| Your One-Stop Farrier and Hoofcare Portal - Farrier Humor Wed, 22 Nov 2017 09:07:39 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Molly, A Love Story breningstall_anvil"You shoe mules?" the caller asked.

"What you got?" I said.

"I got this old mule. Our farrier moved and he gave me your name. She stands good, always has."

"Okay, I'll look at her."

As I pull into the farmyard I see the man, his wife, and a good-looking mule standing out by a neat and well-kept two story red barn. The man waves me over. I back up to wide Dutch doors, held open with polished brass hasps.

As I climb from the cab, the man hands the lead rope to his wife and she puts the mule in the barn, tying it to a chrome ring attached to a hand-hewn post just inside the doorway.

The man is clean and neat--polished boots, pressed bib overalls (first time I've seen pressed seams on bibs), red-and-black checked shirt, and a straw hat. Under his waxed handlebar mustache is a big friendly smile.

His wife wears a full-length blue-flowered cotton dress. From her stout work shoes to her pony tail, she has the uncluttered look of a noble country wife. I'd say both are in their mid 40s.

The barn is swept clean. The afternoon sun tumbles through an open mow door, casting a radiant halo on the calm mule, its coat sparkling clean. What a delightful first impression!

The man says his name is Jim and that's his wife tying up the mule. She nods with a slight smile and moves away. "She's kind of shy," he explains, looking after his wife.

I mosey over to the mule and ask, "What's her name?"

"Molly," Jim replies.

I think to myself, "Molly. Gee, I'll bet there are hundreds of female mules named Molly - like collie dogs named Lassie."

Jim pats me on the back. "She's a good old mule. We've had lots of fun, and work too. I'll sit over here and watch you. Mind if I ask some questions?"

"Ask all the questions you like, as long as you don't mind if I make up the answers," I joke, as I pick up the mule's near front foot to trim.

"How come the mule's hoof and the horse's hoof look different?" Jim asks.

"It has to do with the mule being a hybrid. The cross of the horse and the ass. The shape and form of her hoof is between that of the horse and that of the ass - wide open heels, a large prominent frog, thick, strong hoof walls, long, narrow hoof shape, and an upright stance. This gives her a short, easy stride."

"We had this old Quarter Horse," Jim says. "Seems like she needed shoes all the time. Her feet just fell apart - cracked, chipped, you know what I mean? This mule doesn't have those problems. Is that common?"

"Yes, it is. In some horses the hoof wall is too thin and weak to support the horse's weight, but you'll never see a thin hoof wall on a mule. Many mules never even need shoes. That depends, of course, on the mule's work and health."

"How can I tell when my mule needs her hooves worked on?" Jim asks.

"It's best not to guess. Get your mule on a schedule so the farrier comes out every six to eight weeks. The feet will stay healthy and the mule will stay happy, and you'll never have to worry if hoof care is needed. I like to see people pick up and clean the feet every day. Then you can see if there's a problem like thrush, broken hoof wall, or a loose shoe." I stop to catch my breath before adding, "Now, mind if I ask you some questions about Molly?"

"Oh, sure, she's my favorite topic," Jim says.

"How long she been around?"

"Gee, let's see. Ah, 15 years last spring," Jim smiles.

"She looks like she could work all day and not break a sweat."

"Let me tell you," a look of past joys spreads across his weathered face. He jerks his thumb in the direction of the fields. "She works with me out there in them fields cockcrow to dusk, with never a complaint."

"I see Molly looks fit, but she's still young," I say as I move to the next foot.

"I'll thank you for Molly," Jim says. I can hear the pride in his voice. "But we all work hard, eat right, and get good rest. It feels good to be in shape and work hard. City folks would die if they worked like we do. They call sitting at a desk all day work. Boy, I couldn't do that."

"Me either."

While I work and we talk, the mule stands like a champion, handing me each foot in turn. I compliment Jim on her training and disposition as I nail on the last shoe and put the foot down.

I stand up and give the mule several pats on her neck. "Good girl, you're one of the best mules I've ever worked on. Good girl, Molly."

Jim bolts from the old chair, calling out, "Molly, Molly." He doubles over, clutching his stomach in uncontrollable laughter. "Molly ain't no mule. Molly's my wife! The dang mule's name is Cindy."

F. Thomas Breningstall is an AFA and MHA certified full-time farrier living in Fowlerville, Michigan. His column "Hoof & Hammer" appears regularly in RURAL HERITAGE draft-animal magazine, and is reprinted here with permission.

First published in Rural Heritage draft-animal magazine, reprinted here with permission.

