Category Archives: Horse Hoof — Farrier

As a pilot I discovered: “Hooves are the wings on which horses fly”. . . Making the hooves the very foundation of an enjoyable relationship with the horse. I’m a 2nd Generation Farrier and HoofCare Provide — so this is a topic near to my heart. Fly, hooves, fly!

Watching The Woman . . . Work

I watch her. A lot.

She’s very impressive.

Strong. Super-human!

She works through heat. Rain. Snow.

She works with her body. Physically. In labors usually done by a man.

But she’s found a way to coax her female body to endure. Invent new ways. Overcome obstacles . . .

I think I can!!!

She does her best, always.

I learn from her.

She runs late. She works late. But she gives it her all . . .


She talks to strangers, all the time.

At the market. Post Office. Bank.

Small talk. Smiles. Little quips. Corny jokes.

She makes “friends”, at least she tries . . . she hands out her little cards . . . yet they seldom call.

She smiles and waves at bored little kids in the back seat of cars. (She remembers being bored, in the back seat of a car . . . )

Even her little beanie-monkey, Louie, waves and makes a bus full of camp kids laugh. (I’m sure they still remember :))

Hen and chicks in rain


She has a weird brain. Wired backwards, it would seem.

Spatially challenged — her messy car and cluttered world, her own personal haven. Damn the rules — creativity abound!

(All tidy and picked up, she feels lost . . . empty.)

She keeps her chin up. She talks herself up to the task in front of her. No matter how hard. How tired.

Some people love her. Others think she’s a kook :))

She’s a stranger in a strange land, for sure.

But over the years, I’ve come to respect her. Love her.

Trust her. Depend on her.

Dawn on Molokai :))

She does her best. Even when she blows it. Even when she fails.

She gets back up. Dusts off her knee. Tries, tries again.

She’s learning to curtail her anger.

She’s learning to curb her tongue.

She’s learning to appreciate and enjoy all that Life dishes her . . .



She works hard. Physical.

She’s really, really good at what she does.

She puts her body at risk every time she works: Smashed feet; aching hands; kicked in the head; broken wrist . . .

But she heals. She learns. She carries on.

She puts a rogue horse (or horse owner) in its place with a snap, a snort, a big, loud posture.

She gets them to lick, to submit . . . and handles thousand-pound creatures like puppy dogs.

Lifts their hooves, supports their bodies, calms their distracted minds . . .

(A passer-by wouldn’t know how difficult her job!)

She sculpts. Rasps. Trims.

Sweats, shivers — yet persists.

Creates living, breathing artwork.

Mechanical magic.

Shock Tamer Pads -- Fae

She hammers steel.

Sews horseshoes onto hooves — with nails.

Hefts anvils and tools and heavy boxes of equipment . . . yet carries her own tiny broom set to sweep and clean as she goes . . .

(There’s order in her seeming chaos :))

Work Tools

Horse whisperer. Farrier. Wrangler. Business woman. Creative kook . . .

She is my favorite. She is my love.

She watches over me. I watch over her.

She works hard! And I appreciate her!!!!


I watch her age. I watch her grow.

I watch her appreciate Life more, even more, now . . .

We have come to a truce.

I no longer bash her.

I now support her.

Without her, I would be nowhere.

Because, she is me . . . Dawn.

Woman of steel!!!

Golden Rays

And so I ask, who do you watch?

What work does your woman, or man, do?

Have you two come to a truce? Or do you still argue?

I hope you two can fall in love :))

Life is too short to argue with your Worker . . .

Make peace, not war. And let it start with you, and me :))

Heart Horses


Find out more about Dawn’s HoofCare Services

Join Dawn for a Soul Horse Ride!  Experience the thrill of becoming one with your horse . . . Join Dawn and her homegrown herd for a  Soul Horse Ride in the Frazier Park Outback!

Call to book your Life-Changing Adventure today:  (661) 703-6283

Aria Shadow, Pinos Ride


Like what you’ve read here? Visit Dawn’s sister blog: Journal of Dawn


Additional photo credits: H. Jenkins, T. Turner, S. Curry

Copyright 2017


July 29, 2017 · 11:20 am

In Defense of Horseshoes

Ever since the beginning of the Barefoot Movement, horseshoes have taken a bad wrap.

Nails — awful.

Steel — restrictive.

Damn farriers!

Ruining all our horses with outdated, medieval malevolence!

