Sunday, October 23, 2011

Cover Story: Putting the Horses Back Into Horseshoeing.

   A considerable segment of the horse owning public, especially the barefoot horse enthusiasts, seem to think farriers are preoccupied with beating on iron and playing in fire.

   They might just have a point.

         The farriers on FaceBook and the F&HRC post a multitude of pictures showing off their hand-forged horseshoes of all types.  Fullered, swedged, concave, straight bar, heartbar, whip-across, onion heels, trailers, patten shoes, etc., etc.  And darned if there isn't some beautiful work on display.

   And the ability to properly form horseshoes (whether forging from bar stock or modifying keg shoes) is indeed essential to good farriery.  These skills are certainly worthy of praise and admiration...

   But they're ultimately only a means to an end...  And that end is a sound, useful horse.

   When I started the lexicon project with the Pocket Dictionary, my only practical choice for the cover design was black ink on a light-colored background.  In the years since then, mass-printing tech has given publishers more options, including full-color covers on most books.

   Many recent horseshoeing books take advantage of this with photographic covers.  The most common theme seems to be brightly glowing shoes, flames, and sparks.  Guys hammering-away at the anvil are popular.  Tools, shoes, radiographs, and diagrams...

   Conspicuous by their absence are HORSES.  Very few horses are seen on these covers, except maybe the parts of the critters unavoidably included in pictures centered on the farrier and the shoe he's burning or nailing-on.

   Forgework is just the most obvious thing that distinguishes the serious, professional farrier from the Cheap John shoer.  So it's natural that farriers, and authors writing about the trade, would focus on it.  Even to the point of omitting the horses from the shoeing picture.

   I'm familiar with many of these authors and their work, and know full-well that they are aware that there's more to horses than nailing iron onto their feet.  Most include relevant horsemanship and care in their writing.

   It's just a sort of subliminal effect that the lack of horse images has...  Of course, it's not just horseshoeing books.  Even the logos of the farrier organizations tend to be horseless.  Bar shoes, anvils, tools...  The GPF features at least part of a horse in the logo.

   Of course, Millwater's Farriery features the usual hot steel, sparks, and smoke on the cover...  Along with the common feature of diagrams and some tools...  But I made a conscious effort to "horsey" it up a bit.  A reminder that all the forgework, tools, technical study, and smoke exist to serve sound, working horses like those featured on the cover.

   It was also a chance to give some of our four-legged favorites, past and present, a bit of a cameo.

   By the way, the trade paperback proofs have been approved, and the hardcover proofs should arrive tomorrow or the next day.  The official release is coming soon!

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