I have concluded that craziness is a prerequisite for being a farrier.
I just lost my farrier of the last nine months, a man I will simply identify as #2. A little bantam cock of a guy, he swaggered and talked a good line. Addicted to neo-con talk radio, he assailed us with his extremist right-wing views. Radio blaring, voices screaming, and tongs hammering: this is the auditory experience I came to expect from #2.
Generally #2 did a good job on my horse's feet except for the time he hot-nailed Beau. I was assured that even the best of farriers sometimes miss, so I chalked it up to bad luck. Beau had a bit of an abscess, but got over it soon enough. I didn't appreciate the vet bill resulting from #2's mistake, nor did he offer to help defray the additional costs. This didn't seem quite right to me, but, again, I was told by knowledgeable horse people to suck it in, and so I did.
#2 dumped me and Mr. Beau last week, leaving a note to the effect that my horse had put him in a dangerous position where he could have been hurt. I'm still puzzling over that statement. First, Beau is in cross-ties, so just how mobile (and therefore dangerous) can he be? Second--and more to the point--previous farriers and vets have all commented on Beau's easy-going and gentlemanly behavior. He normally stands stock still. Jim Lewis, my vet, calls Beau "the saint" and never ceases to marvel at his docility, no matter how uncomfortable the medical procedure. If Beau did misbehave, then I'm suspicious of #2's handling of this normally cooperative creature.
I have since learned that #2 left a similar missive for a woman at another barn two miles down the road. The likelihood that both of our horses suddenly chose this moment to behave badly is, to put it mildly, slim. The weather is stinking hot and humid, and most of the horses look half-dead. July and August in the greater Washington area is not conducive to frisky, mischievous behavior. #2 also won't return the messages left by another woman at my barn, nor did he indicate a date for a return visit. Do I smell I rat?
I suspect that #2 simply doesn't want to drive down to Damascus any longer given the cost of gas. He has a huge truck and hauls an enormous trailer, replete with forge and heavy instruments. I'd be surprised if he gets 5 miles a gallon. Why not simply say so? Why leave bizarre notes about horses behaving badly?
#2's odd manner of jettisoning clients is rivaled by the disappearing act of #1, a farrier whose brilliance was matched only by his equal strangeness. More interested in playing blues than shoeing horses, he handpicked clients, limiting appointments to a few each week. I was warned by my former trainer Carol that he sometimes went AWOL--he disappeared after shoeing her horse for several years--and her words proved prophetic. An appointment rolled around; I waited dutifully; and #1 never showed up. Successive calls were in vain. For whatever reason, I was expunged from his practice. Did he go on a bender? Did he throw out his back, a chronic complaint for this mercurial personality? Did he give up blacksmithing for the blues? I'll never know.
So now I gird myself to meet #3 on Sunday, a man who is reputed to practice yoga in the aisles between appointments and evidently expects his clients to hold their horses during shoeing while praising his mighty efforts. Sigh.
I keep thinking of some women I met at a little barn down in Harwood who were so desperate to lure a particular farrier out of retirement, they plied him with gift baskets and very good single malt whiskey. As one of them remarked to me, "Farriers are the rock stars of Anne Arundel County." And, it would seem, of Montgomery County, Baltimore County, Howard County and just about everywhere else. Much more of this, and I'm going to think about attending blacksmithing school.