It has been said many times by many horse-owning generations “No hoof no horse”. The hooves are truly the foundation of a horse.
A horse in the wild naturally wears its hooves down by being constantly on the move, often averaging as much as 20 miles a day. Horses in captivity are normally limited to the amount of movement by the constraints of small pastures or stalls. Because of these modern constraints the horse must rely on the owners to ensure proper hoof care. Modern hoof care may be a simple trim of a healthy horse or a complex shoeing that will increase performance or correct serious hoof and leg problems.
The horse must rely on three different people to provide proper hoof care.
The horse owner is the individual responsible to be educated to a level that he or she will make an informed decision about the selection of a qualified farrier and veterinarian. The horse owner must also be able to identify general hoof problems. They must also learn possible impacts to the hoof that may be caused by environment, feed, forage, reproduction and medical conditions/treatments.
The horse owner is also responsible to ensure that the horse is well mannered for the veterinarian and farrier. The better mannered the horse is the better the shoeing or treatment will be. The horse owner must be available to hold the horse, provide a horse handler or make suitable arrangements for the farrier or veterinarian.
The farrier should help educate and inform the owner of any problems or methods to properly care for the hooves and legs. The farrier should also have proper training to complete the required shoeing procedure properly. If a procedure is very complex, your normal farrier may need assistance from a veterinarian or a farrier that specializes in that procedure.
Veterinarians vary greatly and a few may only specialize in horses. Locations that have high densities of horses will have veterinarians that specialize in specific parts of the horse, such as the back or hooves or teeth. Most veterinarians however are general practitioners.
The average pleasure horse may never have a serious hoof condition that requires intense veterinary treatment. Most farriers should be able to treat a vast majority of hoof related problems without the consultation of a veterinarian. If your horse should encounter a serious problem, does not get better with treatment or you have questions that the farrier is unable to answer, then the veterinarian should be called. The veterinarian should be the team leader when treating your horse and may prescribe a shoeing/hoof care treatment plan.
There are no legal requirements that a farrier must be certified to practice horseshoeing. Certification, attending horseshoeing school or apprenticing at this point in time is voluntary. This allows for a wide spectrum of farrier competency. In order to provide a standardization of knowledge and qualification systems farrier associations were formed. These associations set their own standards for certain qualifications. Farrier qualifications usually require both written and practical tests.
Farrier associations also provide educational sources in the form of magazines, websites and yearly conventions. The goals of the associations are to educate farriers and horse owners. Farrier associations are also excellent places to find a farrier working near you. They normally have listings of all farriers affiliated with that association and the qualifications they posses.
There are a few national farrier associations in the United States. The more prominent are the American Farriers Association and the Brotherhood of Working Farriers Association. Most states have state farrier associations and they are affiliated with a national association.
Preparation for Farrier Visit
During the initial phone call to the farrier you should discuss several items so that he/she is prepared and allots proper time.
Do you require the horse to be trimmed or shod?
Age, breed, what type of use is the horse involved with, pleasure, jumping, roping, breeding or other uses.
Current hoof or leg problems.
History of past hoof or leg problems.
Good directions where your horse is located.
Farriers charge fees based on geographic location, level of experience and skill, demand and complexity of work to be done. The average farrier works from a mobile shop and can travel many miles in a day. Unless you have many horses to be worked on by the farrier he is either coming from another client or he is going to one. That means he has allotted a certain block of time for your horse(s) so he can keep his appointment with the next client.
This really means you need to have your horse ready to go when he arrives and the horse should be trained to stand respectfully.
You and the farrier should agree before any work is done on how to discipline the horse being handled. At no time should the horse be beaten, for minor infractions or major misbehavior. A horse that has aggressive behavior such as kicking or biting may need a professional trainer to stop that behavior. If the horse is a danger please stop any work until the problem can be solved, no person or horse should be hurt when it can avoided. I suggest that the horse owner/handler give the training cues and not the farrier.
The horse should be handled professionally and systematically. Ensure you and the farrier have a plan that makes the outcome of each trimming/shoeing experience a positive one for the horse. The better the experience the better the horse will get. The better the horse stands the better the shoeing or trimming, The better the shoeing or the trimming the better your horse will feel. The better your horse feels, the better you feel. The better you feel, the better the horseshoer feels.