beginning the was a need for a person to shape a new
Short History of the Term "Farrier"
© Tom Ryan, FWCF
The meaning of the term
"farrier" has changed dramatically over the centuries
from a horse doctor to a person who shoes horses. How
the change of usage came about isn't clear, and the
reason is probably lost in the mists of time. The few
remaining sources of information come mostly from old
Many people are often surprised by the volume of
treatments and remedies found in old farriery books and
the lack of information on horseshoeing. This is
because, historically, a farrier was a horse doctor. It
is only in the last hundred years that people who shod
horses began calling themselves farriers.
There are differing opinions on where the word "farrier"
originated. It is said that the term "farrier" has two
possible sources: From the Latin, faber ferrarius
(faber meaning craftsman and ferrarius
meaning metal), together literally means blacksmith.
In the begging there was a BLACKSMITH.
HISTORY of BLACKSMITHING
wrote - "Under the spreading chestnut tree, the
village smithy stands . . . " A staunch pillar
of the community respected and admired by all,
was the smith of our forefathers.
and venerable craft of blacksmithing lifted man
from the Stone Age. One of the oldest references
is in the Scriptures: Genesis, Chapter 4, Verse
22: "Tubal Cain, an instructor of every
artificer in brass and iron."
In the history of
the blacksmiths' art no period was richer in inventive
fancy than that of the Middle Ages. The European smiths
had a thorough understanding of the technicalities of
iron. During this period of the Middle Ages, both the
form and artistic workmanship of iron smithing was
brought to perfection. Even the common domestic items
such as the homely gridiron and the pothook could
compare with the elaborate hinge on a church door. Even
a nail head was a thing of beauty.
The medieval smith
made the chain mail for the soldiers of the Crusades,
the term "mail" means hammered. All the weapons of war -
armor, swords, maces, battle-axes, etc., were handiwork
of the Smith. These were made entirely with the hammer
and anvil, the pieces welded and riveted by manual labor
of the smith. The finishing work of engraving, chasing
and punching was also done by hand. Examples of the
elaborate art of smithing can be found in the 12th and
13th century churches of Europe - from the intricate
detail of the door plates, hinges, knockers, to the
window grilles and railings, to the yard fences and
gates on the church grounds.
On thru history the
smith plied his skills with metals. Anchors for the
sailing ships of Columbus; smiths forged the chain
across, the Hudson River to block the British fleet;
George Washington retired his troops to the "Valley of
the Forges" to repair his arms and equipment; -- events
which shaped the history of the United States.
Many great men of
history practiced the smithing trade. All of our tools,
machines, engines and horseless carriages originated in
the blacksmith shop. Mr. Studebaker was a blacksmith,
then a wagon maker, and in the early 1900's he started
building autos and trucks. Many specific trades or
crafts have evolved from the basic blacksmith skills of
Dollar & Wheatley's "Horse Shoeing and The Horse's
Foot," the authors state that Henry de Ferraris was
instructed by William the Conqueror to superintend and
encourage the art of farriery. Probably the people he
employed as animal doctors were only later called
farriers after their overmaster, and this could be the
most likely source of the term farrier.
The next reference to a
farrier is in 1356, when the mayor of the City of London
called together the farriers of London to form the
"Marshalls of the City of London" because of the "many
offences and dangers" committed by the farriers in and
around London. The term "marshal" comes from Old
Frankish marhshelk, literally horse servant.
A marechal was a man who had charge of the horses in
Norman France. The Normans brought their marechals to
England with them and the name soon became Anglicized to
The Great Fire of London
in 1666 caused great confusion to the livery companies
and was the reason that a new charter was sought from
Charles II. It was granted in 1674, setting up the
"Brotherhood of Farryers within our cities of London and
Westminster." The charter said there should be a master,
three wardens and not above twenty nor under ten
assistants. The charter named 49 persons as "farryers"
practicing within seven miles of the City of London. One
of the first three assistants was Andrew Snape who was
farrier to Charles II and author of the book, "The
Anatomy of the Horse." One key section of the charter
describes the power of the master, wardens and
assistants to search "with a constable or other lawful
officer in the day time only to enter into any shops,
cellars, stables, other suspected places within the said
cities, liberties, precincts, and places aforesaid,
there to search for, and find out all and every
misdemeanor and defective works and medicines to the
intent that due legal prosecution may be had and taken
against all and every such offenders." It is important
to note that the charter makes no direct mention of
In a testimonial by
George Daggett made in 1691 to the Company of Farriers,
Daggett said that three books were given to him by the
outgoing clerk named Strugnell, who surrendered the
books to him when he became clerk in 1679. The first two
books recorded accounts and apprentices going back some
forty years before the fire, while the third, a small
old book held "some few things of little concern." These
three surviving books of records, which may have
belonged to the original Marshalls of the City of
London, were all that survived the Great Fire of London.
