By Cheryl Rodewig, The BayonetDecember 11, 2009
FORT BENNING, Ga. - Dave Wiggin Jr., a horseshoeing professional with more than 25 years of experience, shared some of his knowledge with Fort Benning Soldiers and families Saturday at the Hunt Club on Marne Road.
The former Marine said he offered the clinic free of charge because he wanted to help Soldiers and their families.
"This is my way to do something for my country," he said.
Clinic participants were able to ask Wiggin questions about their horses, and some even had their horses shoed by him.
"He gave us a $200 shoeing job for free," said SGT Randy Quarles, 209th Military Police Detachment, who owns two Morgans, Star and Haley, housed at the Hunt Club.
"I just got back from a deployment. I've been trying to get back into the rhythm of things, and anything that makes me feel like I'm going back home helps," said the Wyoming native. "I grew up on a ranch. Horses are my life. That's what I do. Any opportunity I get to learn more about that, it makes me feel like I'm kind of at home."
Wiggin shoed Star and helped Quarles shoe Haley, so he could learn how it's done.
"He shaped the shoe for me, and I was able to complete that task with no problem at all," Quarles said. "I'm a horseman - I have been my entire life - but I never really learned the horseshoeing aspect of it. (The clinic) was extremely informative. What I learned is the importance of taking care of your horse's feet. Horseshoeing, if you do it the correct way, you actually mitigate a lot of problems."
Quarles said he was appreciated Wiggin, who he considers "the best in his field," and enjoyed riding Haley after she was shoed.
"She was much, much smoother. It was night and day difference," he said.
Shoeing horses is a serious business, Wiggin said, since the horses' feet are a crucial part of the animal.
"Eighty-five percent of all lameness is from the coronary band to the ground, which is nothing but the hoof," he said. "Without the feet, you have no horse. If you'll just take and make that horse a little sore, nobody will have a trail ride for two weeks. So, I want to educate people so they have the knowledge about their horses' feet."
Army spouse Jen Owens said she attended the clinic to hear some of that knowledge from a "master farrier."
"I have two horses - they're quarter horses - and we move a lot," she said. "I always find it's difficult to find a good farrier. If your horse is not shod correctly, it affects everything, so you really need to find someone who's an expert or you might wind up with a lot of lameness issues."
Owens said her horses are too young for shoes, but after listening to Wiggin, she feels prepared for the shoeing experience down the road.
"I found it very educational," she said. "He explained things in a way I hadn't heard before. And I trust his credibility. When he was talking about the angles of the hoof, that's a very important concept I've not completely understood before he explained it. (Now,) I feel more confident that I would be able to assess whether or not a farrier is correctly working with my horses' feet. It's definitely a worthwhile investment of my time to have been out here to see what he's doing and hear what he has to say."
For more information about the Hunt Club, e-mail email@example.com. To send Wiggin a comment or question, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.