by Steve Sermersheim, CJF TE, AWCF, and Robbie Hunziker, CJF
The relationship between the farrier and horse owner or trainer is super important.
Although, it’s often an overlooked part when it comes to the ultimate success of an equine athlete. However, a good, solid relationship with your farrier is critical to your horse’s health, whether you’re competing or riding for fun.
Talking to your farrier about any concerns you have is key to good horse management. You are with your horse every day. You should be able to recognize and communicate with your farrier if your horse is having soundness issues or is not performing to his potential. With the internet and social media, information on hoof care and shoeing are abundant.
These sources are easy to access but may not always the best source for advice. While there is plenty of good, accurate information online, there is also a lot of misinformation. So, be cautious and bear in mind that anyone can promote shoeing techniques and products on the internet, regardless of their knowledge or qualifications.
Additionally, every horse differs in conformation, attitude, training level, and natural ability. Equine athletes are as individual as their riders. That’s why communicating with your veterinarian is also very important. They’re also a crucial part of your horse’s team.
Keeping a horse sound and competing at its full potential isn’t an easy task.
And, what works for your friend’s horse may not work for your horse.
That’s why we’ve put together some ideas to help solidify your relationship with your farrier. These are common sense things you should reasonably expect from your farrier as well as things you can provide. For instance, respect and trust your farrier’s judgment. Likewise, a good farrier will respect your opinion.
You will be pleasantly surprised by the positive relationship that will flourish when you follow the below since the goal is enhancing your horse’s wellness.
Expectations for your farrier
The farrier you choose should be competent and professional.
Your farrier should be educated and understand the specific discipline in which you are participating. Most farriers work effectively on multiple types of horses, but usually, they focus their skills on only one or two disciplines.
Find a farrier who excels in the discipline in which you are competing. For example, you would not go to a cardiologist for a slipped disc in your back. Likewise, you should not use a farrier who specializes in padded, gaited horses for your dressage horse.
The American Farrier’s Association
Your farrier should be proactive in attending continuing education and/or certification testing opportunities.
There is no excuse for a farrier not to update his skills and knowledge. There are seminars on shoeing and lameness as well as certification readily available all over the world. Although certification in the U.S. is voluntary, it is an important part of farrier education.
The American Farrier’s Association is the most successful certification program in the USA. It offers three levels of certification (certified, tradesman, and journeyman). Additionally, it offers three separate endorsements (therapeutic, forging, and education).
Ask your farrier what level of certification he has achieved because he will be proud to tell you.
A farrier should arrive on time for your appointment.
As we all know, our days do not always go according to plan. It is not unreasonable to expect a phone call from the farrier when he is delayed or unable to keep your appointment.
Your farrier should be able to answer your hoof care and lameness questions.
Farriers should be knowledgeable of equine anatomy and how it correlates with your horse’s specific needs. This knowledge is essential for your farrier to correctly and appropriately shoe your horse. This is critical in order for your farrier to be able to discuss lameness issues with your veterinarian as well as fill your horse’s shoeing prescription.
A farrier should have the ability to build a variety of shoes for your horse’s individual needs.
Not every type or style of shoe can be purchased from the horseshoe supply company. However, skilled farriers can forge shoes tailored to your horse’s needs.
A farrier should display a presentable appearance and demeanor.
Your farrier is there for your horses and clients. The hoof care professional you choose is a reflection of you and should be respectful of your horse, property, and business. Appearance and attitude are a reflection of your farrier’s pride in a job well done.
Perhaps most importantly, a farrier should know when he is in over his head.
Farriers are sometimes presented with lameness or injury issues that they have not yet encountered. This is why your farrier’s involvement in the AFA is so important. It provides him access to thousands of farriers, one of which has undoubtedly treated similar issues. That person can offer sound advice or a second opinion.
A good environment is essential for a farrier to do his job effectively.
The shoeing area should be clean and dry. The work area should be level, shaded, and well-lit. It should be ventilated in the summer and out of the elements in the winter. It also should be free of obstacles including equipment, children, and dogs.
A competent horse holder or safe cross-ties should be available.
Be prepared to assist your farrier. Your farrier’s apprentice or helper is not there to hold your horses.
If your horse will not stand for shoeing, you must control the horse or ask a vet to provide sedation.
Farriers should never sedate your horse.
Shoeing a horse that will not stand is extremely difficult to accomplish properly. And your farrier is not there to train your horse to stand.
It is your responsibility to work with your horse to make sure it stands quietly before the farrier ever gets there. These components are very important for the safety of the farrier as well as your horse.
Be conscientious in asking farriers to add, or subtract, horses from the schedule.
Farriers are usually a one or two-man show. Their schedules are hectic and somewhat inflexible. Although flexibility is important, adding horses to the schedule can ruin your farrier’s well-planned day.
Remember, when asking your farrier to add an unplanned horse to his day, stay flexible when he’s delayed because someone else did the same thing. And, when you scratch a horse from the list, your farrier will have to work to fit them in later since most farriers book future visits before they leave.
As we know, sometimes your farrier’s schedule has to be changed for reasons out of his control. When your farrier’s day goes awry, flexibility and patience go a long way.
Your farrier is an expert.
While communication with your farrier is key, telling him how to fix your horse or what type of device to put on your horse’s hoofs is not always the best approach. If you think you know more than your farrier, consider finding someone else to look at your horse’s hoofs. There are thousands of knowledgeable, well-trained farriers out there that can explain why your horse is being shod a particular way.
Have a backup plan for a farrier emergency.
Ask for the name of another farrier to help in case of emergency and your farrier is out of pocket. Your farrier most likely has a network of trusted farriers that help each other since they share the same shoeing philosophy.
Pay your farrier when the job is finished.
As you can see, there are as many things to expect from your farrier as there are for you to provide.
Many people think farriers just slap a device on the bottom of a horse’s foot and everything is good. Unfortunately, some horseshoers are among this group. This is incorrect thinking!
A knowledgeable, well-educated farrier is an essential part of your horse’s team. Furthermore, when farriers and horse owners work together our equine athletes flourish.
No matter your role, we hope these suggestions improve your horse management success with your farrier.