A horse's hoof is, IMHO, the most complicated part of there anatomy. Proper and regular hoof care is one of the key ingredients to maintaining a healthy horse. Click here to see some excellent pictures of hooves from cadavers.
The person tasked with caring for the hoof is known as a farrier. They are so titled because their work and skills go far beyond just simple shoeing. They must have a firm knowledge of the inner working of the hoof. The hoof is prone to any number of ailments and diseases, therefore a farrier must be skilled in diagnosing and correcting these problems. Proper trimming and shoeing goes a long way towards preventing these problems.
A farrier must be willing to work when the weather is cold, or when it is hot. They may occasionally be called for an emergency on the weekend or at night. They spend most of the day bent over, and are constantly at risk of being kicked by a horse. A good farrier accepts all of these as hazards of the trade, and will most likely develop a very loyal clientele.
Our farrier is a young man named Jacob. He is 22, and has been caring for our horses feet for about a year now. He is the most talented farrier we have come in contact with. He is patient, and makes a detailed assessment of the horse's feet before starting his work.
Today Bailey, Smokey, and Kenya were his customers. Bailey was well behaved as always, getting a new set of shoes. Kenya only received a trim. I won't start shoeing her until I am ready to ride her out on the trail. Going barefoot in the soft dirt of the arena should not cause her any problems.
One of Kenya's feet, post trim
Using my hand as a size reference, compare to Smokey's foot, below.
Following her trim, I tied her to the rail in the barn. This was intended to give her practice at standing quietly and patiently while tied. This decision, of course, provided the only brief excitement of the night.
While Smokey was getting his shoes reset (re-using the old shoes, as they were not excessively worn), someone leaned a shovel on a post near Kenya. Horses being naturally curious, and prone to finding trouble, she managed to knock it over. CLANG!!! Trying desperately to get away from this horse eating monster, she backed up pulling for all she was worth on her lead rope. I dropped Smokey's lead rope, got her attention, calmed her, and moved said shovel. The incident was soon forgotten (their memory is only about 3 seconds long), and she stood calmly after that.
Shoeing Smokey in the wet winter months is a little more involved than the average horse. His sire is a Thoroughbred. One of the by-products of this is the fact that his feet are a) BIG, and b) his soles get really soft when they are constantly wet from the rain inherent to the Pacific Northwest. This softening makes him prone to abscesses of the hoof, which are rather painful for the horse.
To combat this, a pad is placed between his foot and the shoe. It is packed with a compound known simply as hoof packing, to prevent the area from becoming a breeding ground for any bacteria. The finished product looks thus:
The black goo coming out from the back of the pad is the aforementioned hoof packing.
After Smokey's feet were done, I returned the Two Buckskins to there paddocks, where fresh grain and alfalfa awaited them.