]]> (F. Thomas Breningstall) Humor Thu, 30 Jul 2009 07:39:11 +0000
Things Farriers Love to Hear

"Your shoe fell off..."

"He doesn't bite, he only nibbles..."

"He never kicked anyone else, you must have done something wrong..."

"You won't have any trouble catching them..."

"It's the bank's fault, run it back through..."

"Raise his heels..."

"Make his foot smaller..."

"Equus (or any other magazine) says..."

"Everyone in the barn says..."

"It's only been four weeks..." (after eight weeks)

"Why can't these be reset?..." (because you can read through the toe)

"He never did that before..."

"I haven't had time to pick up his feet..."

"I haven't had time to clean out his feet..."

"Can I feed him a carrot while you're shoeing him?..."

"He doesn't bite hard, he's only playing..."

"I forgot my checkbook..." (always, after the horse is shod)

]]> (Tom Stovall, CJF) Humor Thu, 18 Jun 2009 07:09:39 +0000
The Check Is In the Mail...

If you read the story, "The Secret to BIG Profits," then you've already been let in on my most cherished "SECRET." Yes, I suppose by now many of you are riding around in your new stretch Mercedes limos, with the rear end custom-converted for your particular farriery needs. Some of you probably have chauffeurs. And the ones who've really made it even have another farrier (some poor, unfortunate soul who doesn't know "THE SECRET") doing all the scut work for you, while you stand there all cool and clean, talking to your customers and supervising your "apprentice's" work.

Well, that's all nice and good for those of you who have made it, but there is one small thing I forgot to mention in that last story of mine. Even using the "SECRET," you still won't make any money if you let your accounts receivable get outta control. (Translation: You can be the best farrier in the world, charge exorbitant, but justifiable rates, and still starve if you don't get paid!) So, not wanting the responsibility of any farriers starving to death being on my shoulders, I'm gonna tell you all how I took care of collecting the money I was owed.

I was fresh out of farrier college - still so wet behind the ears you could do a load of wash. But I was bursting with enthusiasm, ready to save the hooves of all equinedom. Like all new farriers I had to establish a customer base, and so bought an answering machine, had cards printed up, bought a large map of the county, a red pen, and started to drive every single road in the county. I stopped at every house, farm, barn and paddock that looked like it might have a horse nearby. Then I found the owner, made some small talk for a while, and eventually steered the conversation around to hoof care. If the owner was satisfied with the service he was receiving, fine, I just gave him my card and asked him to keep me in mind if some sort of emergency came along. If they weren't satisfied, or didn't have a farrier, I'd try to nab myself a new client.

Things went along in this fashion for about six months, and I was establishing a fairly respectable client base, but it was the hard way. I hadn't been able to land any large stables. They all seemed to have a regular farrier. Then, one day, I finally got the call I'd been waiting for. A fair-sized (26 horse) stable located very close to my house needed farrier work done. I drove right out there, re-introduced myself, and asked the owner (a woman) what needed to be done. She explained that her regular farrier's back had given out and it was doubful that he could return, so she was trying a few farriers to find a replacement. We went into the field; she selected five horses for me to shoe, and I went to it.

To say I was nervous would be an understatement! This was my big opportunity, and I wasn't going to blow it. I took my time, prepared each hoof correctly, and fitted every shoe so it looked like a photo in one of my farrier manuals. When finished, she inspected my work, indicated she liked it, paid me (cash), and said she'd call me in a few weeks.

To make a long story short, she called me back a few more times, and I did a few more horses each time. Eventually I ended up doing the whole stable, and she had switched over to paying me by check. I felt we had a fairly solid relationship by then, and since my system is to schedule the horses for shoeing every six weeks, I would simply call the day before. I'd tell her which horses I would do the next day, she would leave them in the paddock, and I would come and do them. If she wasn't home when I was done, a self-addressed envelope with a bill was left behind.

Because a farrier's life is easier (and more profitable) if the traveling is reduced, I slowly rearranged the horses at this stable so they would all fall due at the same time. This gave me three straight days of work at one location. The second time I finished all the horses at once was when I ran into problems. She wasn't home, so as usual left the (rather sizable) bill and envelope taped to her door. A few days went by and the check didn't arrive. So I gave her a call. Her answering machine answered. This went on for a few days and when I finally reached her, she apologized profusely and promised to mail the check immediately.

