AIKEN --- Watching Doug Eidenier shoe a horse is a lesson in agility, focus and finesse. The master farrier's body language with the horse is firm, yet soft as he squats over the hoof, holding it between his thighs to pry off the old shoe to clip, clean and file away the gunk before nailing in the new.
One wrong angle and the horse could be sore for weeks, or worse, lame.
"I have to know the anatomy, the confirmation, the leg structure, veins -- I just about have to be like a veterinarian," he said.
Keeping a horse in top shape comes down to what's on the bottom of their hooves. As the only master educator in South Carolina with the Brotherhood of Working Farriers Association, Eidenier can be credited with keeping horses in their best form as a piece of his art is passed on to students. More than 100 have passed through his South Carolina Horseshoeing School just outside of Couchton since he opened it more than 10 years ago.
Eidenier's work was also recognized last fall when he was inducted into the BWFA's Hall of Fame.
"I was flabbergasted," he said with a smile. "I never thought nothing about it and then they announced my name. The 10 board members voted on it and put me in."
Even after 44 years in the business, Eidenier still remembers the kickers and the winners. He's made shoes for trail horses with size 2 feet and Clydesdales with size 8s.
Although he grew up watching his father race thoroughbreds, he didn't think of joining the field as a master craftsman until two years into junior college. Already having basic knowledge of a horse's anatomy and the know-how to handle them, he enrolled in horseshoeing school in Illinois.
His work has taken him all over the East Coast and, because shoes need to be replaced every six weeks, Eidenier stays busy in Aiken.
An hour and 15 minutes is all he needs to create four shoes and outfit his next customer. After years in the business, much of his work is eyeballing and feeling the angles and grooves of a hoof to get the right fit.
"It's like a body. There has to be good blood flow and the feet have to be balanced," he said.
"You want a little bit of flexibility because it's got to give and break over their toe since two-thirds of their body weight will fall to the front."
The job has also kept the 65-year-old in shape.
He jokes that he can't retire because the job keeps his blood pressure in check.
"The doctor says to keep doing what I'm doing because it keeps me going," he said.