While Ferrier Arts is actually a course of study offered at colleges these days, Oscar Lindholm learned to shoe a horse the old-fashioned way; during his days in the cavalry. And don't call him a ferrier. Born in 1916 at a Swedish settlement in Holmquist, South Dakota, when horse power, literally, was all the rage, Lindholm has been around horses his entire life. In 1936 he joined the U.S. 4th Horse Cavalry Machine Gun Troop Regiment at Ft. Meade, South Dakota, and it was there, 64 years ago, that he began shoeing horses and learning the craft of blacksmithing. Since then, he figures he's shod about 30,000 horses, only ever been kicked once and has never met a horse he couldn't shoe. These days, while Lindholm says he's busier than ever, he still finds time to do his own form of blacksmith art -- using old horse shoes to craft metal figures, candleholders, picture frames, fireplace sets, gun racks and just about anything else he fancies.
How did you come to start shoeing horses? I came in the army, horse cavalry, in February of 1936. In September of that same year, they sent me down to the stables to shoe horses. We had to practice for several weeks first, to learn to shoe horses well enough to pass inspection. One day I was in the shoeing shop, and just everything was going wrong. Being I'm a full-blooded Swede, I could swear pretty well in Swede and also in English. Anyway, I was having trouble fitting a shoe at the time and was swearing up a storm in both languages. At one point I happened to glance over in the direction of the doorway, and there stood the troop commander and the first sergeant. I don't know how long they'd been standing there, but just as I looked in that direction, the troop commander said, "Yeah, I guess he'll make a good horseshoer. He's got the right kind of language."
Do all horses need shoes? No. Shoeing a horse is a necessary evil if they are used enough. The hoof wears down faster than it can grow back, and then gets down to the sensitive part. But if they're just out in the pasture, that's a lousy thing to do to a horse. It's dangerous, because a horse could pull a shoe loose and injure the hell out of himself, and really ruin himself.
When did the cavalry come to an end? When I first started, we had over 700 horses in the regiment. In July of 1940, about half of our regiment mechanized. In 1943, the 1st Cavalry Division stationed in Texas turned in their horses. I think they were the last.
What was your biggest ride? Middle of the summer of 1938, we rode from just outside of Sturgis, South Dakota, to Cheyenne, Wyoming. Sagebrush, sand, rattlesnakes and sunshine -- that's what I remember. Hotter than hell. We rode about 30-35 miles a day. Got to Cheyenne, played war for a week or so, and turned around and started back. Over 700 of us. For me, the ride was cut short because my father died. I guess we didn't do much on that ride -- some training, but I know that was the last big cavalry ride for sure, before things were disbanded.
Do you like horses or people better? Well, horses. As I've always said, I'd rather die next to a horse than a doctor.