Now I'm sure your mothers didn't raise any fools. I know mine didn't. You know what happened next. Nothing. No check. So I dropped by the stable to collect my money in person. I guess she sensed me coming, because she wasn't there. It took a few more unannounced visits before I finally caught up with her, and when I did, well, you know the act. "You didn't receive the check? Well, I don't know why. I mailed it the same day I spoke with you. The postal service is so unreliable...." Right. And she gave me a "replacement" check.

About ten days later I received a check in the mail. No, it wasn't the "original" check she claimed to have mailed me, but the one she gave me in person. Across it in big red letters was stamped a message from her bank, "INSUFFICIENT FUNDS." I was beginning to get upset. Keep in mind that this was my first (and at the time only) big stable, so I desperately didn't want to lose the business by alienating the owner. But things weren't looking good. So I went back, showed the owner here bounced check, which she looked at in pure horror as she excitedly explained that "it must be a bank error. I've never bounced a check before! Those banking people are so unreliable...." Uh-huh. But, being the soft-hearted fool I was, I took another check to replace the replacement check.

Guess what I received in the mail about ten days later. That's right. Only this time the red letters said "ACCOUNT CLOSED." That did it. I was learning fast, and my soft heart was hardening rapidly. I had now reached one of those crucial points in my career where I had to make concise, bold decisions, and carry them out, no matter what the obstacles. I decided that AN EXAMPLE HAD TO BE MADE.

So I formulated a brilliant (if I do say so myself) plan and with the help of a friend, we carried it out. This, my fellow farriers, is what we did: I knew that the stable owner was looking for a new horse with very specific qualities. My friend placed an ad in the newspaper describing a horse for sale which, coincidentally, had all of these qualities, and at a very reasonable price. Two days after the ad started running, who do you think called to inquire about the horse? That's right! And so the bait was taken. My friend gave the stable owner directions to her "farm," which would be at least a two-hour trip each way, and encouraged the stable owner to bring her trailer along so as to save the extra trip when she purchased the horse.

The next morning I waited down the street from the stable entrance until I saw the owner pull away with her trailer in tow. I then went to the stable and pulled the shoes off all of the horses, being careful to keep each horse's shoes wired together and labeled by name. This took about two hours. When I was finished, I put all of the shoes in a pile and took a picture of them. This done, I loaded the shoes into my trailer and left.

The stable owner, if she followed the directions to my friend's "farm," ended up on some dirt road in the middle of nowhere. Calls to the telephone number in the ad did no good, because it was a pay phone. So she returned home. And I waited for a call.

Sure enough, that evening around feeding time I received a call from a rather angry and distraught stable owner. "What have you done?" she asked. I told her it was obvious, wasn't it? Due to her lack of payment, I had repossessed the shoes. Well, she became angrier than a wet hen. She threatened to sue me, and just about everything else you can think of. When she ran out of steam (which took quite awhile), I reminded her that writing checks on a closed account is a criminal offense, and that she might want to reconsider her position. (I was really starting to warm up to this!)

Finally she asked me what it would take to get her horses' shoes back. I told her that when I showed up tomorrow, I wanted her to pay me in advance, in cash, the money she owed me to shoe the horses originally, in addition to the money she would owe me for reshoeing them. (I mentioned there would be no charge for the work performed repossessing the shoes!) She agreed, and that is precisely what came to pass.

Needless to say, word of what happened spread quickly through the area, and I never had another problem collecting money I was owed. And that photograph I took? I had an enlargement made, and I taped it inside my trailer where it was very visible. Those who already knew the story didn't have to ask. And those who didn't know the story soon heard it from someone who did. I never said a word. The photo said it all.

And that, my friends, is how I made sure that when someone said, "The check is in the mail," I damn well knew it was!


First published in ANVIL Magazine, October 1990.

]]> (Baron) Humor Thu, 18 Jun 2009 07:07:24 +0000
The Seven Dwarfs

I'd just about recovered from my run-in with King a few months back (see "You Just Have To Know How To Handle 'Em, Ma'am"), and things were settling down into the old routine. You know, nine days' worth of work, but only seven days in the week to do it. Fall had taken a pretty good grip, and the air had a crispness to it that added a little "spring" to my step. Yeah, I was actually looking forward to getting snowed in, and sitting in front of the fireplace, wood cracklin', with the young 'uns underfoot.

