The Amish farrier

As Ira discussed yesterday, Amish work a lot.  Selling books in Amish communities, I’d often come across Amish in the middle of some task.  If you show up at an Amish home and want to talk to the residents, odds are you are going to be interrupting some chore or job.  I quickly learned which tasks I could politely interrupt and which ones were best to leave be.

amish workshops farrierThe Amish farrier was one of the guys I would definitely leave be.  If I came by and he was at work, it was always a come-back-later situation.

If you’ve ever seen anyone do this job, it’s easy to understand why.  You’re straddling the leg of a thousand-plus-pound beast, sweat pouring down, and probably assuring yourself many future chiropractor visits thanks to the prolonged Quasimodo hunch the job requires.  It’s git-r-dun, because Mr. Horse doesn’t wanna wait.

Amish Workshops is featuring an article which is about the best explanation I have seen of the work these men do.  The piece follows Marlin, a farrier in a southern Michigan Amish community.  An excerpt:

A horse’s hooves are similar to our finger nails and must be trimmed occasionally, so he cut off the excess sole growth (the dead stuff), exfoliating the hoof. Watching him work around the tender parts of the hoof was more than a little nerve-wracking; his skill and confidence were evident as he deftly cut away old, dead material while the horse calmly stood by.

Read the rest at Amish Workshops, complete with some nice photos of the process (including a great shot of a custom Amish “farrier cart”).

Photo credit: Amish Workshops

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    1. Richard

      talking about Amish Shops....

      I was fortunate recently of being able to tour a Amish hat maker in Lancaster Pennsylvania. This little shop was right next to the family home right on the farm, it was not really easy at first in getting such a tour mind you. But what a really nice man this was after we broke the ice and i was able to relax and just have a conversation with him………….. I also have a first and i think only interview with a woman who converted to the old order Mennonite church posted today (Friday) on Amish Stories, so feel free to come by and read her story of why she did it !. Richard from

    2. Alice Aber

      Wow, that is one job I don’t think I could handle. Takes a lot of work to keep a horse in good shape,,,, and the buggy!!

      Blessings, Alice

    3. JP59

      Great piece and photos! A good farrier (Amish or English) is worth his weight in gold. There’s a tremendous amount of “art” in what they do, and since horses live on their feet, it can have a huge impact on a horse’s health.

    4. Farriers

      I wanted to be a farrier when I was young! Our neighbours had horses, and I loved to sit on the fence (silently)and watch the farrier work. I even looked into applying to farrier school. My parents discouraged this, probably fearing for my life. I have a young friend, no bigger than me -that is, petite – who has been working professionally as a natural hoof technician for almost a decade. This is an alternative to shoeing. The hoof itself is trimmed to properly support the weight of the horse, without iron shoes. It is promoted as causing less damage overall, and preventing some of the common ailments horses got from having horseshoe nails used in the hoof. When I have horses, I hope to learn to do this myself. I can see that horses who are under heavy loads and often on pavement will need shoes, but I’m going with the idea that since wild horses don’t, it would be better if pastured and trail-ridden horses aren’t shod. I trim the goats’ hooves myself, but there is a lot of difference between managing a hundred pound buck and a 1000+ pounds of muscly horse.

    5. Richard

      If you dont know what your doing you could do some damage to the horse. I watched an Amish craftsman work on a horse, and thats what they really are “craftsman”. Richard from

    6. OldKat

      Oh my aching back ...

      In 1983 I was in the Amish community near New Willmington, PA when I saw this sign in front of a small shop; “Horse Shoer and authorized Honda dealer”. I thought this ought to be pretty good so I dropped in. Unfortunately, though the shop was completely open there was no one about. There was, however, a sign above a work table that read: “If I shoe a man’s horse for him I expect him to lissen to me”. I have pondered that for many years. Who was supposed to “lissen”; the horse or its owner?

      I have trimmed my own horses feet since I was about 14; first because I couldn’t afford to have someone else do it for me and later because I can’t find anyone that is willing to come trim hooves on draft horses or, if they will, do a job that I am satisfied with. When you tell the average farrier in my area (we have 35 in our county that claim to be a full time farrier) that you want them to trim hooves and/or shoe a draft horse they look at you like you just asked them to drink strychnine; their eyes get big and they start shaking their heads side to side; “I don’t do draft horses”. Funny thing and maybe it is because of my height, (6’4”), but I find my drafters to be much easier to trim than the saddle horses we have owned. I can get up under them much easier. A 16 hand plus drafter has a lot more clearance off the ground than the Quarter type horses we have owned. I do find that that the black hooves of my Percherons get much harder than the white hooves of my daughters saddle horse. I have been soaking the floor of their stalls daily to help keep their hooves softer during this third year of unbelievable drought here. Trying to clip the wall of their hooves when it is this dry is like trying to cut steel rebar with a pair of finger nail clippers!

      BTW: Magdalena, I do a “natural” trim on my horses’ hoofs too. I agree with you and keep them barefoot because we seldom ever do road work, at least not on paved roads. That is the only trim I have ever done, and was kind of surprised when that became a big deal some 12 to 15 years ago. I looked into it and was amused to learn that what was being advocated was exactly what I had been doing all along. I guess I was ahead of my time and didn’t know it.

    7. Slightly-handled-Order-man

      You learn something new every day, don’t you? I didn’t know what a farrier was. I see blacksmiths at work quite a bit, but didn’t know there was a specific name for the person tasked for cleaning horses “toes”.

    8. Richard

      There is even a Amish “mobile” farrier in Lancaster county that i had the pleasure of talking with this past winter, and he had let me take some pictures of his equipment and a distant picture of him working on a horse. And because of the fact that he’s doing this “mobile” business driving to his customers on horse and buggy he’s doing pretty well with it. When i met up with him he’s was already on the job outside of where his Amish customer was working, and working on his horse. He was filling a need and being innovative at the same time. Richard from

    9. Farriers and horse health

      Shom, same here. I enjoy learning from our resident horse pros like Oldkat and Magdalena. “Natural hoof technician” is an awesome job description…these posts bring home how important doing the job well is to a horse’s health.

      Oldkat, 35 farriers in one county, boy that sounds like horse heaven! I interviewed one for my book, but now I realize I don’t have a great sense of how many service your average Amish community. Though based on how many I ran into while selling books, if I had to guess I’d probably say about the same number as carriage shops–1 or 2 in small communities, many more in the larger ones. Though there’s a difference between full-time and part-time of course.

    10. Lissa

      It is truely an art! I used to work on a horse ranch and help shoe the horses. You have to really know how to handle horses. I used to get bit sometimes yikes! Lissa

    11. C.C

      I would love to read all about the Amish. Non-fiction of course. If someone could give me titles, that would be great. Then I can go to the library.

    12. The Amish culture certainly understand the value of working with one’s hands.

    13. Ron Keller


      I am a retired truck driver worked for a few amish farriers when driving was slow. when i lost my job 2010 went to work with amish as a driver also done some pulling and driltex with torch.then my wife got sick with Ms and had to take off here and there ifelt so badas a christan as i let him down because he had no driver it was how he made a living fo his family isure needed the work i do nt know how to explain to him i am sorry sure would like to work as a helper again if you know of any fellows looking for a helper i would apreciate it . they could e-mail me THKS RoN