When Mike and Melissa McNally need work done on the hoofs of one of their six horses, they know exactly who to call.

Farrier Nick DiFranco, 41, has been pounding hot steel horseshoes for 16 years after serving as an apprentice for a local farrier, Mike Robare. DiFranco works with horses across Maryland and the surrounding states.

“It takes its toll on your body and is extremely physically demanding and can be dangerous when working with unruly and unpredictable horses,” DiFranco said “I hurt every day. Every farrier is going to have back problems.”

DiFranco has been around horses all his life.

“I was born with reins in my hands,” he said, and before becoming a farrier, he competed in horse jumping circuits and operated heavy equipment for a living.

Horseshoeing has been basically the same for centuries, DiFranco said. Most horses involved in competition or other forms of showing require shoes or trimming every four to six weeks in the summer.

“Summers are much busier as the horses hoofs tend to grow more then,” he said.

As far as his career goes, he said, “I’ll be doing this till my body says no.”

He has known farriers that have worked into their 70s. But he says he believes the skill is a dying art. New farriers are hard to find and he has tried unsuccessfully to find an assistant for some time.

“I do everything from shoe horses to miniature donkeys. On a busy day I can shoe 10-15 horses,” he said.

Horseshoes are used to protect the hoofs of the animals and sometimes correct deformed hoofs.

Melissa McNally, who has ridden horses since she was 6, competitively rides some of the horses DiFranco cares for on their Cardinal Ridge farm.

On Friday, DiFranco was on the farm to fit a Thoroughbred named Lamar with four new shoes and a clipping, which is similar to nail trimming. Lamar stood motionless as DiFranco went from one hoof to the next doing his craft.

Then it was off to the next job and more hot shoes and pounding on his heavy anvil.

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