I was out at the barn trimming one of my Percherons (you'd a thought after my experience with King I'd never want to lay eyes on one of 'em again, but I'd just bought two of 'em, and the reason why's a whole 'nother story), when the phone rang. I reached out and grabbed the cordless phone, pushed the "answer" button, tucked it under my chin, and kept on rasping. (Lord, I love modern technology!) It was a young lady who wanted to know if I'd come out and trim her seven miniature donkeys. She said they hadn't been done in a while, and they all stood less than 30 inches at the withers. Well, I thought to myself, if this ain't ironic. Here I am tucked under 1,800 pounds of horseflesh, and I'm getting a request to trim critters that can't weigh more than 225 pounds each, soaking wet. "Why sure," I said, visions of some easy money floating through my head, "I'll be out there in no time."

Now I'm not a complete fool (though there's some that'll debate that point with much vigor), so' I packed a couple extra nylon leads and halters, and, just for good measure, took a few syringes and a new bottle of Ace. (I've become a dyed-in-the-wool believer in Murphyls Law!) I sharpened up the ole hoofknife, packed the whole outfit into the truck, and off I went, destiny awaitin'.

When I arrived at the farm, I was met by a fine-looking young filly named Joan (and my wife still thinks I do this cause I enjoy the smell of cleaning out thrushy hooves!), who showed me to the paddock holding the miniature donkeys. There they were, the seven dwarfs, all looking at me, with these big, sad-looking eyes, cute little noses, and funny-looking ears. Sorta reminded me of those picture postcards from Mexico. It wasn't a big paddock, maybe 60 by 100, with a small stream meandering through it. Not a blade of grass in sight. Matter of fact, there wasn't anything edible in sight inside that paddock. Looked like a swarm of locusts had desended upon the place and had their fill. Now that's not to say these critters were starvin'. Contrarily, they were just as fat and sassy as could be. And that's when I noticed the hooves. You know what they mean when they say "elves' feet?" That's when the hooves haven't been trimmed in so long that they've grown into a semi-circle, maybe 8 or 10 inches long. Every one of these critters was sporting elves' feet.

"Oh well," I said to myself, "you're here, so you may as well do 'em." I turned to the young lady and asked her to rustle up a halter and lead shank. She said there was none to be had. Then she explained that these critters really weren't hers, she was just keeping 'em on her farm for their owner. All she did was feed 'em. "Well," I said to myself, "good thing you brought the extra equipment." So I handed her a halter and lead shank, and off she went to grab the first victim. Soon as she stepped into the paddock she was fairly mobbed by the tiny critters. All I could see was Joan surrounded by noses and ears. You'd a thought it was Christmas, and she was Santa. But then they caught sight of the halter and lead shank! Glory be, they put themselves in reverse warp drive, as Cap'n Kirk would say. Never saw anything so small move so fast. Well, it took a little patience, and bribery, but Joan caught one, put the halter on, snapped on the lead shank, and tried to lead the donkey out. Well, this critter wanted nothing to do with whatever was gonna happen on the other side o' that fence. He just planted his four tiny hooves, and froze, statue-like.

After a few fruitless minutes of struggling, with no observable forward progress being made, I decided to lend a hand. Now I figured Joan probably weighed in at 110 soaking wet, (a very appealing thought, I might add!) and added to my (lean and mean) 158, we easily outweighed that little critter by 50 pounds. So with Joan pushing from the rear end and my hauling up front, we pulled the donkey out of the paddock and over to a grassy area, leaving four little unbroken skid marks the whole way. Gotta give that critter credit. He'd made up his mind and never changed it.

I learned a passle 'bout miniature donkeys right fast! They bite, kick, scream, squirm, jump (shake, rattle and roll!), and that's just for starters. Once they warm up, they're hell on hooves. It dawned on me why they hadn't been trimmed in at least two years! "Why is it always me" I asked myself. There we were, two humans who handily outweighed these critters, and are supposedly a sight smarter, being made into chopped liver. It was almost enough to make me nostalgic about doing King again.

We went through this routine three times. Finally I'd had enough. "Joan", I said, "I've had enough. I'm getting out the Ace." And off to the truck I hobbled. Now if any of you out there use Ace, (and in today's world of instant litigation I don't recommend it!), you'll know that the normal dosage is 1cc per 500 pounds of body weight. Theoretically, then, (don't you just love those big words?) 1cc was twice what these donkeys needed to "take the edge off." Joan caught the fourth donkey, I put 2cc into the syringe, gave it a shot, and we let it go. Then we stood around for 20 minutes and watched for some sign that it was taking effect. We saw nothing. Zip. Zero. The big enchilada. Finally I decided to start. Joan caught the donkey again (I must admit it didn't evade quite as much as before), we dragged it out (some things never change), and I went to work.

