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The business of Shoeing Horses

Tom Siegenthaler has been shoeing horses for 26 years. The correct term for his trade is farrier. Tom works in Central Pennsylvania and resides in Spring Mills, Centre County. He works in a sixty mile radius from his home. He works in Blair, Huntingdon, Centre and Clinton counties.He doesn’t like to work more than an hour from home in case a horse throws a shoe. When asked why it’s necessary for a horse to wear shoes he cited three reasons. “To protect their hooves from wear,” Siegenthaler began. “To alter their gait and to provide traction especially in winter. There is a debate starting over the shoeing of horse but Siegenthaler feels strongly in favor of it.
“For modern horses it’s a necessary evil,” Siegenthaler stated. “Years ago horses exited on a semi -arid sandy soil,” Siegenthaler said he has many regular clients he visits every one or two weeks. He sometimes sets up at shows but he’s not a farrier that follows the show circuit.He prefers a set schedule with his clients it saves telephone time at home scheduling clients.
This day he was working at Lewis Stables in Sinking Valley. The agenda was to shoe six horses and to trim two weanlings. He begins by watching the horse walk (forward and away).He can correct the gait or conformation problems by shoeing using different shoes of different weights, style and application.When he begins to shoe the horse the horse determines how long it will take. The average is one hour 15 minutes.It ranges from 45 minutes to two hours.He uses both aluminum and steel shoes.
For the most part Siegenthaler uses pre-made shoes. Siegenthaler can buy shoes cheaper than buying the raw materials. The horse and how the horse is used determines wether he uses aluminum or steel. The aluminum is softer and used for show horse and hunters. He’s using aluminum on this horse, he starts by removing the old shoe. He then cleans the dirt and debris from inside the hoof. He takes a shoe and shapes it on an anvil. He lays it on the foot and adjusts it some more. After shaping it to the design he wants he then grinds it. Then it’s ready to be attached to the hoof he uses nails and the rasps the ends off.
“Sometime in the next twenty years, shoes will be put on with adhesives,” Siegenthaler states. “The problem with adhesives right now is performance and cost. Nails do compromise the hoof wall but when you use an adhesive it’s absolutely necessary for the horse to be still. Horses like this one who fidgets would have to be sedated to use an adhesive.”
He only puts shoes on the front feet of this horse because it’s shown on a lounge line. Most show horses only get shoes on their front feet.
“A horse carries 60% of it’s weight on it’s front feet.The cowboys wanted traction on their horses,” Siengenthaler mentioned. “So they would only shoe the back feet.But the majority of horses are shoed on all four feet.”
The average show horse needs new shoes every four to six weeks and eight weeks in the winter. The changes are necessary not because the lose them but because the hoof changes and grows.
“An older horse during the winter can go 12 weeks,” Siegenthaler said. “Often we’ll even take the shoes during the winter”.
The occupation of a farrier is a very physically demanding occupation.
“I have an excellent chiropractor.” Siegenthaler states as he sets the last foot down. “It takes a strong patient person with a sharp eye and an art of craft to shoe a horse.”