The successful maintenance and operation of any military horse unit required the services of a competent farrier and saddler. A farrier was a blacksmith that specialized in shoeing horses and was assigned to each company of dragoons. The saddler was a leathersmith that repaired the tack (saddles, bridles, halters, etc.) and various types of harness which became damaged through normal use. At small military installations, like Fort Scott, the Post Saddler was normally assigned to the Quartermaster Department because the volume of repairs was not sufficient to justify having a saddler assigned to each company.
The proper shoeing of the horses was essential in keeping the animals healthy and available for whatever duty was required. The farrier made or prepared an individual set of four horseshoes for each animal. Different sizes of mass produced horseshoes were purchased by the Quartermaster Department and shipped to Fort Scott. Contrary to popular belief, the farrier did not completely produce every horseshoe. The farrier selected the most compatible size and prepared (adjusted) the shoes to fit the horse's hoofs. If commercially produced horseshoes were not available or corrective shoeing was necessary, an experienced farrier could make the entire shoe from a single piece of iron. Each horse was different and the growth of its hoof determined how often the horseshoes had to be removed and reset. The horseshoes were normally reset once every five to six weeks. When the horseshoes were worn out they were often made into hook picks, hooks, or other useful items. If a horse was improperly shod, it became lame or permanently crippled.
Before the dragoons participated in an expedition, campaign or long march, the Company Farrier supplied each soldier with an extra horseshoe and nails. These were carried by the dragoon in his right holster for emergency use in the field if his horse lost a shoe. On large or long expeditions a traveling forge (portable blacksmith shop) was transported in a specially constructed wagon which was part of the Regimental Quartermaster Department.
The information for this section was taken from the Historic Furnishing Report for The Dragoon Stables by Sally Johnson Ketchum and from an article in Fort Scott's files called Horses of the United States Dragoons.
Last updated: July 25, 2016