Mind you, this critter had four times the recommended dosage coursing through his tiny body. Did it show? Was it the slightest bit effective? Was I spared the wrath and injustices dealt to me by his previous three cohorts? No way! Matter of fact, this one didn't even wait for me to start. He bit me not once, but twice, just for good measure, before I even picked out his hooves.

Things were definitely not working out. I still had three more to go, but it may as well have been 300. My pride was battered (as was the rest of me), and all by these dinky little critters that you always see in the western movies being ridden calmly down the road by some overweight friar. It was time to out-think these donkeys, 'cause brute force simply wasn't the ticket. (And I didn't think l'd last that long.) So I retired to the bumper of my pick-up, where I do some of my best thinking, and surveyed the situation. I needed an edge. Something the donkeys couldn't beat. They had to realize I meant business!

That's when I spotted it. Of course it's not something I normally carry around, but I knew it was what I needed now. "What was it?" you may be asking, perched on the edge of your chair, doughnut stopped half-way to your mouth by the tension and excitement generated by my discovery. Why, a bush-hog, of course. A big old, rusty 10-foot-wide rotary mower that probably hadn't been used in 20 years. But providence had left it there for me! (Of that I was sure.)

So Joan went out and caught the fifth donkey. I gave it a shot of 4cc of Ace, and then we waited 20 minutes. Now I'll have to admit that this critter might have actually taken one or two steps along the way while we were dragging him outta the field, but don't bet on it. Then I put a second halter on, added a second nylon lead shank, and before he knew what was happening, I tied him real short to the tongue of the bush-hog and stepped back. 'Bout 10 seconds later, the critter figured out he'd been had. He yelled, kicked, jumped, and tried every other escape tactic in the book. (And this is with 4cc of Ace in him!) Now I thought donkeys were smarter than that, but this critter even bit the bush-hog once or twice. And then it happened. After 10 minutes of this maniacal, frenetic activity, he realized in that little mind of his that he was beat. It was hopeless. Victory was mine. He stood there, eyes looking mean as ever, sweat rollin' down his sides. But he was standing still. And he continued to stand still for the whole trim.

Joan and I followed the same modus operandi with donkey number six. He wasn't quite as calm. Seems no one ever told him there's a time to give up. But that old bush-hog still was a sight load better than trying to hold the critter and fend off teeth and hooves with one hand while trying to trim with the other. But number seven threw us a curve. He wouldn't be caught. Round and round and round we went. We tried everything, but to no avail. He obviously didn't want a date with the bush-hog.

Now one thing I didn't tell you about this paddock at the beginning of this tale. At one end there stood an old farrowing shed, built right into the fence line. And the shed had a door in it, apparently so the farmer could let his hogs out directly into the paddock. When I saw the door, the idea came to me. I walked over, opened the door, threw some corn on the floor, and then Joan and I started to chase number seven again.

Now, have you ever noticed how you can walk into a field of horses with the intention of catching one, and it's the only one in the field that won't let you near it? All the others in the field are as chummy as can be. They'll come right over, rub up so close they're like green on a frog. But the one you want is always just beyond reach. It knows. And so do all the others.

That about sums up the scene here. The other six donkeys were sort of standing around, or milling aimlessly, while number seven was cuttin' corners like Tony Dorset. But slowly, ever so slowly, we managed to get him over to the side of the paddock with the open door. And then we started to close in, me from the right, Joan from the left. Number seven started to look a little nervous, and was about to dash down the middle (again) when he spotted something that hadn't been there before : THE DOOR. The trap was set, and he took it. Wheeling around, he dashed through the door and into a small stall, with me right behind. I blocked the door, and Joan ducked in with two halters and lead shanks. We had 'im. Another shot, another 20-minute wait, one last "donkey drag" out of the paddock, and a short hitch to ye old bush-hog. But this guy just wouldn't give up. For a full 30 minutes he gave us a show that would've put a champion bucking horse to shame. You may not believe this, but I'm not twisting your tail: That little donkey shifted that bush-hog a good six inches!

I finally finished him and washed myself off at Joan's kitchen sink. Considering what I'd been through, it was a miracle nothing was broken. I was sure I'd pulled every muscle in my back and both arms. Joan paid me and I left.

Little did I know that the toughest challenge of the day still awaited me: explaining to my wife what those teeth marks were doing all over my derriere.

]]> (Baron) Humor Thu, 18 Jun 2009 07:04:51 +0000
Payback... Farrier Style

We'll call him Jack! The self-righteous man who taught the hands-on work at the farrier school I attended.

Now, Jack and I saw eye-to-eye on every horsey-related concept except the rules of relationships between male teachers and female students. Being the only women in class I needed to maintain strict policies in such matters. By this time Jack and I had already spent some 3 months throwing this issue back and forth.