The three surviving books were not at the house of a Mr.
Nicholls or his son's, which were both destroyed by the
fire but in some other place.
The documents, which
were lost in the three days of the fire, may well have
illuminated past centuries in the dark history of
The turning point for
the old practitioner farriers came about in the year of
1796 when on the 3rd of March the Adjutant General of
the Army, instructed by His Royal Highness the Duke of
York, asked the president of a standing committee of
officers which met in London to report on various
matters concerning the cavalry, including "the
veterinary collage and whether its instruction should
furnish the means to improve the present practice of
farriery," i.e., the treatment of diseases in horses.
In April, 1796, the
committee reported the following: "The Board having
taken into consideration the heavy loss of horses
continually accruing to the Cavalry from the total
ignorance of those who have at present the medical care
of them, as well as from the very inadequate allowance
for that Department, which precludes all possibility of
procuring persons better skilled in the knowledge of
farriery, are of the opinion that a veterinary college
may afford the greater improvement in this essential
part of the service...." Finally, on 24 May, 1796,
colonels of cavalry regiments were informed by the
committee on their plans to improve the practice of
farriery in the corps of cavalry, that "A person
properly educated and having received a certificate from
the medical committee of the Veterinary College shall be
attached to each regiment having the name of Veterinary
Surgeon, that the appointment is by warrant for not less
than seven years, and that the Veterinary Surgeon shall
have the same pay as a Quarter Master of Cavalry viz. 5s
6d per diem."
The committee was
puzzled by what name to give these novel recruits and
wished to differentiate between surgeons of men and
surgeons of horses. Being well grounded in the classics,
they chose to call them "Veterinary Surgeons." The term
"veterinary" comes from the Roman name for a hospital
for sick and wounded horses, called a veterinarian.
This is believed to be the original formation of the
title, "Veterinary Surgeon" (2).
In "The Horse," by W.
Youatt, New Edition 1843, Chapter XXI, "Shoeing," all
references to the person shoeing the horse are to the
"smith," e.g., (page 418): "The old shoe must first be
taken off. We have something to observe even here. The
shoe was retained on the foot by the ends of the nails
being twisted off, turned down, and clenched. These
clenches should be first raised, which the smith seldom
takes the trouble thoroughly to do...." Later the author
states, "The shoe having been removed, the smith
proceeds to rasp the edges of the crust." In the next
chapter, "Operations," the author starts with the words,
"These being more to the veterinary-surgeon than the
proprietor of the horse, but a short account of the
manner of conducting the principal ones (operations)
should not be omitted." During a discussion of the
practice of bleeding, the author states, "In cases of
inflammation, and in the hands of a skilful
practitioner, bleeding is the sheet-anchor of the
veterinarian; yet few things are more to be reprobated
than the indiscriminate bleeding of (sic.) The groom or
the farrier." It would seem that the author
differentiates between smith, veterinarian and farrier,
the latter being less skillful at bleeding the horse.
A book published in
1852, "Every Man His Own Farrier," gives a graphic
description of the work of a farrier from this age. In
the first chapter the author states that he has little
knowledge of horseshoeing except to say that all shoeing
smiths differ in their ways of working. The remaining
chapters make terrifying reading, covering the topics of
bleeding and purging of horses, seemingly to inflict
only pain upon the poor horse.
One of the first
references to horseshoeing in the Court Minutes of The
Worshipful Company of Farriers was on 11 January 1887,
213 years after its charter was granted, and stated:
"That a committee be now appointed to consider and
report whether it is desirable that the Company should
open a registry for the entry therein of the names,
addresses and ages of any Master and Journeymen Farriers
who shall pass a practical examination in the art of
making shoes and shoeing horses...." The Worshipful
Company's interest in horseshoeing was shown by the
offering of the freedom of the Company to prize winners
at horseshoeing competitions held in Nottingham on 10
July 1888, and with the introduction of the RSS
examination for shoeing smiths, first organized in 1891,
followed by the Associate ship in 1907 and the
Fellowship in 1923. By this time a farrier was
recognized as one who solely shod horses.