Yet — please!

Let’s don’t throw out the hoof with the bath water . . .


I’m primarily a Barefoot girl, no problem.

And barefoot is great, under the best circumstances.

I’ve ridden sound, barefoot horses on endless trails, for years.

But I shod my horses last week — and took them on one of the trails we’ve ridden, barefoot, for the past twenty years — and it enhanced the entire endeavor!!!


Aria Shadow, Pinos Ride

Bright, springy steps replaced delicate plodding.

Heightened enjoyment, not just for my husband and I, but for the horses — as they didn’t have to bother avoiding sharp, crystalline rocks.


Steel, and pads, and hoof packing — actually saved the day!

Fae Hooves Pinos -- Shoes


So what caused me to add the shoes?

We’ve had a very long, cold and drawn out winter here in the mountainous region of Southern California this year, 2017. In fact it filled our reservoirs, and broke our multi-year drought.

The ground was saturated for more than two months with snow, ice, mud.

Just when it began warming up, drying out — more rain, snow, mud.

It SNOWED 4″ in early MAY!!!!

And just when my horses hooves were developing their hard, dry soles (a kind of callus which acts like shoe protection for the internal structures and comfort of their hooves) the late snow, saturating the ground, caused those soles to slough — the equivalence losing your shoes on a hot day at the beach . . .

And caused those hooves to feel every pebble. Every rock.

rainbow hoof, Hawaii


Shoes and Pads to the Rescue

Enter steel Natural Balance horseshoes, leather and Shock Tamer pads, and Sole Pack medicated packing material.

As a farrier, it’s something I’ve done for other people’s horses for years: Shoe. Pad. Protect.

But something I’ve rarely needed to do for my own homegrown, four-generation, hardy-hooved herd.

Why? Because my own healthy-hooved horses really didn’t need it. Barefoot worked fantastic for my horses (other than occasional shoes to help with gait issues or overreaching).


Shock Tamer Pads -- Fae

So when we rode the top of our local high-elevation (8,000′-9,000′) Mt. Pinos trails the other evening and FELT the difference — same trails, same horses, we’ve ridden for twenty years — I knew I just had to write.

Because theory is one thing.

Reality is another.

Aria Shoes Pinos


Enter Uncle Ink

I agree. Not all horseshoeing is made equal — that’s why I learned to shoe, from my farrier Uncle, Ink Knudson.

I learned to trim my own homebred herd of Arab-cross horses from Uncle Ink in Malibu in 1990.

Great. Wonderful. Sound. No problems.

But by 1996, I’d moved up here to the mountains, and got an Arab-Tennessee Walker, named Max, with less than ideal hooves.

An old barb wire injury to his coronet resulted in a large scar tissue bulb that he would overreach and tear with his hind hoof, causing him head-bobbing lameness.

The hoof that did grow, came in abnormal.


Hoof soreness.

Poor Max!

The local farriers up here in our region weren’t able to keep him sound. Even with pads and packing and egg bar shoes.

That’s when I took him down to Uncle Ink .

And Uncle Ink’s shoes made Max sound.

That’s when I realized, the other farriers couldn’t, wouldn’t do what Uncle Ink did.

I had to learn how to nail on shoes — to help Max. To keep him sound.

DawnHoof - Therapeutic Shoes, Hawaii


Bad Shoeing is Bad — Good Shoeing is Good!

But what was it about Ink’s shoes that worked?

Why couldn’t the local guys have fixed Max and made him comfortable?

What did Ink know that the local guys up here didn’t?

That’s the real secret — the real story.

Steel shoes, alone, aren’t the culprit.

It’s how the hoof is trimmed, and how those shoes are applied.

As my Uncle Ink taught me, “It’s art!”

And as with all art, it takes a good eye, a good feel, and a good understanding of why you’re doing what it is that you do . . .

Aria Leather Pad, Shoes


Uncle Ink was a metallurgist in the Navy in WWII. After the war, he went to Cal Poly,  San Luis Obispo to learn the art of horse shoeing, on the GI Bill.

Then he honed his craft apprenticing with the old Calvary shoers in the LA area.

He worked with famous veterinarians doing specialized therapeutics. He could make any shoe or support apparatus in his coal forge.

He shod every kind of horse for every kind of discipline. He shod for every kind of person, including a cadre of famous actors.

