Spring arrived on March 20th, well according to the calendar anyway. I have been looking forward to this date for weeks. Naively, year after year, I imagine that the transition between winter and spring would carry with it a magical wand of warmer weather. But here on the ranch in Northwest Montana that magical wand leans on the seasonal wall quite a bit past the March 20th date. Over the past couple of weeks, there has been a few days of snow and freezing rain, but fortunately not enough to throw a scarf around your neck and wear heavy gloves. There have been other days when the sun burns bright and spring seems well on its way causing the snow to melt, creeks to rise and birds of many kinds to return to their summer home.
With the change of winter to spring, comes many changes at the ranch- from coats to shoes. Our herd of horses are now shedding their winter coat requiring layers and layers of grooming. With the snow melting, bare ground exposed and trails to ride, most all of the horses need a full set of shoes (some of the retiredhorses only need a front set). This past week, our farriers were busy forming shoes, hammering nails and assessing each foot as they went about their work – all under the guidance and counsel of master farrier Tommy Kilgore who comes to the ranch every six weeks, except in the deep lull of winter. To Tommy, shoeing a horse in not just about nailing metal to hoof, but in balancing the whole horse. Each foot is studied to get the end result of overall balance in the horse. This requires sharp mental focus, stamina and a great deal of patience. Under Tommy’s master craftsmanship, the ranch horses have had far less injuries and look and feel better overall.
After all the horses were shod or trimmed, you could see the pride in our farriers’ posture, the tiredness in their eyes and the smiles on their faces for a job well done. As for all the horses that still need another few layers of hair brushed away, well…that is another matter. That job will continue on for a few more weeks. But, by the middle to late spring, they will have shed out their fluffy long hair and grown shiny, slick coats.