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Saturday November 18, 2017
17
Jun
Category: Humor
Hits: 3654

It started out just like any other day around the farm. The kids jumped on me and the wife at 6 am sharp (they must have built in alarm clocks or something), and realizing that further attempts at sleep were useless, I dragged myself out of bed, trying to get the mind into gear.

It was Saturday. The sky was blue, the clouds white and puffy, and the air clear and fresh. I figured I'd clear up some odds and ends that needed doing, give my horses some sorely needed attention, and then wile away the afternoon trail riding. As the old saying goes, "Nothing's better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse."

Then the phone rang. If there's one thing you hate to hear if you're a doctor, veterinarian, or a farrier, it's the phone ringing when you have rest and relaxation on your mind. Somehow someone always knows when you finally manage to scratch together some spare time, and then zingo, they call you with work to do.

Sure enough, that's what it was. A lady was calling to ask if I'd come out right away and trim two horses. "Fine," I yelled to my wife, who'd answered the phone, "Get her name, address, number, and tell her I'll be there in an hour or so. And ask her what kind of horses they are. After puttering around the barn for awhile, I put my trimming equipment in the truck, and went into the house for the info I'd requested. There it was, neatly written down, but what caught my eye was the last word on the note. It said, "Percherons."

"This could turn out to be an interesting day," I said to myself as I headed out the door. Those words turned out to be true prophecy. Draft horses, in general, are a pleasure to work with. Their nickname, "gentle giants," usually describes their behavior fairly well. They have to be gentle. How else could you possibly work on a horse's leg that weighs more than you do, unless he's holding it up for you? Most of the horses around my area are saddle horses, and even when they're a bit high strung, it's not too hard to control them. If all else fails, give 'em a little Ace, wait a few minutes, and things are fine.

The address written on the paper turned out to be a beautiful Percheron horse farm. The women who had called said her husband would assist me, but when I arrived he was no where to be found. I looked out over the pastures and saw a couple dozen magnificent Percherons contentedly grazing. "This is a fine pickle you're in now, Tayler," I thought. "Which two are the ones that they want trimmed?"

As if to answer my question, the women appeared. She explained that her husband wasn't available, but her son would help. No problem, I told her, just bring 'em out. With a little luck, I thought, maybe I can get these two horses trimmed and still have time for that trail ride.

Steve, the son, went to get the first horse while I put on my chaps and took the equipment from the truck. A few minutes later, Steve came around the corner of the barn leading a gorgeous mare named Daisy. Seeing one of these draft horses up close never ceases to amaze me. Beauty. Power. Grace. Daisy and I spent a minute getting to know each other (I'm a big believer in blowing gently into a horse's nose to make friends with 'em), and then I went to work.

Things couldn't have worked smoother. Daisy acted like a real lady, lifting each hoof for me, holding it up for as long as necessary, and except for an occasional swish of the tail, she never moved. Everything was going so well, in fact, that a little bell was ringing inside my head. "Something's wrong here, Tayler. Things never go this smoothly. What's the hitch?" As Steve led Daisy away, I felt a little uneasy. The expression,The calm before the storm came to mind.

The day was heating up. Thanks to Daisy's cooperation, I was only mildly soaked with sweat. That was about to change. I heard the next horse long before he came around the corner of the barn. He was shod, and the sound of the shoes hitting the concrete reminded me of the noise that a pile driver makes. It may have been my imagination, but I could swear the ground was shaking. Then Steve came around the corner leading one of the largest horses I'd ever seen. After being led over to me, I looked this horse straight in the knee, and prayed that he was going to be friendly.

His name was King, a fitting name for a beast his size. Steve asked me to pull his shoes (which were just a shade smaller than man hole covers) and trim the hooves. I went around to King's nose, which he generously was holding about seven feet off the ground, and attempted to make friends. No dice. King was already looking around, fidgeting, giving definite signals that he would rather not be here. Okay, I said to myself, lets not waste time, get to work!

And I did. The shoes had been on too long, and were causing King some discomfort. As soon as King realized I was taking them off, he seemed to settle down, as if appreciating what was being done. Well, I thought, this isn't too bad. But first impressions can be wrong. Once the shoes were off, I took out my hoof knife to start the trim, and it was as if a time bomb exploded. All bets were off, and all cooperation faded into the sunset. King refused to raise his hooves. I tugged, pulled, pleaded, leaned, (my 168 pounds against his 2,000+ - who do you think won?), and tried everything I could think off. Nothing worked.

Finally I took a hoof pick and pressed on a nerve running down the leg. Voila! Up went the leg. Unfortunately, the rest of King went up too. He reared up on his hind legs, Steve still clutching the lead shank and dangling in the air, stayed there for awhile, and then King came down with one hoof landing on my foot.

This was one of those times (which only happen once or twice a year) when I thanked myself for having the foresight to wear steel-toed boots. I could see the hoof on my toes, but luckily couldn't feel it. Steve, earthbound again, asked if I was all right. I pointed to my foot, and once again pressed into the leg with the hoofpick. I don't have to tell you what happened. Steve was airborne again, King looked like something from a 1950s Japanese monster movie, and I could see this was going nowhere fast.

