Tales from the Road: Horseshoeing, Safari-Style

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Every now and then in the farrier business, we find ourselves in appointments that get strange in a hurry.

While we always try to serve every client to the best of our abilities, sometimes we can’t—like when sedation is required (and we don’t know in advance to coordinate with the vet).

In one particular instance, we had an appointment to trim and perhaps shoe two horses. Things started out badly, with several rescheduled appointments and an incorrect address…and it quickly got weirder.

Once we found the farm, the horse owner brought out a very tense-looking, fairly large gelding and I could already tell we should just pack up and leave while we were ahead. The horse was jumpy and reactive, and the owner appeared to be unaware that her frequent, jerky hand gestures were making the horse more and more anxious. She ranted for quite awhile about the need for someone to become a “house call” vet because “there are no vets that will come out to a farm to treat horses.”

(To her credit, vets in Texas do often want you to haul to them, because it is more economical for everyone when you’re in a rural area. However, if you’re semi-close to a city, as she/we are, you can always find someone who will do farm calls.)

I tried to keep her talking about calm topics while my husband, Andres, was working. He managed to get the first horse trimmed, but there was no way the horse would tolerate having shoes nailed on. The owner was disappointed, but she admitted she had never actually ridden the horse, and he was sound in the paddock barefoot.

As she was turning the gelding back out, she casually hit us with another fun fact:

“The baby has never had a halter on since she got here a few months ago. We can’t catch her, so we’ll need your dart gun.”

The “baby” in question was a full grown, foundation-style Quarter Horse mare who had that “no way am I getting halter broke today” look about her.

“Um, we don’t have any tranquilizers,” I said, heading for the truck. “You’ll need to get a vet for that.”

“But I can’t get her to a vet! They don’t travel!”

She was genuinely upset.

We all stood there and watched the mare trot up and down the fenceline nervously. She appeared sound of gait (if not of mind). If a horse is in pain or having an obvious issue, we usually will attempt to help. This horse, while in need of a trim, was not having any major hoof problems that couldn’t wait for some training or medical intervention. Judging by the look in her eye, however, she’d be likely to cause us some problems.

“I can give you the numbers for vets that will come out, or some trainers who could help you train her, but we cannot legally sedate your horse.”

I did not add: “Particularly with a dart gun. Are those even real, outside of safaris?”

I realized that I better figure out which local vet and trainer I wouldn’t mind never hearing from again, because that was what would happen once I sent this lady and her horses to one of them. Frankly, she was the one who needed the tranquilizers; the horses just needed quiet, consistent handling. Andres quickly started packing his stuff in the trailer.

Finally, she handed over a check for the one trim, still talking about rescheduling the mare for when we could borrow a tranquilizer gun. I mentally calculated how much it would cost to change our phone numbers everywhere, because there was no way Andres was going to agree to go back to that farm. I felt bad for the horses, but we cannot put our own safety at risk.

Luckily for them, it appeared the horses were gone from that farm when we were in the area a few months later. I hope they found themselves in a better situation—and that it didn’t include a “dart gun”!

About the Author
Nancy Rich-Gutierrez is an IT professional and manages her husband’s farrier company. When she’s not busy with her full-time job or running the office for her farrier, she’s chasing their two-year-old and riding her Arabian horses. Check out the HG Horseshoeing blog at hghorseshoeing.com.

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