40 Chapters
Medium 9781574414615

The Tools of the Trade

Ron Tatum University of North Texas Press ePub

The Tools of the Trade

Horseshoeing tools haven’t changed much since horses first started wearing shoes. If a Roman or Celtic horseshoer of old were to find himself in this century, he would have no problem shoeing a horse with the tools of today. I’ll describe them.

The “shoeing box” holds most of the tools. It’s usually made of wood, and has various sections for nails and tools of different sizes. The problem with a wooden box is that it breaks apart when it inevitably gets stepped on by the horse. Usually you can repair the box, but after my box had been stepped on and repaired four times, my seventh-grade son got disgusted and made me a new one in shop class. He added a clever invention: a three-foot cord attached to the box that would allow me to pull the box toward me if I got separated from it by the movement of the horse. I was really pleased with that addition, but it does have its drawbacks. For one, to a nervous horse, the cord looks just like a snake. A second problem can appear when you pull the box to you. Watching a box apparently moving by itself is unsettling to a lot of horses, especially if the box is moving toward them. I’ve learned to be cautious whenever I pull the box by the cord, but I’m quite pleased with my son’s invention.

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The Youngest Cowboy

Ron Tatum University of North Texas Press ePub

The Youngest Cowboy

One of my daughters teaches at an expensive private daycare/grade school facility and she tells me stories about some of the younger students, the four- and five-year-olds. Some of them seem to have quite a time of it. If they don’t get their way, or some other kid takes their toy, they throw all kinds of fits. They cry, scream, throw themselves on the floor, hit everyone around them, run out of the building. The choices are unlimited. The teachers then have to reach into the bag of tricks learned in their child behavior classes at college and come up with some method to quell the outburst without doing any emotional or physical damage to the kid. If they touch the kid they will be sued, of course, by irate parents who do not believe in spanking their children or doing anything else that might traumatize them. These parents probably allocate 10 percent of their income to buy child behavior books and take parenting classes in order to raise the perfectly adjusted child. No physical punishment, no criticism, no loud voices. The child must be respected and allowed to participate in its own development. “I understand you are angry at your little sister, but can you think of a different way to show your displeasure? Setting her hair on fire is not really fair to her. Would you like to tell us how you feel about that?” There are hundreds of themes like this.

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The Newspaper Reporter

Ron Tatum University of North Texas Press ePub

The Newspaper Reporter

After I had been shoeing about twelve years, a newspaper reporter in Northern California who had heard about me from someone, called to set up an interview. He was interested in my background prior to taking up horseshoeing, and wanted to write an article about that. That was all right with me, and we set up a time when I could be doing a horse so he could observe the process.

I had already started working on the horse when the reporter showed up in his big blue news truck and walked over to the horse and me in his fancy loafers and his reporter’s hat. He had no notepad or pencil, no tape recorder or any other note-taking device. We shook hands. “Is this the horse?” he asked. I looked at him a moment. “Yes.” “Oh,” he said, and just stood there. I said nothing and continued working. Silence. After awhile he asked, “Do you like your work?” I said yes I did. More silence. After a few more minutes he asked, “Is this a hard job?” Once again I stopped. I put my tools down and looked directly at him. “Yes, it is,” I announced. We looked at each other for a moment, and I went back to work, telling myself that this was the poorest excuse for a reporter I had ever seen, and as far as I was concerned, the interview was over.

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Chickens

Ron Tatum University of North Texas Press ePub

Chickens

At one point in my life I decided that nailing metal shoes on large animals wasn’t exciting enough, so I became a gentleman farmer. It wasn’t much of a farm, just a corner lot in a suburban tract in Northern California, but to me it was everything. I started with chickens. A real farm has chickens. Wearing my brand-new leather farmer’s gloves, I built a chicken coop out of old scrap lumber and chicken wire. It was magnificent—just like the how-to-build-a-chicken-coop book said. It even had little rooms (the book called them nests) where the chickens could lay their eggs, and where I could sneakily open a back door and snatch the eggs out from under the hens.

I threw handfuls of sawdust all over the bottom of their cage for them to walk on, and went out to get some chickens.

I bought some White Leghorns because the guy at the feed store told me that they were the ones that laid the eggs. I may rarely believe anything a horse owner tells me, but I always believe everything the guy at the feed store tells me. I put them all in the pen. It wasn’t very exciting. They just looked at each other. Over the next few days, except for when my neighbor would throw garbage over the fence for them, their lives were pretty much hum-drum. I knew that cows who listened to music gave more milk, but I wasn’t sure if entertainment would increase egg production. I felt like I should do something for them, so I introduced a different colored hen into the group. She was a Rhode Island Red, actually what is called a sex-link, but I don’t think I can explain that. My children, who thought Dad had gone over the edge, but were rather entertained by it all, to my embarrassment named this newcomer Henny Cluck.

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Flies

Ron Tatum University of North Texas Press ePub

Flies

Closely related to horses and ponies are, of course, flies. They come with the territory. On a nice warm day a deposit of fresh horse turds will have a thousand flies on it before it hits the ground. I think the flies watch the horse and know when he’s ready to let go, then mill around the exit and grab hold on the way down, fighting for the best spots. Some experts say the fly larvae live in the horse’s bowels and spring to life when the manure lands in the dirt. I doubt that the fly larvae cause much distress to the horse from inside, but once outside, the battle begins, and the horseshoer is right in the middle.

I certainly don’t pretend to know anything technical or scientific about flies, but from my position at ground level, I can describe several kinds and I will tell some stories about each and the battle waged against them by horse and shoer.

The most prominent buzzing nemesis looks like a regular housefly, and for all I know, it is. These flies don’t give up easily. They generally swarm around the feet and ankles of the horse and sometimes get so engrossed (an appropriate word) in the often bloody feast that you can squash them right on the horse. If you wave them off, they rise about an inch and jump right back on. These flies won’t bother a leg that is being held by the shoer, but that leaves three other legs for them to assault. And that’s where the trouble starts. There is no way an average horse is going to stand quietly with one foot in the shoer’s lap and three feet on the ground being eaten by flies. You can yell and shout and insult the horse for wriggling around, but the horse is simply not going to stand still under this kind of fly attack. All of this limits the options for the shoer. Assuming there is no fly spray (more about that later), the shoer will probably try to get as much work done as possible on a foot before the horse reaches the limits of its tolerance and breaks loose, scattering horseshoer and tools.

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