Farrier Lore: Laying down the hammer

Informant : “Horseshoe-ers when you lay your hammer down for the last time the only thing you have to look forward to is dying”


The informant is a kind, older, “cowboy” who has been working with horses and farm animals for his entire life. He is a Certified Journeyman Farrier (the highest level of certification by the American Farrier’s Association) and is very well respected in the farrier and greater equine community. He was born in Wichita, Kansas to a family that has been farmers for generations. In fact, the informant said that some of his family is still farming in “places like Oklahoma.” He shod his first horse when he was 13, and so he has been shoeing horses for about 51 years. * To “shoe” or  shod a horse is to put horse shoes on the horse’s hooves. Horses need to be shod about once every six weeks, so quality farriers are highly sought after in the equine community. A farrier is a very specialized and difficult profession because if a horse is shod improperly the horse could become crippled.* The informant learned of this lore from a fellow farrier during his many years in the trade.

When asked what the informant thought of the saying, he stated “…layin the hammer down. I used to think it was funny, but now, now I’m startin’ to believe it.” This particular lore is very relevant to the informant because he is “reaching that time when I’ll have to put my hammer down.” This saying indicates a right of passage. When the older and experienced farrier is going to retire, he will “lay his hammer down for the last time.”

The informant is very passionate about his profession and really enjoys working with horses, so I find that this is a somewhat depressing saying. Furthermore, having been born and raised in a society that avoids death and treats death as a taboo topic such a statement is disconcerting. We do not like imagining those we know passing away or acknowledging that they might.