Practical and natural horsemanship: A challenge facing today’s farrier (part 1 of 2)

Practical and natural horsemanship: A challenge facing today’s farrier

The new age of old

When it comes to caring for our horses, particularly the care of their feet, we’ve made some extraordinary advances. Many of our “old school” ideas have actually evolved from what was once considered the “gut instincts” of a few to become the “true and tested” methods of many. The horses of our time have benefited from the past and for that we can be grateful. However, when it comes to the handling of our horses, it seems as though there’s still a noticeable disconnect between the principles we often reference and the applications we employ. Historically, it’s not unusual for the fundamentals of any principle to become fragmented. Even the legendary writings of Jno. Dollar and his cohort Albert Wheatley have suggested that “95 percent of what we know about the art and science of horseshoeing was known by 1900” and that “there is little that is really new…” Yet, we still struggle with contrasting interpretation. And, justifiably so, since much has been researched and discovered about the development of our equine friends since the time of Dollar & Wheatley’s declaration.

Attempting to bridge the gap

As a practicing farrier, I’ve witnessed an intensified desire on the part of many horse owners to connect or reconnect with their equine partners. Living in this information age, many are able to seek out and obtain the horsemanship and handling concepts to enhance their “bonding” or becoming onerelationship with their horse.Unfortunately, many of these ideas tend to be somewhat abstract; particularly, when viewed from a farrier’s perspective. Quite often, a working farrier can easily become disconnected from such ideology because the goals most important to him or her (safety and efficiency) are based strictly on the reality of the situation at hand. A farrier’s livelihood depends on the productiveness of each shoeing job. And, quite often, an abstract notion from an owner, albeit well-intentioned, can serve as a challenge for today’s farrier as he or she attempts to relate such ideas into a formula that is safe and within a workable time frame.

Consider for a moment that this new wave of natural horsemanship is not as novel as we think. For centuries, successful farriers have relied on horsemanship practices that were viewed as practical, rather than natural. Such skills have always been considered among their most valued tools. Though many of today’s exercises are new, the underlying principle is not. In an 1879 horse shoeing handbook by Dollar and Wheatley, their advice to young farriers was as follows:

In handling horses we should endeavour to obtain their confidence, and therefore, quietness, firmness, a certain amount of strength and courage are required, as well as a knowledge of horses in general… As a general rule, when properly managed, they lift their feet willingly and shoeing proceeds without difficulty.

It remains the main obligation of any equine professional (farrier, veterinarian, or trainer) to bridge this gap. When we offer practical solutions for ordinary problems we’re working in the real world. By keeping the focus on a set of cues and actual exercises that can be accomplished at the moment, many great goals can be reached.

In part two of this series, I have the honor of joining my friend and mentor, Mr. John Lyons. For nearly three decades, John has been on the forefront of our horse industry. He has taught thousands of people worldwide the skills necessary to have a better relationship with their horses. With his practical approach to solving our horse problems, John continues to guide us in our efforts to convert wishful thinking into real solutions. He has truly earned the title of “America’s most trusted horseman”.

References / Resources

Ground Control Manuals-Sec. 1 and 2  John Lyons

Perfect Horse Magazine

The Practical Horse Shoer, M.T. Richardson

A Handbook of Horseshoeing, J. Dollar and A. Wheatley

By Bryan Farcus MA, CJF  with John Lyons. From the “Farrier-Friendly™” article series  by  Bryan Farcus. If you’ve enjoyed Bryan’s articles in magazines or online, you can now purchase them in paperback at: You can visit Bryan on the web at ©2002 Bryan S. Farcus, CF.

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Challenge,Equine Professional,Farrier,Farriery,Natural Horsemanship,Practical
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