I knew I was in for it when assigned to shoe 3 of the only available two year old geldings. One came complete with a young man named Bean to hang off his twisted ear, and another with a warning not to slap him on the rump, 'cause he'll double barrel you in the unmentionables!

Dripping with sweat, but the tasks complete, it was lunch time - thank you Lord for lunch breaks! I thought the sweat would drop another 5 pounds off my already dwindling frame.

Jack and I had a score to settle today. First job after grub was a re-set. Easy and quiet, just what I love. Having trouble steadying the shoe on the hoof and hammering in the first nail, Jack kindly knelt in front of me and placed thumbs on either side of the shoe. "THWAP!" Jack and I were almost even. Poor Jackie jumped and wheezed like a cat in a dog kennel. And I apologized for my truly misguided hammer blow.

Horse number two was another re-set and dead calm. Oh, happy day!

I worked casually while the owner explained the full range of her mount's talent. Upon completion I asked to try out some of these tricks. The horse did ride great. Bareback with binder twine around the base of his neck!

Suddenly I screamed and tears welled up in my eyes. The owner looked truly stunned, and knelt beside her beloved mount. "Jack!" I yelled, "HELP, HELP!" A startled Jack sprinted outside to see poor dobbin sprawled out in the dirt as stiff as could be. I cried that I was hammering and I hit blood, and the horse jumped and fell and hasn't moved a muscle since! The owner and I cried and hugged and made an awful fuss.

Jack was white as a ghost, spitting and sputtering about what should be done and how would he tell his boss. No longer able to hold it in, I laughed and laughed, almost wetting myself! Now Jack and I where even! Seems that trick horse could play dead very convincingly!

]]> (Cindy McConnell) Humor Thu, 18 Jun 2009 06:52:16 +0000
The Night Before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas when all through the stable,
Poor Santa was panicked, his reindeers weren't able.
They had eaten alfalfa that made them all sick,
So he needed some reindeer, and he needed them quick.
Poor Santa, he called every stable in sight, just to find that the reindeer had left for the night.
All that were left were the horses and sheep,
so Santa, poor Santa, he started to weep.
Then a sheep came up, and said with a bleat,
"Take the horses, dear Santa, and not us poor sheep!"
A gleam then appeared in the eye of Saint Nick,
"Why not?" said Santa, "It might do the trick!"
So he loaded the toys to the brim of his sleigh,
and with a nod and a neigh, they were on their way.
"On Shilo, on Vodka, on Squire, on Tide,
on Jordache, on Reno, on Lady, and Clyde."
To the top of the fence, to the top of the wall,
"Now dash away, dash away, dash away, all!"
On through the night they traveled afar, from roof top to roof top, bouncing off stars.
They came in for a landing so lightly and quick
that Clyde threw a shoe which he caught on a brick.
"Call for the farrier," shouted St. Nick,
"Call him out now, and call him out quick."
The blacksmith arrived on the scene in a flash,
he said, "Yes, I'll do it, but only for cash."
Aghast, St. Nick drew back in dismay, for poor old Santa had no way to pay.
"Fear not," said the smithy, "For a kind heart have I,
I'll give you some credit in a wink of an eye!"
So Jolly Old Santa, aglow with delight,
packed up his toy bag to carry on with his flight.
He said with a chuckle as he flew out of sight,
"Merry Christmas dear farrier for you've saved this cold night."

]]> (Barry Henderson) Humor Thu, 18 Jun 2009 06:50:29 +0000
How To Stop A Rumor

There was nothing more that gave my farrier pleasure than to be able to spin the most ridiculous yarn, swearing it was true and seeing just how far it would travel.

Two elderly spinster sisters were clients of his. He recommended a friend of his who had just moved into the area and was floating teeth. The conversation went as follows:

"Well, the vet had awful problems doing them last year - they don't like the vet."

"This chap is very good and he isn't a vet."

"You know that neither of these two were good with the farrier before you started to shoe them."

"This chap is not a farrier."

"And you know that neither of them really like men at all."

"That's all right, this chap is not a REAL man, that is why we call him the Tooth Fairy."

The ponies teeth were duly rasped and on his next visit the farrier asked how they had got on. "Oh, he was such a nice man. The ponies were so good I am sure that they knew."

