Ancient Craft

Scott Button is one of a rare breed these days — he makes his living as a farrier. And what he does each day is almost exactly what “shoers” have done for many centuries. The only real difference between now and the time of the Crusades is that his forge is fired with gas instead of coal, and his horseshoes and tools are made of steel rather than iron. Button, an Alton resident, says it’s a great privilege to carry on the long tradition of farrier work: “It connects me with a craft passed down for centuries, from one horse shoer to the next.”Why do horses need shoes — they seem to do OK in the wild without them.

Many horses need shoes because they need protection, support and traction for the activities their riders ask of them. Various disciplines of riding will require different types of horseshoes — traction shoes for jumpers, light shoes for race horses and heavy traction shoes for some draft horses.

Is a farrier the same as a blacksmith?

Blacksmiths typically focus on making ornamental iron work and general repairs and fabrication of steel, whereas farriers focus on shoeing horses and making horseshoes. However, there have been times in the history of our country when the village smithy did both and he was called the blacksmith.

How long have farriers been around?

The ancient Celtic people may have been the first to use nailed shoes. The first written record of horseshoes was in 910 AD, and it appears shoeing horses became typical during the Crusades around 1096–1270 AD. In 1356, The Worshipful Company of Farriers was established in London, England.

Why did you become a farrier?

I enjoy horses and working with my hands. Horseshoeing allows me to be involved in the highly skilled craft of forging steel to aid horses in their athletic demands.

Do you think farriers will go the way of high-button shoes one day?

I think there will be a need for farriers for many years to come. There have been many new materials and methods put forth in the industry, but the old reliable horseshoe is still the most dependable method of giving a horse protection, support and traction for their hooves.

Ever been kicked?

Yes, a few times. Fortunately, I’ve never received serious injuries, but I know farriers that have.

Is it true that horseshoes bring you good luck?

That’s a superstition that goes back many years in Europe and Great Britain.

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