All the "treatments"
used by the early horse doctor/farriers seemed to hold
little scientific value and inflicted only misery upon
the horse. The practices described in the old farriery
books would have caused many secondary infections and it
is these practices, which brought farriery into such
disrepute time and time again through the ages. It was
the founding of the veterinary college, which signaled
the end of this old and cruel farriery. Perhaps as the
demand for medical advice shifted to the veterinary
surgeon, farriers turned to shoeing horses or
horseshoers offered remedies to the horse owners,
calling themselves smiths and farriers.
It is even feasible that the Worshipful Company of
Farriers of a hundred years ago, which had neglected its
duty to its profession for decades, concentrated only on
its own court and dinners - and woke up too late to help
the animal practitioner.
How the transition from
"horse doctor" to "shoeing smith" to "farrier" really
took place, I'm not sure, but took place it surely did.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A bronze sculpture depicting a farrier at
A much more common farrier's posture and
is a specialist in
equine hoof care, including the trimming and
balancing of a horse's hoof so as to fit
shoes to the horses foot. A farrier couples a subset
of the blacksmith's skills (fabricating, adapting, and
adjusting metal shoes) with a subset of
veterinary medicine (knowledge of the anatomy and
physiology of the lower limb) to address the care of the
At one time,
blacksmith were all but synonymous. A farrier's work
in Colonial America would have included horseshoeing as
well as the fabrication and repair of tools, the forging
of architectural pieces, etc. Today, farriers usually
specialize in horseshoeing, focusing their time and
effort on the care of the horses foot. For this reason
farriers and blacksmiths are considered to be in
separate, albeit related trades.
routine work is primarily hoof trimming and shoeing. In
ordinary cases it is important to trim each hoof so that
it retains its proper orientation to the ground. If the
animal has a heavy work load, works on abrasive footing,
needs additional traction, or has pathological changes
in the foot, then shoes may be required.
tasks for the farrier include dealing with injured
hooves and application of special shoes for racing,
training or "cosmetic" purposes. In cases of horses with
certain diseases or injuries, special reparative
procedures may be needed for the hooves, and then
special shoes may need to be constructed and fitted.
farrour, ferrer, OF. ferreor,
ferrier, LL. Ferrator, ferrarius equorum,
from ferrare to shoe a horse, ferrum a
horseshoe, fr. L. ferrum iron. Cf. Ferreous.]
THE evolution of the modern horse-shoe from the
primitive foot-gear for draught animals used in ancient
times furnishes an interesting subject for
investigation. Xenophon and other historians recommended
various processes for hardening and strengthening the
hoofs of horses and mules, and from this negative
evidence some writers have inferred that the ancients
were ignorant of farriery. It seems indeed certain that
the practice of protecting the feet of horses was not
universal among the Greeks and Romans. Fabretti, an
Italian antiquary, examined with care the
representations of horses on many ancient columns and
marbles, and found but one instance in which the horse
appeared to be shod; and in most specimens of ancient
art the iron horse-shoe is conspicuous by its absence.
But in the mosaic portraying the battle of Issus, which
was unearthed at Pompeii in 1831, and which is now in
the Naples Museum, is the figure of a horse whose feet
appear to be shod with iron shoes similar to those in
modern use; and in an ancient Finnish incantation
against the plague, quoted in Lenormant's "Chaldean
Magic and Sorcery," occur these lines:
depart; Plague, take thy flight. . . . I will give thee
a horse with which to escape, whose shoes shall not
slide on ice, nor whose feet slip on the rocks.
to the horse-shoe is made by early writers on veterinary
topics. But, on the other hand, there is abundant
testimony that the ancients did sometimes protect the
feet of their beasts of burden. Winckelmann, the
Prussian art historian, describes an antique engraved
stone representing a man holding up a horse's foot,
while an assistant, kneeling, fastens on a shoe. In the
works of the Roman poet Catullus occurs the simile of
the iron shoe of a mule sticking in the mire.
Contemporary historians relate that the Emperor Nero
caused his mules to be shod with silver, while golden
shoes adorned the feet of the mules belonging to the
notorious Empress Poppaea. Mention of an iron horseshoe
is made by Appian, a writer not indeed remarkable for
accuracy; but the phrase "brasen-footed steeds," which
occurs in Homer's Iliad, is regarded by commentators as
a metaphorical expression for strength and endurance.