He shod Ronald Reagan’s horses, Roy Roger’s Trigger, Gene Autry’s Champion . . .

And he shod my scruffy first horse, Rebel.


Marco with Grinder

The majority of today’s farriers either studied with an elder, or attended one of the farrier schools.

Emphasis seems more on appearance than function.

How nice the low-nailed clinches appear.

How straight and level the hoof.

(The old question of balance!)

Problem is, high, angled nails hold better.

Heel nails, now out of fashion, hold the best.

Many hooves are, in themselves, not straight or level. The bones have de-mineralized in accordance to the horse’s conformation.

Shoeing those hooves “straight and level” is the same as shoeing a straight and level hoof out of balance.

But how do you teach this?

How do these guys learn what it took my Uncle sixty years under the anvil, the forge, the horse, to gain?

Fae Shoes - all 4


So imagine my bliss in discovering, that the skills I originally learned to help Max with his old injury, actually improved my sound, “barefoot” horses on a real-life trail ride into my own local mountainous back country.

Solid hoofbeats. Solid horses.


We’ve got a great riding schedule planned for this season!!!

Rick on Fae, with Orbs, Pinos


Join Dawn for a Soul Horse Ride!  Experience the thrill of becoming one with your horse . . . Join Dawn and her homegrown herd for a  Soul Horse Ride in the Frazier Park Outback!

Call to book your Life-Changing Adventure today:  (661) 703-6283


Like what you’ve read here? Visit Dawn’s sister blog: Journal of Dawn

Copyright 2017

Anna's Tree, Pinos




May 31, 2017 · 1:51 am

My Body is a Workhorse

My body awaits the day

Like a workhorse.

Like a racehorse.

It knows that soon

It shall be put to task.


How has society changed enough for a woman to seek out and learn to shoe horses?

What has happened to the “weaker sex”?

When I first began trimming my own barefoot horses’ hooves, twentysomething years ago – in my 30’s – it challenged me.

And I arose to the task.

It took two years of fumbling – with the tools, the skills, the posturing – to become even somewhat comfortable.

Hawaiian Hoof Trim

Six years later, when I got Max (with his old heel injury – requiring shoes) and hauled him to Chatsworth for my farrier-uncle to fix, I sized up the situation: I had to learn.

Not just to trim.

But to shoe.

For Max – in order for Max to stay sound.

That meant learning how to: Nail, shape, clinch, pull – an extremely challenging, physical skill set! Done all the while, bending over-down-up-down . . .  Underneath, and HOLDING UP the horse!

(In the beginning it hurt so bad, I couldn’t walk for three days.)

I remember thinking: “I wish it were a year from now!”

For I knew that I’d be much better at all this after a year.

Santi Hoof

Now, nearly two decades later, I am indeed much better.

I still maintain my own horses’ hooves.

I’ve also established a hoofcare and farrier practice, trimming and shoeing and keeping many other horses sound.

But, I’m older now.

And age has a way of eating away at you. As it should, slowing you down a little bit.

Good 'ol Chap


. . . The working parts on the car wear out first: Belts, bearings, transmission, alternator.

In humans: Shoulders, knees, neck, wrist, thumbs. (Feet, too!)

And her perspective at fiftysomething is far different from her thirtysomething past.

She works slower, happier. Eats better, rests more. She works smarter.

(Lighter, brighter, less pain now, Gluten-Free : ~ )

The years tick on – and still she does the work.

The commitments loom greater with age.

And the gargantuan effort she throws into the task

Appears easy to those who look on . . .



My body is a workhorse.

And I work with horses.

And the horses are the

Leisurely in this generation,

And we humans are the

Workhorses now.


Dawn and Fable

Copyright 2013

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August 31, 2013 · 8:12 pm

Where Have All the Horsemen Gone?

They were usually the quiet type. Soft spoken, athletic, lean.

They approached their charges with sensitivity and practical skills, passed on from parents and uncles of the generation before them. Learned firsthand from toiling on the family ranch or farm.

Horsemanship was a lifelong tradition. It was something in the family. Something in the blood.

They worked with the whole picture in mind, not just the moment at hand. And all that they did, like an artist taking a paintbrush to canvass, made the finished composition into a fine work of art.

When they spoke, the horse grew quiet. His eye softened. He lowered his head and took a breath and a lick.

They could accomplish in quick order what others couldn’t, no matter how much time.

