Fifth generation blacksmith shares secrets of his trade
Share this article:
Cape Town - James Le Roux is a rare find in Cape Town, being a fifth generation blacksmith and former mixed martial artist fighter who aims to educate youth to follow in his footsteps, teaching them the historic trade of hand-made horse shoes.
Le Roux has five young men under his apprenticeship and has 400 horses locally that are fitted with the iron shoes he makes.
Le Roux operates on a small holding in Joostenberg Vlakte which is owned by his girlfriend, Sasha Bentley’s, mother,Penny Bentley.
The farm is home to two riding horses named Zach and Warrior, nine dogs, cats and ponies.
Le Roux prides himself by being part of the South African Association of Professional Farriers.
He is a certified Journeyman Farrier and did shoeing in Dubai for Sheik Mohammed, the Vice-President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates in Dubai.
But it all came to an end when the global pandemic broke out and Le Roux was forced to return home where he began his own farrier company to look after local horses.
Shoeing horses is in the Le Roux blood and he claims he has never been away from a horse for more than four hours and has no off days, except for Christmas.
“When you are a farrier there are no off days, these guys (horses) do not know what off days are,” he said. “It's like you are married to the horses, I have only maybe spent four hours away from a horse. You were born to do this, it's been said to me.”
Le Roux was groomed to learn the historic trade of the blacksmith handed down by his great, great, great, great grandfather, Edward Alexander Wallace who drowned in 1891.
His other grandfathers also shared the same name.
“I believe in the old trade, teaching my apprentices how to build the tools and then hand making a horseshoe. I do not have a son, that is why I have Curan Schoeman who is my apprentice and there are four other young men here. Christian O’Connor is close to completing his apprenticeship and it's usually a three to four year learnership.”
Penny said Le Roux had been taking care of her horses’ shoes for the past six years.
“I just love being around horses, they have their own characteristics,” she said. Le Roux has been shoeing these horses for about six years and the horses are fed as early as 7.30am.”
Showing how it’s done, Schoeman meticulously begins removing the previous shoe and is guided by Le Roux.
“I am enjoying this, this is what I have always wanted to do,” he said.
He takes a specialised blade used to clean the horse’s skin and nails and later Le Roux takes over, explaining there needs to be a balance and that the horse did not feel pain as they worked in an area where it was non-sensory.
“It is all about balance and feeling where to go, this is the mani and pedi of the horse for the shoe to grow with it,” he added.
Next, he meticulously cleans and heats the shoe and it’s polished by O’Connor and placed onto Warrior’s hooves. “We call it burning it on, hot shoeing a horse; what it does, you will never get it perfectly level but it burns the shoe into the foot, marries and perfects surfaces together.
“ It cauterise any bacteria within the white line, if there is any infection or bacteria it will cauterise.”
Le Roux said he could trim up 60 horses’ hooves a day and that shoes would be replaced, depending on whether the horse was a racing horse or used for riding.
He laughed when relating how he had felt when horses kick: “Each week, you can be kicked up to four times and it’s about finding your way around the horse.”