How to choose a farrier who will put your horse’s feet first
- March 21, 2017
- Jolyn Young
Horseshoeing is a necessary skill for a working cowboy, and a necessary expense for the typical horse owner. Even if you don’t know how to shoe your horse from start to finish, it’s a good idea to know how to evaluate a shoe job so you know if your farrier is doing a job worthy of your hard-earned money.
The most direct method would be to just come out and ask your horseshoer, but that kind of statement is a little tricky to smoothly work into a conversation.
“We’ve had a lot of rain lately.”
“Yeah, we sure have. Speaking of the weather, are you worth a darn as a farrier?”
Instead, here are a few things to look for, both while the farrier is working and after he is done, that will tell you if he is doing quality work.
Does he show up on time? If so, then he is clearly not a real farrier. My dad shod horses for the public when I was a kid, and horseshoers are notorious for running late. Once the shoer does arrive at your house, though, here’s what to look for.
As with hiring a professional to do any type of job, assess your farrier’s business manner. You want to do business with someone who is clean, well-presented, polite, and efficient. You should be comfortable being around your horseshoer, as this person knows where you live and carries sharp tools.
Beyond his (or her) punctuality and demeanor, here are a few points to look for when evaluating your farrier.
1. Your horse’s body language. Look for signs of relaxation in your horse, such as licking lips, sighing, working ears back and forth, and a loose tail. The farrier’s horsemanship. He should be able to smoothly and quickly pick up each foot and do his work without losing his temper and hitting your horse with his tools. This is a major no-no.
2. Being friends with horses isn’t an iron-clad prerequisite, but most skilled farriers pet their animal clients at opportune times, such as stopping to chat with the owner or catching their breath after a long rasping session. This helps relax the horse and makes the shoeing procedure easier for all involved.
3. When a farrier uses a forge to shape horseshoes (also called “hot shoeing”), don’t be fooled into thinking this is necessary for every shoe job. You’ll get charged extra, but hot shoeing a horse every time hurts the overall hoof health by drawing out the natural oils. A cold shoer can be equally (or more) efficient; evaluate each shoer on their own merits.
4. Once all four shoes are on the horse, check to make sure the angles of the toe and heel are the same on each hoof. This is very important for your horse’s hoof health and overall soundness.
These freshly shod front feet have perfectly matched toe and heel angles. The guys over at Lake Cassidy Stables, whose website this photo was first published, must know what they’re doing.
5. Are the nails neatly hammered in a fairly straight line? Are the clinches nearly flush with the hoof? A good farrier will be able to neatly line up the nails and finish the job so it looks tidy. If the clinches are big, ugly, and staggered, this means the farrier is a) inexperienced, b) sloppy, or c) both.
Here is an example of a clean, tidy shoe job. Even when the untrained eye looks at it, the overall effect is polished and professional-looking.
6. Watch the animal walk away and toward you. Check to see that each hoof strikes the ground flat, not hitting on either side first. This is a sign of an unlevel hoof.
If your horse’s shoes stay on for a reasonable amount of time, the animal stays sound and you were comfortable around your farrier, hire him back. Those guys work hard and abuse their bodies on a daily basis, so they need and appreciate all the repeat customers they can get.
About Jolyn Young
Jolyn Young lives near Montello, NV with her cowboy husband and 3 small kids. For more, visit www.jolynyoung.com....