Frans discovered he had an endless supply of horse tales to tell.
When Maungaturoto farrier Frans Jansen decided to write a book about his experiences shoeing horses he discovered he had a surprising amount of material.
The horses he has dealt with, together with their owners, provided him with a colourful cast of characters to write about in his book: Of Horses and Men – true tales from a rural New Zealand farrier.
Frans says each time a strange or amusing incident happened while shoeing he worried that he would forget it and the episode would be lost forever. So he began snatching moments during morning tea and lunchtime to write down snippets of his experiences. Each new story sparked memories of earlier stories, and he began writing them down, too.
In the end, he had enough to fill 280 pages, with 30,000 words still left over.
Frans says different horses have different personalities and some can be extremely difficult.
“There are horses that successfully escape, kick you, bite you, piddle on you and poo on you,” he says.
Frans’ worst injury came when he was surreptitiously approached by one horse while he was shoeing another.
The newcomer swivelled around, let fly with its back legs and hit Frans in the face – breaking his nose and knocking him out cold.
“But there are other times you shoe a horse that goes on to win a race or a ribbon somewhere,” Frans says.
He adds that unlike a hairdresser, who only deals with one client at a time, a farrier has to successfully manage both the horse and its owner.
Frans says some owners sit back when a horse is behaving badly – expecting the farrier to discipline their horse as some parents expect others to
discipline their children.
“I say hang on – that’s your job,” he says.
But mostly he says the devotion and love required to look after a horse brings out the best in people.
“Take the young girl looking after her pony and being responsible for it and getting bucked off it a few times – it’s good for character building,” he says.
Frans has been shoeing horses for 25 years. The interest started shortly after arriving in New Zealand from the Netherlands and meeting his future wife, who kept horses. He began by shoeing her horses and then the horses of their children. Neighbours learned of his talent and began asking him to do the same for their animals, and things developed from there.
Frans says he loves the outdoors and working with his hands and being a farrier is the best job he has ever had.
“It makes me happy, it makes the horse happy and above all it makes the owners happy – it’s a triple whammy,” he says.
Strangely though, Frans does not care for riding horses.
“I admire anyone who rides a horse,” he writes in his book. “I don’t know how they do it. They are so high up in the saddle it seems a long way to fall if things go wrong. I feel much happier and safer with my two feet on the ground underneath a horse, shoeing and trimming their feet.”
Mahurangi Matters has one copy of Of Horses and Men to giveaway. To go in the draw, email your contact details to email@example.com. Competition closes on March 15.