-live-it-down’ scenario makes me grin. But those silly ‘cartoon consequences’ are an effective reminder not to get careless.
When feeding an apple I’ll bite it into smaller pieces first. A whole one can get stuck going down. (I always ask before offering a treat to a horse I don’t know; some cannot tolerate certain foods.)
One horse, for example, can’t eat anything that contains sugar.
Menessen, their stunning white Arabian stallion, relishes little red-and-white peppermint hardball candies, a holiday treat allowed at Christmas. (His breath smelled sweetly of peppermint afterward.)
Lena, A highly educated, lovely mare, has a special talent. I first saw her being saddled for my lesson. After introducing myself I produced a small horse treat. She chomped it down and eyed me for a minute, deciding- and then- her incredibly flexible nose spun round and round and round in big, rapid circles! I was too gobsmacked to gasp! Seeing me ‘catching flies’ Laura commented, “Lena’s always been able to do that, and will, if she likes you.”
I immediately dubbed it her ‘helicopter’ trick.
Noting my astonishment with great satisfaction Lena cheerfully ‘helicoptered’ two or three more times, sending me into fits of laughter. This feat has to be seen to be appreciated.
(By the way, my lesson with Laura and her was very instructive. Lena’s incredibly sensitive. One or both ears were constantly turned toward me, so that when I’d ask for a directional or gait change either verbally or with my body, she’d respond instantly. It’s downright spooky!
She really wants to please. I’m learning never to confuse her by being unclear. Poor riding makes her anxious.)
Anyway, I was leaving for home when she nickered to me as I passed. So, of course, I begged her to “do your ‘helicopter’ one more time, Lena!”
Delighted, she obliged!
OMG, I love this stuff!!!