The rumor flew round that the new Equine Dentist was a 'Tooth Fairy' much to the amusement of the farrier - who just added a little more fuel to the fire with innuendoes every now and then. The time came when both were in the same barn at the same time. The farrier stopped shoeing and stood to greet the Tooth Fairy. He held out his hand, but instead of taking the proffered hand the Tooth Fairy hugged the farrier and proceeded to give him a real kiss on the lips, with everyone watching! Never have I seen him speechless before or since.

The rumor was ended.

]]> (Linda) Humor Thu, 18 Jun 2009 06:44:42 +0000
You Just Have To Know How To Handle 'Em, Ma'am

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.

]]> (Baron) Humor Thu, 18 Jun 2009 06:35:07 +0000
Your Horses Are On Fire

Much as I love shoeing horses, my business interests have led me to design, patent, and manufacture machinery for farmers who work with draft animals.

Since the farmers and teamsters who use my machine work with draft animals almost exclusively, I acquired a few Percherons. They're the kindest, gentlest, most easygoing creatures on earth, but owning them created a problem for me. I had only ten acres of pasture; that's a little more than three acres a horse - hardly enough to feed three 1800-pound horses year 'round without haying.

Luckily, a nearby farmer has a large pasture that he hasn't used since he retired. I moseyed over and asked if I could use the pasture for the Percherons during the winter when I'd run out of grass. You should have seen his cataract-clouded eyes light up! He told me he'd just turned 91 years old and had mourned the day he had sold his last team and converted to tractors. Yes, he said, he'd love to have the horses in his pasture.

October rolled around, and the horses finally ate the last stalk of grass in their field. I walked them down the road and let them into the large pasture which was knee deep in lush forage. They were in horsey heaven.

January arrived, and the horses had grown long, thick winter coats. The weather had been cold, but little in the way of snow. The field had a clump of trees in the middle and when it snowed, the horses snuggled up under a huge pine and slept.

With the first big snow came trouble. I was sitting at the breakfast table when the phone rang. It was a lady who lived in a house next to the pasture. She wanted to know if I owned the big horses. I told her that I did and asked her if there was something wrong. "The horses have no building to go into to get out of the snow," she said. I explained that they had the big trees to stand under, and that their dense coat was an excellent insulator. I assured her that the horses were quite comfortable. Semi-satisfied, she let me return to breakfast.

The following day the woman called back, and in a firm voice told me she was sure the horses were cold. I asked her how she knew this. "Because they look cold," she replied. "And, in what way do they look cold?" I countered. Silence. Not a word for 30 seconds. Finally, she said, "I just know they're cold!" "Okay, okay," I replied, "Why don't you meet me in the pasture in five minutes and, if the horses are cold, I'll take them into a barn." She agreed.

We met five minutes later. "Will they hurt me?" she asked. "Do they kick or bite?" It started to dawn on me that this woman was a busybody do-gooder who knew absolutely nothing about horses. With time on her hands, she probably decided that my horses needed rescuing and appointed herself their savior.

As soon as we entered the pasture, the horses trotted over looking for attention ? three 1800-pound "puppy dogs." After she watched me pet them for a few minutes, I asked her if they looked cold. "Well, no," she replied, "But it's hard to tell with all the hair." "Why don't you put your hand on one and see if it feels cold to the touch?" I asked. It was obvious she had never touched a horse before. Hesitantly, she reached out and touched one. "Well," she said, "I have to admit that they do feel warm, but I still wish they had a barn to go into."

Just then one of the horses dropped a big, steaming pile of manure on the snow. She stood looking at it, quite puzzled. "What's wrong?" I asked. No reply at first. Then she said, "Why isn't the horse standing in the pile?" "Why would he do that?" I asked. "Because it would keep his feet warm," she replied. That snapped it! I was trying to talk logically with a certified nut case! I left her standing in the field.

The snow melted a few days later, and I heard nothing more. Then another storm hit that promised to be a keeper. With the temperature staying well below freezing, I knew the snow wouldn't melt for a while, which meant I had to start feeding bales of hay until the snow was gone. Since my daytime schedule was hectic, I found it easier to feed at night, usually around midnight. Two days after the snow had stopped falling, the old farmer called me. He said the woman was bothering him again, claiming the horses were not being fed. I assured him they were and told him of my nightly ritual.

The local animal protection society called the next day, explaining they received a report that I was starving my horses. I invited one of their inspectors to come out and see for himself. When the inspector arrived, I showed him the hay scattered over the field and explained my feeding schedule. I told him about the woman who believed horses should stand in their manure. I asked him to confirm my nightly feedings with a neighbor who had seen me feeding the horses. He did and was satisfied that the woman was, in his own words, a "Looney Tune."

