The farriers’ job was primarily hoof trimming and fitting horseshoes to Army horses. This combined traditional blacksmith’s skills with some veterinarian knowledge about the physiology and care of horses’ feet.
Most farriers were NCOs; the majority serving with artillery and cavalry regiments. One of their other tasks was the humane despatch of wounded and sick horses.
Indian Cavalry farrier, c1940
This gruesome object is a farrier’s axe dating from the early 19th century. It belonged to the Royal Horse Guards. The spike on the axe was used to put severely injured horses out of their misery as humanely as possible.
In order to account for all animals killed in action, the sharp axe blade was used to chop off the hoof of the deceased horse that was marked with the its regimental number. Army farriers still carry axes like this at ceremonial occasions – fortunately they do not use them anymore.
Farrier’s Axe, c1800-40
An Army farrier would have used these tools and nails to clean horses’ feet and change their shoes. Horses were expected to march long distances during wartime, sometimes up to 40 miles per day. Iron horseshoes wore out quickly, and usually had to be replaced once a month.
Farriery tools, c1890
This dress tunic was worn by Corporal Farrier Thomas Long, 5th Dragoon Guards, who served in the Boer War (1899-1902). The horseshoe on the sleeve of the tunic, embroidered in gold wire thread, instantly tells you that he worked with horses.
Corporal Farrier’s dress tunic, c1902