FORT HOOD, Texas - On a narrow road off to the right, just before you enter the post's Bernie Beck Gate here, lies the 1st Cavalry Division Horse Cavalry Detachment, a place that has been keeping the traditions tactics, and horsemanship from the 1800s alive.
There are over 34 troopers who have a variety of jobs throughout the Horse Cav. Det. The troopers who, literally, help make sure hooves meet the ground are the horse farriers.
The farriers are an important part of the Horse Cav. Det. as they specialize in equine hoof care and play a vital role in keeping the horses healthy and fit for duty.
“Well, it’s a lot of pressure, because without their feet, we really can’t do our job out here. All the parades and walking on concrete, it’s a lot,” said Spc. Christian Giraldo from Houston. “If there’s no foot, there’s no horse.”
Being a farrier is like being a blacksmith, veterinarian and a horse whisper all wrapped up in one. They need to deeply understand horses, everything from trimming and shaping the hooves to shoeing them. It’s a dirty, sometimes dangerous job, but it’s one that the farriers of the 1st Cav. Div. Horse Cav. Det. wouldn’t trade for any other career in the Army.
“It’s working outside every single day, you know, I just love working with my hands, and being outside and you get to work with horses, too,” said Giraldo, who had never worked with horses before joining the detachment. “It’s a rare opportunity, so that’s what I saw it as, and I’m just really grateful I got the chance to be here and work with these horses.”
Giraldo explained that, like humans, each horse has a different shoe size, and with improper shoes, it can cause damage to the horse. He says a improper fit could have a negative impact on the horse’s health.
“We’ll shape that shoe exactly to the feet of every single horse,” Giraldo said. “Each horse has a different shape, ... that’s a very important part ... because you can’t just throw any random shoe on a horse, or mess with their feet, and they’ll start going wrong because they all have their own natural growth.”
Besides shoeing the horses, the farriers are also responsible for making shoes for the four mules in the detachment, which require special horseshoes due to their larger hoof size. To make the mule shoes, the farrier has to attach an additional piece of metal to extend the normal shoes to a longer U-shape.
Giraldo said being a farrier certainly isn’t a job for everyone. It takes a lot of care, a lot of maintenance and a lot of attention to detail. If done correctly, however, the payoff is worth the pain.
“It’s a very rewarding job,” he said, “because you get to see the great work that you did after and you get to see them running around. And ... just being in parades, and you get to see it, like wow, their feet look great. You know you did that.”