Considering that horses can easily weigh over 1,000 pounds, a horse’s hooves have a hefty job of supporting their full weight over a small surface area. A horse’s hooves absorb all of the concussive impacts from its movement, and the sensitive structures within are vital in pushing the blood back up the horse’s legs to its heart. When horses go lame and must lay down for long hours, the blood flow to vital organs will be disrupted and the organs might become damaged.
Choosing the right farrier will play a key role in the health of your horse. You should be able to rely on the expertise of your farrier to properly trim and shoe your horse, but how can you know if your farrier is doing what is best?
Here are a few simple ways to identify a good farrier:
There is no one-size-fits-all in hoof care. Different horse breeds have different hoof health requirements, as do horses that compete in different disciplines. For example, the needs of a hunter jumper will often be very different from the needs of a trail horse. Choosing a farrier that is trained in the wrong area could be just as disastrous as not having one at all. Make sure that your farrier has a deep understanding of the breed in which you own and takes into consideration your horse’s job and conformation before trimming or shoeing.
Does your farrier know what he is doing and why?
Do not be afraid to ask your farrier what he is doing. A good farrier will be eager to share his hoof care plan with you so that you can be a part of the process and can help to maintain the work that he has done. Each step that he takes when shoeing or trimming your horse’s hooves should have purpose, and he should be able to knowledgeably explain this purpose to you. If he does not seem to know the reason behind what he is doing, beware!
Does your horse feel and look balanced after the farrier has done his job?
Your farrier should trim the hoof for correct lateral balance, simply meaning that both sides of the hoof need to meet the ground at the same time to prevent lateral stress. However, it is not as easy as making the heels equal in height; if your farrier does not take into account your horse’s conformation, he is not doing your horse any favors. Your farrier should also take extra care in the placement and design of the shoe to keep your horse performing at its best. If he trims the hoof to fit the shoe, this is a huge red flag.
Does your horse show any signs of problems that could lead to lameness?
One trimming or shoeing session will rarely lead to a major problem, but over time, trouble signs may arise. Such signs include flares in the hoof wall that indicate uneven weight distribution and stress, uneven or compacted growth rings, collapsed or contracted heels, or distorted frogs. These are tell-tale indications that your farrier is not performing his job correctly.
Take some time to evaluate your farrier’s performance and qualifications for the job that you are hiring him to do. Not all farriers are the same, and you may have to try a few before you find one that genuinely cares about the needs of your horse.
Always make sure to have basic farrier tools on-hand in case your horse has an emergency and your farrier is unavailable. Look for tools, such as hoof knives, rasps, and nippers at Stockdale’s.