After returning to earth, and not liking pain, King was slightly more cooperative. He would now lift his leg for five seconds, then drop it. At the same time he would jitter around on the remaining three legs, and attempt to lie down on me. I never have figured out why, but many horses try this technique. I call it the "Lazy-Boy" syndrome. For some reason the horse thinks the farrier looks amazingly similar to a Lazy-Boy recliner, and attempts to try it out. With a draft horse, this is serious trouble.

After dozens of futile attempts to make headway, I gave up. The sweat was rolling off me, and King had worked himself into quite a lather. Steve wasn't looking too good, either. I decided that I needed to give this some thought. So I went over to the truck and sat down on the tailgate to look at the options.

Three came to mind. The most appealing was to call it quits, go home, salvage what was left of the afternoon, and go trail riding. The second was to ace the horse. But I only had enough with me to tranquilize a pony, so that option didn't look good. The last option was to confine the horse. Since I love a good challenge, I picked option three.

I asked Steve if his father had any stocks (we're not talking IBM or AT&T here, folks), and to my relief he answered yes. They were in the barn, so we tied the stocks to my truck and dragged them out to the driveway. Needless to say, King had other ideas about this situation. We walked him over, he sniffed the stocks, and decided he wanted nothing to do with them. Every attempt to load him was met with sidestepping, rearing, backing, and turns on the fore and rear quarters. After a few attempts to load him into the stocks, it became clear to us that this method wouldn't work. (Have you ever noticed how a horse who wouldn't back, sidestep, or turn on the fore or rear quarters when you ask him to if your life depended on it will do so over and over again when you want him to go forward?)

I took another break to ponder the situation. Suddenly it hit me. I'd chase King into the stocks! Steve and I drove a garden tractor into the barn, turned it off, led King into the barn, pulled the stocks over to the barn door, and closed the door so the only visible way out was by going into the stocks. I untied the lead rope from King's halter and stationed myself next to the stocks, ready to slap on the chains to stop King from backing out.

Steve turned on the garden tractor and started chasing King around the barn. It was a sight to behold. This little garden tractor was chugging along and raising a racket, following this huge horse five times its size, round and round inside the barn. King simply didn't know what to make of all this. Suddenly he wasn't in control. The sweat was rolling off him in large puddles, and the sound of his huge hooves landing on the wood floor and reverberating through the barn was deafening. Finally he stopped running, turned to face the tractor, and planted himself like a statue. The moment of truth had arrived. Steve revved the engine as high as it would go, to make as much noise as possible, and slowly approached King, head on. When the tractor was no more than a foot away from King, his eyes bugged out, he laid his ears back, reared up, almost hitting his head on the overhead beams, whirled around and headed straight for the stocks. He couldn't take it any more!

As soon as his rear end cleared the end of the stocks, I threw two lengths of chain across the back, and we had him. Then Steve and I secured King with every piece of rope and chain available. Rump tie downs, back and belly restraints, leg restraints, even a head tie down. And boy, was he mad! He knew we'd bested him. Finally we stepped back to view our handiwork. It was an awesome sight. King's raw power was evident, even trussed the way he was.

But all of this was just preparation for the job to be done. King still had to be trimmed. Together Steve and I managed to tie the first hoof into position, and I went to work. King had stopped moving, but his nervous energy was apparent in the sweat still pouring off him. Finishing the first hoof, I went on to the second, and completed it rather uneventfully. Now to finish up the rears, I thought, and this job will be history.

Tying the first rear hoof into place was a challenge. A draft horse's rear legs possess tremendous power, and King was not a horse who was going to let us forget it. He pulled and pushed his leg around, and when it was finally in place and I had started working on it, he gave a sudden heave that ripped the rope (which was holding it in place) into shreds. The hoof shot out and glanced off my upper arm, providing me with a new definition of pain. Steve and I struggled again, and after retying the hoof, I went back to work,

All of a sudden, as if he had finally figured out a way to escape, King started to rock side to side, slowly at first, and then increasing in intensity. The stocks started to creak under the weight as King gained momentum, and the joints of the stocks started to show signs of coming apart. Quickly finishing the third hoof, we tied the last one into place. It was a race now. Would I finish in time, or would the stocks collapse first?

I was so wet from the sweat that my chaps were a spongy mess, and holding my tools was becoming difficult. Every time the stocks swayed over to my side, I had to keep a look out from the corner of my eye to be sure the whole contraption, with King inside, wasn't going to fall over on me. I was just about finished when King gave another heave, and the plate securing the rump chains to the stock frame came apart, sending chain flying everywhere. A length hit my arm, opening a nasty cut. I gave the hoof a few final strokes of the rasp, stepped back, and declared King done.

Steve and I unfastened all the restraints from what was left of the stocks, King shot out of there like greased lightning, and I sat down, only beginning to sense the aches and pains that were going to be my legacy of this job. But I didn't care. I'd won. It was a challenge, and I had won. I also decided that it was a challenge I did not intend to take on again!

After packing up I went to the house for payment. "Did King give you any trouble?" the woman asked. "What gives you that idea?" I said. "I don't know why, but my husband can never get a farrier to come back and do King a second time," she replied. I thought this over for a moment, and said, "Well, you just have to know how to handle 'em, Ma'am." And with a smile, I left.

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