Wrappings of plaited fibre, as hemp or broom, were used
by the ancients to protect the feet of horses. But the
most common form of foot covering for animals appears to
have been a kind of leathern sock or sandal, which was
sometimes provided with an iron sole. This covering was
fastened around the fetlocks by means of thongs, and
could be easily removed.
horse-shoes of peculiar form, which have been exhumed in
Great Britain of recent years, have been objects of much
interest to archaeologists. In 1878 a number of such
relics shaped for the hoof and pierced for nails were
found at a place called Caesar's Camp, near Folkstone,
England. In the south of Scotland, also, ancient
horse-shoes have been found, consisting of a solid piece
of iron made to cover the whole hoof and very heavy. In
the year 1653 a piece of iron resembling a horse-shoe,
and having nine nail-holes, was found in the grave of
Childeric I., king of the Franks, who died A.D. 481.
Professor N. S. Shaler believes that the iron horse-shoe
was invented in the fourth century, and from the fact
that it was first called selene, the moon, from its
somewhat crescent-like shape, he concludes that it
originated in Greece. But even in the ninth century, in
France, horses were shod with iron on special occasions
only, and the early Britons, Saxons, and Danes do not
appear to have had much knowledge of ferriery. The
modern art of shoeing horses is thought to have been
generally introduced in England by the Normans under
William the Conqueror. Henry de Ferrars, who accompanied
that monarch, is believed to have received his surname
because he was intrusted with the inspection of the
farriers; and the coat-of-arms of his descendants still
bears six horse-shoes.
On the gate
of Oakham Castle, an ancient Norman mansion in
Rutlandshire, built by Wakelin de Ferrars, son of the
first earl of that name, were formerly to be seen a
number of horse-shoes of different patterns.
is famous on account of the tenure of the barons
occupying it. Every nobleman who journeyed through its
precincts was obliged as an act of homage to forfeit a
shoe of the horse whereon he rode, or else to redeem it
with a sum of money; and the horse-shoes thus obtained
were nailed upon the gate, but are now within on the
walls of the castle.
are covered by memorials of royal personages and peers,
who have thus paid tribute to the custom of the county.
Elizabeth was thought to have initiated this practice,
though this opinion is incorrect. According to tradition
she was once journeying on a visit to her lord high
treasurer, William Cecil, the well-known Lord Burleigh,
at his residence near Stamford. While through Oakham her
horse is said to have cast a shoe, and in memory of the
mishap the queen ordered a large iron shoe to be made
and hung up in the castle, and that every nobleman
traveling through the town should follow her example.
usage prevails to-day, new shoes being proof shapes and
sizes chosen by the donors.
of Gaunt (1339-99), son of Edward III. of England, was
riding through the town of Lancaster, his horse cast a
shoe, which was kept as a souvenir by the townspeople,
and fastened in the middle of the street. And in
accordance with a time-honored custom a new shoe is
placed in the same spot every seven years by the
residents of Horse-Shoe Corner.
practical value of the horse-shoe is tersely expressed
in the old German saying, "A nail preserves a country;"
for the nail keeps in place the horse-shoe, the shoe
protects the foot of the horse, the horse carries the
knight, the knight holds the castle, and the castle
defends the country.
followiny story from Grimm's "Household Tales" (vol. ii.
p. 303) may be appropriate in this place, as
illustrating the same idea, besides pointing a moral.
had done a good business at the fair; he had sold his
wares and lined his money-bags with gold and silver.
Then he wanted to travel homeward and be in his house
before nightfall. So he packed his trunk with the money
on his horse and rode away. At noon he rested in a town,
and when he wanted to go farther the stable-boy brought
out his horse and said: "A nail is wanting, sir, in the
shoe of its left hind foot." "Let it be wanting,"
answered the merchant; "the shoe will certainly stay on
for the six miles I have still to go; I am in a hurry,"
In the afternoon, when he once more alighted and had his
horse fed, the stable-boy went to him and said, "Sir, a
shoe is missing from your horse's left hind foot; shall
I take him to the blacksmith?" "Let it still be
wanting," answered the man, "the horse can very well
hold out for the couple of miles which remain; I am in
haste." He rode forth, but before long the horse began
to limp. It had not limped long before it began to
stumble, and it had not stumbled Iong before it fell
down and broke its leg. The merchant was forced to leave
the horse where it was, and unbuckle the trunk, take it
on his back, and go home on foot. And there he did not
arrive until quite late at night. "And that unlucky
nail," said he to himself, "has caused all this
disaster." Hasten slowly.
AB Arab Flat Pad