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In pictures: An age-old profession that won't gallop away

A farrier shows how horseshoes are forged and fitted

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For nearly 30 years, Leon Bergen has been fitting shoes on horses. It’s a craft he went to school to master, to become what’s known as a farrier. The image of someone standing over a hot forge, casting steel to fit a horse’s hoof was commonplace 100 years ago, but Mr. Bergen says there are more farriers out there now than most people think.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

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“There are still many horses all over and they still got to get their feet looked after,” he says. Mr. Bergen says there is a horseshoeing school in the Fraser Valley, B.C., one in Cloverdale, B.C., and many scattered across Canada and the United States.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

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On a sunny afternoon at Hastings Racecourse in Vancouver, Mr. Bergen goes through the fitting process. With a pair of tongs, he heats up a steel horseshoe using a propane forge. The premade horseshoes he uses come in all shapes and sizes, but Mr. Bergen must shape the shoe to the exact specifications of the hoof to get a perfect fit. After heating up the shoe, Mr. Bergen takes it over to an anvil he uses as sturdy base. Then he shapes the shoe, using what’s called a shaping or rounding hammer.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

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But the process is more intricate than simply shaping the horseshoe. He also has to trim the horse’s hoof. He uses a tool called a nipper, which essentially nips off the bottom edge of the wall of the hoof as well as the adjoining sole. A tool called a rasp is used to file the hoof.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

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Mr. Bergen checks on the repair made to a horseshoe before attaching the hammered-out shoe to the horse. Racing horses wear aluminum shoes that are much lighter than steel, and these type of shoes can be cold-moulded with a hammer. Heavier steel shoes, such as the one Mr. Bergen is working with, are used for riding horses because they don’t wear as easily.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

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Mr. Bergen then places the horseshoe onto the hoof and hammers tiny nails through small holes in the horseshoe to keep it in place. It is a delicate process: “You’re working with the dead part of the foot, but you have to know what parts you can work with and what parts you need to leave alone,” he said.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

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