Where have all the horsemen gone?


Oh yes, there still are a precious few.

Men and women who know the breath, the timing, the heartbeat of the matter. Who can come in and whisper and in short order have the tiger tamed and eating out of their hands. Who know when to become big and explosive, but also when to immediately soften, breathe and reward.

But there are too many imposters in our modern-day-horsie world. Too many who learned to parrot empty behaviors and have somehow lost the ability to think for themselves and gather practical tools from real-life mentors—tools that work.

I remember the day when the seasoned older horseman or woman was the honored elite of every horse community. These were the mentors that us younger horse-addicts would look to for guidance.

How to keep a horse from biting? “Offer the prick of a hatpin or nail.” (Or what about the one using the “hot potato”?)

What to do about barn-sour tendencies or out-and-out refusals? “Make him more concerned about YOU than the object or direction of his fear.”


As a farrier, I’ve seen horses that were misunderstood or mistreated by farriers before me. (Actually this has improved over recent years from when I first began the craft in 1990. A good sign, I’d say, as things for horses seem to be improving.)

Inevitably the horse has a balance problem, usually on the hind end. And because the animal couldn’t lift his leg high enough and couldn’t balance properly, he was punished.

OK. Punish for striking, kicking, biting—but leave balance alone!

There are ways to accommodate. Work down lower, find a place that’s comfortable for your client, the horse. Cock up an ankle and turn your boot into the lowest makeshift hoof stand. Weld up a mini stand (mine is 9” tall). Get down on your knees.

My old uncle, Ink Knudson, a farrier for more than fifty years, had a trick with a leather shoelace that works wonders with an unruly horse.

Tie one end to the top ring (or knot) of the halter. Bring the lace around and into the mouth, leaving it loose enough so that the horse can tongue it, play with it, then bring it up and tie to the ring on the other side.

“He can’t think about two things at once,” Uncle Ink explains.

“He’ll try to spit out the string and forget about what you are doing.” (This method has helped me throughout the years.)


I’ve found that breathing really works. When the horse does anything close to what I’ve asked of him, I back off the pressure and take a big breath, softening my body and voice, making a long, impressive loose-lipped exhale.

The horse takes my lead, breathes, licks, lowers his head, and I know I’m in.

(Well, there was that mare on Molokai with the tendon-hitch to her hind end. She breathed and licked all soft and gentle—then hauled off and kicked me in the arm! I guess they’re exceptions to every rule.)

I weave back and forth, working my way closer into his range of acceptance, waiting for the heavy feeling of relaxation—the weight of the limb—that tells me he’s allowing me in.

Remember, I work with the feet, the same feet that either yield or strike, and the heavy weight tells me he’s not ready to strike. It’s an art, reading the horse and not getting killed.

(I was kicked in the head by a mule once, after I was done working—when by all means, it appeared I was “safe”. I had ignored my instincts that day. The mule had told me. But I made the mistake of listening to the trainer—and not the mule, and not my own gut. . .)


An older woman, a former client of mine, Sheila, had her own way of getting into a horse’s heart zone. She was the first one I’d seen with this approach, and it worked like magic.

Her grey Mustang mare, White Cloud, was apprehensive of me. I was in my shoeing chaps, this was my first time working with her, and the mare had plenty of previous issues with farriers.

Sheila went in to catch her up. White Cloud’s head rose, she backed away and turned slightly, ready to flee.

Sheila quietly, calmly—in slow motion—bowed her head, and then her body.

Low. Lower. Released. Relaxed.

Then she waited in that vulnerable bent position.

And then White Cloud looked at Sheila intently, stretched out her neck, took a breath and stepped slowly, softly forward, until she breathed her nostrils into Sheila’s hair.

Then ever-so-slowly Sheila lifted her body upright.

And they were one. Melded. Connected from the heart.

And the once-wild Mustang accepted Sheila as her own

(And then we went on to trimming her hooves. . .)


What a good reminder to the rest of us—to have the sense, the humility, to look up and seek out the Uncle Inks and the Sheilas and the breathing and the calmness that allows us humans to enter into the heart zone of the animals that we adore.

After all, our goal is a working relationship between ourselves and our horses. To participate in the joy of discovering, freshly, how to overcome obstacles—together.

Then the horsemen will continue their legacy. And the horses will whisper back in return.


Copyright 2013


April 4, 2013 · 1:03 pm