Updated: Sept. 22, 2019
Peek into a farrier’s truck, and you’ll have some appreciation for the sheer number and kinds of tools that get used in the trade. If you’ve ever been curious about what they’re all for, or if you’re thinking about becoming a farrier yourself, here’s a brief guide to the most common farrier tools and when they’re used.
Trimming the hoof
Hoof Pick – Yes, it counts. Farriers need these to clean out the horse’s feet before they can get to work with all the other fancy tools.
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Shoe puller – These tools look like giant pliers, and pretty much do what the name suggests—the shoe puller will let the farrier get the shoe off of the hoof without damaging the foot.
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Nail puller – With little jaws on the end of it, this tool can pull nails out of a horseshoe one at a time, either to get the shoe off before a trim, or to remove a loose nail or one that’s gone wonky during the shoeing.
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Hoof testers – A hoof tester is a two-pronged tool that lets a farrier see if/where a horse’s foot is sore. It uses a pinching motion to put pressure on different points of the horse’s sole or heel—when the horse reacts to the pressure, that usually indicates a sore spot.
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Nippers – Like a giant pair of nail clippers, nippers are used to trim around the hoof wall until the foot is the right length.
Knife – The knife pares away excess sole, and gets rid of loose, dead frog so that healthy tissue can breathe. There are lots of different kinds of knives—loop knives, curved blade knives, double-edged knives, etc.—and every farrier has their own preference.
Rasp – Think of it like a nail file. A huge one. Once the foot has been trimmed to the right length, it needs to be evened out and made level, and the edges of the foot rounded slightly so the foot won’t catch on anything. The rasp also gets used at the end of a shoe job to smooth out nails and make sure that the edges of the hoof exactly meet the edges of the horseshoe.
Shaping the shoes
Forge – Usually powered by gas nowadays, although coal-fired ones are still used, the forge heats up metal to the point where it can be shaped and moulded.
Anvil – The anvil is where the action is. Its work surface is for shaping horseshoes, or any metal. Typically made of stainless steel, anvils are designed with a flat top and a rounded “horn.” The top surface is where the bulk of the hammering gets done, as it ensures that the shoe will end up being level. The horn lets the farrier bend and curve the metal.
Tongs – Usually two-ended, the tongs hold hot horseshoes for all of the obvious reasons. The narrow end is used to take the horseshoe in and out of the forge, and the wider end holds the horseshoe on both sides so it can be pressed to the hoof of the horse.
Straight pein or cross pein hammer – These hammers create horseshoes from raw metal. One end is flat, with the other forming a wedge. If the wedge is parallel to the handle, it’s a straight pein. If it faces the other way, it’s called a cross pein.
Rounding hammer – This type of hammer is used to shape the horseshoes themselves. It has a convex face, and is used on a hot shoe when it comes out of the forge.
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A Note on Hammers – There are actually loads of different kinds of hammers, each with their own specific purpose. Like any good craftspeople, farriers will use the kind of hammer that suits them best.
Pritchel – Like a very pointy chisel, the pritchel punches holes in shoes or pads, widens nail holes where necessary, and can help remove nails that have become embedded in the hoof wall.
Putting shoes on
Driving/nailing hammer – This is the hammer that gets the nails through the horse’s feet so the shoes stay on. It’s shaped like a claw hammer, and the claws are used to break off the excess nail.
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Nail cutter – This tool, shaped like a smaller pair of nippers, can also be used to clip off excess nail once the shoe has been nailed onto the hoof.
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Clinch blocks – A small metal block with an angled edge, the clinch block is put underneath the nail end to help set the nails before they’re clinched down.
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Clinchers – Once the shoe is nailed on, these plier-like tools bend the nail down over the hoof wall a bit to help keep the shoe in place.
Clinch cutters – A bit like a small hatchet, this tool has a sharp edge that removes excess nail points once the nail has been clinched. It gets tapped lightly with the hammer, and the nail point is cut away.
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Hoof stand – The hoof stand supports the horse’s foot in the final stages of the trim/shoe job. The horse rests its foot on the top of the stand so the farrier can have both hands free to clinch and rasp. It also means a little less strain on the farrier’s knees and back should the horse try to pull its foot away.
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Hoof gauge – The angles of a horse’s hooves need to be correct (that is, in line with the pastern), and even left and right. The front feet might differ in angle from the rear, but each pair should be even. Lots of farriers prefer to check by sight, but this little device will let a farrier objectively measure angles and balance.
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Lots of tools to learn and master, but on the plus side, if you’re a tool person, this means lots of fun toys to play with!
image 1: Pixabay; image 2: Wolfrage (Creative Commons BY)