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Visiting the Farrier: Basics About Horse Shoeing and Hoof Care

Visits to the blacksmith – or farrier - are important aspects of horse ownership. It is recommended that your horse makes that trip every four to eight weeks.

For the horse owner, a good relationship with the farrier often means that someone new to horses will receive helpful advice on proper shoeing. In addition to the foregoing, if you are planning to take your horse to an event, it may need to specially shod, and once again your farrier will be able to make recommendation. Should she or he notice problems with the hooves, once again she or he may give some suggestions on hoof care, or might even advise you to ask for a visit from a veterinarian.
Finding the proper individual to work with is imperative. You will want to be able to have a good working relationship that will last for the lifetime of the horse. This means that your farrier needs to be not only knowledgeable but also able to pass on this knowledge to you. To this end, do not take your horse to someone who is hurried, carries on conversations with third parties, or arrives late to the appointment. Additionally, the farrier should be well equipped for the job, and not have to run back and forth to get more supplies, or worse yet, schedule another visit to finish up because she or he does not have the wedges or pads needed. A good farrier will be well equipped to also follow your veterinarian’s recommendations if certain corrective actions are needed for the treatment of the hooves.

The beginning of the visit should entail your farrier’s taking a look as the horse walks to ascertain if there are problems with the way the hoof makes contact with the floor. Secondly, she or he will want to observe the horse standing still. Prior to trimming the foot, this will permit the farrier to see if there are any signs of imbalance that need to be corrected. While you do want your blacksmith to use a hoof angle, you do not want her or him to completely rely on it and disregard your horse’s individual gait. The goal is to have the angle of the heel line up with the angle of the toe, resulting in symmetry of the hoof which in turn will ensure that the horse will not overly stress its legs and tendons.

When the farrier trims the sole, she or he will want to only remove the material that is flaking off visibly. A good farrier understands that the thicker the sole, the more protection for the inner portion of the foot is offered. She or he will want to leave the heel bars intact, and only trim the heel up to the wide part of the frog – the latter should not be trimmed or only as little as possible.

As you can see, there is a lot more to shoeing your horse than meets the eye. To this end, get recommendations for farriers from the American Farriers Association which will be able to point you to certified journeymen who should be the only people you permit to do hot shoeing!



Read the next horse shoes article on Prevent Horse Hoof Abscesses.
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