A few weeks went by and along came another dusting of snow. The temperature hovered just around freezing, the snow melting as it hit the ground. The local animal control officer called. He was laughing so hard it was difficult to understand him. "Could I come over?" he asked.

Fifteen minutes later he arrived, still laughing. His face was as red as a beet! I thought he was going to have a coronary on the spot. Finally, calmed down to a mild chuckle, he told me that a woman had reported my horses were on fire!

The officer apologized for the inconvenience of his visit, but it was office policy to investigate each complaint. I was too busy laughing to even notice. Regaining control of myself, I climbed into the officer's truck, and off we went to check on my "roasting" horses. When we arrived at the field, the sun was just starting to break through the clouds. Three gorgeous Percherons were standing there, contentedly munching on grass. Thick columns of steam rose off them as evaporated moisture in their coats condensed in the cold air. The officer and I were awed by the beauty of it, but soon the spell was broken. We both started chuckling again, almost rolling on the ground. "Your horses are on fire!" the officer roared.

I never heard from the animal control people again. However, the woman continued pestering the old farmer with a myriad of oddball complaints. I felt so sorry for him that I took the horses back to my place a month before I'd planned to. The farmer was sad to see them go. He still enjoys telling the story about those horses that were on fire.

Author's comment: This story is humorous, but it also portrays a serious and growing problem.


First published in ANVIL Magazine, August 1993.

]]> (Baron) Humor Thu, 18 Jun 2009 06:31:46 +0000
Shooting Your Anvil

Gold Hill Colorado (outside of Boulder in the foothills) has a unique 4th of July ritual for which I was once called upon to offer my services. The organizers of the annual Gold Hill 4th of July celebration needed my anvil for a few hours.

The phone rang the evening of July 3rd. "Hello, Sir, this is Trish, co-ordinator of the the town of Gold Hill 4th of July Celebration, and we'd like to borrow your anvil." "My Anvil?" I asked. "Yes, what kind do you have?" "A GE, the new model with the clip horn," I replied. "How much does it weigh?" the friendly female voice asked. "A little over a hundred pounds, I guess". "Good. Can you be there by 12 noon so we can test it?" I thought to myself, test it? "Sure! But I assure you that it works just fine!" I was stumped thinking about what they wanted it for.

The next day I drove my rig over from my place to Gold Hill, to their softball field, where there was a stage being set up, banners were being strung up and a ball game was winding down. This must be the place. The view was spectacular. The Continental Divide was visible to the west with it's snowcapped mountains, and to the east, the plains were clear all the way to Kansas.

One of the town's oldtimers, a well weathered ex-miner named "Red," came up to me as soon as he saw the forge in the back of my truck. "You must be Mike. My anvil's over there. I'll help you move yours over to mine," Red said, the Red Man drooling out of the corner of his mouth onto the suspender of his overalls. I was really stumped now about this whole thing. When we got over to Red's anvil, I noticed that it was half buried in the ground, with the base sticking up. He had an old one, and the center of the base was partly hollow. After bringing my nice new GE anvil over, (it was a beut!) Red got out some black powder (gunpowder) and filled up that hollow center in the base of his inverted anvil. After laying a 1 foot length of fuse across the base, I gently set my anvil on top of Red's anvil so they were base-to-base, with mine right-side-up on top.Red sent me to clear the area. "Now we're going to shoot your anvil" he said. "Fire in the hole!" Once clear, he lit the fuse. We ran for cover. Blam!

My GE was airborne! It went so far up that it was just a little dot in the sky. Kinda looked like a bird! Then it came down with a vengeance! Spinning wildly, it took a curve and headed straight for Trish's old '72 Duster. With a loud slam that sounded like a big can opener, my GE anvil sliced through the top of her car, through the front seat, through the floor and buried itself halfway in the ground. Cheers roared from the crowd that was watching. Red and I walked over to the car. I looked in through the hole in the roof. "Looks like your anvil will work just fine," Red drooled. Trish came over and agreed, mentioning something about wanting a sunroof anyway.

Soon Red and I were getting this anvil trick ready for the finale. When we shot it off just before dusk to kick off the celebration, it flew high and made a wide smooth arc. Cheers and applause echoed across the field. Without any obstructions, it came down hard and completely buried itself in the sandy ballfield. I ran over to dig it up. When I did, I saw that it didn't have a scratch on it. I continued to use that anvil until I quit shoeing 7 years later! Disclaimer: DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME! My applause to GE for a fine anvil!

]]> (Mike Knowles) Humor Thu, 28 May 2009 07:48:31 +0000