When Blacksmiths & Farriers Were One & the Same
By Nancy Lee Badger for History Undressed Aug. 1, 2013
The moment I decided that the hero in my third book in my Highland Games Through Time series was a blacksmith/farrier, I was in trouble. Research would only get me so far, so I found some help (thanks Brooke McIntosh!) Why the two terms today? A blacksmith is a metalsmith. He/she uses heat to make objects out of steel or wrought iron that is hammered, bent, or cut, to create railings, light fixtures, furniture, sculpture, tools, or weapons. A farrier specializes in hoof care; trimming and balancing a horse’s hooves, and fitting them with metal shoes. A farrier combines blacksmith skills and veterinarian’s skills, since they know the anatomy and physiology of a horse’s lower limbs.
Historically, the jobs of farrier and blacksmith were practically synonymous. I decided not to use the term farrier in my books as many people have never heard the term. My hero, Jake Jamison, is a modern day farrier who also works with wrought iron to make decorative household items. When he volunteers at Scottish Highland games and festivals, he plays the part of a 16th century blacksmith. Jake makes horseshoes and nails with a coal-fired furnace, or forge. Forging is actually the process in which metal is shaped by hammering, and the techniques employed are called drawing down, bending, shrinking, upsetting, punching, swageing, and forge welding. These operations generally employ hammer and anvil.
Tools used in caring for a horse’s limbs that are in use today, and mainly machine-made, are the punch, clinch cutter, shoeing knife, nipper, nailing hammer, rasp, clincher, and the shoeing apron. Items used today that are still very similar to those used historically are the hammer, hoof knife, fire tongs, and hand-cranked forges.
Here is an excerpt from MY RELUCTANT HIGHLANDER where Jake is shoeing his horse in his barn in present-day New England:
The barn door creaked open.
He glanced up. Dust motes floated in the slight breeze created by the open door. A shadow walked toward him with slow, careful steps.
“Jake? May I enter?”
“Sure, but why are you out of bed?” Reluctantly, he shook away the image of her wet, naked body and straightened. Balfour’s partially nailed hoof hit the barn floor with a thud.
“Ye see before ye, an early morning riser. As such, I wanted to meet yer beasts.”
Feigning checking on his horse, he followed Skye’s slow progress from the corner of his eye. She walked closer, and he stifled an urge to tell her she ought to rest. She would refuse to listen to his opinion about anything, so he bit his tongue.
The early morning sunlight illuminated her like a halo. The bright light painted the outline of her black hair with silver tips. With her face in shadow, he was unable to read the weariness or pain she might still suffer.
Instead, he turned his attention back to Balfour. He shoved the animal’s hip, cradled his hoof between his thighs, and listened.
Her steps crunched across the hay-littered wood floor. He knew the moment she stopped at Dara’s stall.
“A magnificent garron. What be his name?”
“Her name is Dara. Careful. She bites.” As if to emphasize Jake’s warning, the animal’s dark brown mane shook as Dara threw her buff-colored chest against the stall gate.
Jake peeked under Balfour’s chest. Amazingly, Skye laughed and patted Dara’s nose. Relief washed over him, when she backed away and continued toward him.
Silence filled the sturdy barn, except for the snips of the grooming scissors, as he trimmed Balfour’s fetlock. The elderly gelding snickered as he begged his owner for attention from someone other than its owner.
“You are a spoiled brat, Balfour,” he whispered, leaning against the horse for balance.
Skye walked closer, and the aroma of wildflowers and fresh grass replaced the familiar smell of horse, hay, and brisk morning air. His body tightened, and his thighs tensed. The horse whinnied.
“Easy, Balfour. Almost done, big boy.”
Her laugh reached his ears like a low, sweet sigh of pleasure.
Jake’s body hardened to stone so fast, he dropped the horse’s hoof on his boot.
In contrast, here he is when Jake finds himself in a 16th century Scottish castle:
Smoke rose from a center hole, filling Jake with the familiar scent of a blacksmith’s coal-fired furnace. When he glanced at the stone building’s thatched roof, he shuddered. Memories of the castle’s huge barn, going up in smoke in record time, stole his breath.
I almost lost Bull.
The young lad started to introduce him to the smithy’s assistant, a boy no more than thirteen, then glanced up at Jake. “I doona’ know yer name, my lord.”
“I’m Jake Jamison,” He told both youngsters.
“Are ye not a lord? Ye live at the castle.”
He chuckled, then grabbed a pair of thick gloves and a crude apron he spied on a workbench.
“I’m a blacksmith. I feel right at home,” Jake said. Slamming a hammer against red-hot iron would go a long way, to help him forget.
The boys stood, open-mouthed, as the iron morphed into the semblance of a rustic sword. When sweat poured down his face, he threw off his shirt, adjusted the apron, and continued. After he thrust the hot iron into the water barrel, memories of his work at the Highland games made him hesitate.
The first excerpt shows his farrier talents, and the second is more representative of a blacksmith. Hope this helps.
Skye Gunn has spent the last five years trying to forget the blacksmith who followed her back to 16th century Scotland, to help fight evil. Sending Jake Jamison home against his will was a disastrous mistake. Stealing his heart was not part of the plan. Jake must share his secret, Skye must give her heart fully, and both must dare to love in the time they have.
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More About Nancy Lee Badger
She loves chocolate-chip shortbread, wool plaids wrapped around the trim waist of a Scottish Highlander, the clang of broadswords, and the sound of bagpipes in the air. After growing up in Huntington, New York, and raising two handsome sons in New Hampshire, she moved to North Carolina where she writes full-time. Nancy is a member of Romance Writers of America, Heart of Carolina Romance Writers, Fantasy-Futuristic & Paranormal Romance Writers, Triangle Area Freelancers, and the Celtic Heart Romance Writers. Nancy and her family volunteer each fall at the New Hampshire Highland Games, surrounded by…kilts!
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