By Sarah Allen
BAINBRIDGE — The steady clip-clop of horses, the clang of metal and an occasional neigh: These are the sounds that are a part of the life of a farrier, or a craftsman who trims and shoes horses.
It’s a job that Luke Martin has been doing for 23 years.
Martin, who works in Bainbridge, sees about 800 to 900 horses each year. He said it takes about one hour to shoe all four hooves of a horse.
Martin described the craft, saying, “The reason a horse needs to be redone … (is that) their foot grows down like a fingernail would.” And so, the shoe needs to be removed, the hoof trimmed, and the shoe then placed back on the horse.
Martin said that, while there are several schools for farriers, he did not attend one. He worked as an apprentice and went to numerous clinics.
Martin also explained the process of farriering.
From the beginning, Martin said, “You have to have a picture of what you want to achieve when the job’s done.” For example, a farrier may be trying to correct hooves that are unbalanced. Martin said correcting a problem can be a “long process.”
Several tools are used to ensure the hoof is flat. Once the shoe is flat against the hoof, it is “time to nail,” Martin said.
He said horses do not feel the nails “if you put them in the right place.”
“That just comes from practice and training,” Martin said.
Once the shoes are nailed into the hoof, the excess nail is clipped, filed and bent down against the hoof wall.
A farrier then adds hoof conditioner, which seals up any old nail holes and acts as a disinfectant.
Martin also described the differences that come when shoeing the much larger draft horses. He said there are “bigger tools for bigger horses.”
Draft horses are put into stocks which help hold them in place. Their hooves are placed in holders. The overall process, however, is the same, no matter the size of the horse.
Martin said the best part of his job is the feeling that comes after shoeing a challenging horse.
“If you succeed in doing that, it’s probably what keeps me shoeing,” said Martin, who also has designed his own horseshoes called Natural Stride.
And while Martin said being a farrier is “rewarding … it’s actually a dangerous job.”
Martin said he was once kicked by a horse — an incident which ended with a broken arm.
And, from day-to-day, Martin said, “You’re basically bent over from start to finish… It’s physically demanding.”
“You only make money when you’re bent over,” he added. “I guess that’s why they’re not a dime a dozen.”
However, Martin said, farriery is “just something I always found fascinating.” And that interest, he said, is what led him to the craft.
“It’s not really in the family,” he added.
The same is not true for Chris Hillsamar, a farrier in Beavercreek. For him, farriery is a long-standing family tradition.
Hillsamer has been a farrier for seven years. Before that, his dad was a farrier for 30 years.
“I used to help him a lot as a kid,” said Hillsamer, a fifth-generation farrier.
Hillsamer attended a school for farriers in Missouri before working for one farrier, and then for his dad. Now, he has his own farrier business.
Unlike Martin, who mostly works out of a shop, Hillsamer said he typically travels — which is one of his favorite parts of the job.
But, above all, Hillsamer said, he loves being around horses.
“I’ve always loved horses, even as a little kid,” he said. “Horses have just always been a passion of mine.”
Hillsamer said he has a varied clientele, which means he gets to work with many different breeds of horses.
“I like that … you don’t really have any down time,” he said. “It’s pretty much a full-time job.”
He said some of the most memorable moments of his career have been “going (to) and working (at) horse shows out of state with my dad.”
Hillsamer said that, during those shows, if a horse loses a shoe, a farrier has to go into the ring and nail it back on.
“It’s quite a fun life,” he said.
He added that clients, over the years, have become friends and family.
“You’re usually around great people, and I’ve been blessed with great clients,” Hillsamer said. “What more could you ask for?”
Sarah is a reporter for The Times-Gazette in Hillsboro. Reach her at 937-393-3456 or at [email protected]