Retiring Hannover farrier leaves clients' hooves in good hands
By Annette Tait
“This lady pulled in in a big 4-wheel drive pick-up. It looked like a shoeing vehicle, but she didn’t look like a farrier. She’s got gray hair, she’s got it up in a French twist, I’m thinking, ‘we’ve got all sorts of mixed signals here’.”
If it weren’t for the hair color and style, one might think Hannover farrier Endine Karges had just described herself, not the woman farrier she apprenticed under. At about 5 feet, 5 inches tall and with a petite build, Endine doesn’t look like the stereotypical horseshoer most people envision.
But as soon as Endine starts “talking horse,” it’s clear she’s the type of farrier every horse owner should want working on their animals. She knows horses inside and out, literally – their skeletomuscular systems, conformation, and movement. And how to make sure their hooves – the very foundation of that movement – are healthy and shaped according to the individual animal.
Becoming a farrier wasn’t a childhood dream, even though Endine practically grew up on horseback. A member of the sixth generation raised on a century ranch near Keene, her family used horses to work their cattle.
“We used our horses for everything,” Endine said. “It’s Badlands country, you can’t get in there with a 4-wheeler to get what you need to get done.”
The ranch horses didn’t need a farrier, as the work naturally wore their hooves and kept them at a healthy length. Endine hadn’t seen a farrier work until they bought a horse that was shod, and had to have the shoes pulled.
“I thought nothing at that point about farrier work,” she said.
Then Endine moved to South Dakota to train horses.
“When you ride in the Black Hills every day, there is rock and sand,” she said. “You can’t keep them barefoot for too long.”
She described several farrier visits that, now, she sees as examples of how not to shoe a horse.
“It took him all afternoon to shoe two horses,” she said of one horseshoer who came out. “But I didn’t know apples from beans at that point.”
Her employer continued his search for a good farrier, trying several before giving Endine the phone number that would start her on her future path.
“He told me, ’This is the farrier I want you to use next time,’” Endine said. “I asked, ‘What’s his name?’ He said ‘Ellen,’ I thought he said ‘Alan’.”
As it turned out, Ellen had been working part-time as a farrier for 30 years. She was an English teacher who shoed horses in the afternoons. And she took a completely different approach from the farriers who had been out before.