The Principles and Practice of Horse-shoeing

Our next book for review is another older book, this one from the late 1920’s. The Principles and Practice of Horse-shoeing by Charles Holmes FWCF is on the reading list for the Worshipful Company of Farriers AWCF exam, it should of course be noted however that this is a historic book and the science of farriery has advanced since it was written. Regardless of the age of this book, it is still a valuable read. 

The very first page of the book is already filled with wisdom, every paragraph should be read and reread and considered. 

“The farrier should be a man of good intelligence, capable of keen observation” 

This phrase could very well be the thesis for the book. The rest of the chapters of the book go into what farriers should be thinking about and paying attention to. 

Part 1 is anatomy, beginning with bones and joints and moving to tendons and ligaments then nerves and blood supply; the last section is all about the foot. While some of the names are different, the majority of the information presented is still quite applicable for today. One very helpful section is a summary of the ligaments associated with each joint. 

Part 2 is practical work. This book was written in the UK and during a time that nearly every farrier shop had multiple people working. This section refers to a fireman and a doorman – the fireman being responsible for building and fitting shoes while the doorman trims the feet and nails shoes on. The first section is on tool maintenance and shoemaking, again much of what is described is outside what is normal at this time since technology and how we use horses has changed, though there are still some very good points to keep in mind. Next, Holmes goes through the work of the doorman in how to trim and nail on shoes. After hints on basic shoeing, the author turns next to hunter shoeing and then to traction devices and pads.

Part 3 is titled Pathological Shoeing, this is where the theoretical and practical skills combine. A piece of advice on the first page of this section is still very applicable today. 

“One should endeavor to make what is required as simply, easily and cheaply as possible, so long as good work is done and satisfactory results are attained.” 

There are a lot of different ways to make shoes for certain mechanics we need for a foot, some ways are far easier than others and it certainly pays to be able to accomplish the goals we have in an efficient and timely manner. The rest of the section goes through various pathologies and how to treat them. Keeping in mind that this book was written nearly 100 years ago and our understanding of pathologies has progressed significantly in that time, there is still much to glean from this section as many of the basic principles for treatment have not changed. 

The final section of the book is a short explanation on the Worshipful Company of Farriers, a list of questions, and an explanation of the test levels at the time. An interesting appendix is also added on the history of horseshoe nails.

Overall this is an excellent book that is very deserving of a place in any farrier’s library, if you can find a copy. I would recommend this book be read somewhat early in a farrier’s education if possible, simply for the point of view of the author on craftsmanship. This should of course not be used as a main text to study but is a requirement for the higher exams. Unfortunately as the book is no longer in print and has not been for some time it is a bit harder to find, because that is the case this book will go later in our list of recommended reading due to it being difficult to find. At just over 200 pages this is a relatively short easy read that should be enjoyable by many.