Finding a Farrier
Reading Time: 4 minutes
By Stephenie Slahor, Ph.D. The old saying is “No hoof; no horse,” and whether you have a horse, mule, or donkey, your equines need good hoof care. And it must be regular care — averaging every 6 to 8 weeks. Whether you want your equines shod or not, a good farrier is necessary because, by the nature of the work, it’s the farrier who finds hoof and even leg problems that you might not see or even realize.
Finding a farrier is often an “ask around” task. Your feed store, other owners of equines, and veterinarians may know farriers to choose — or not choose. Ask about prices, of course, but also be sure to ask about: reliability and efficiency, promptness and regularity in keeping and scheduling appointments, competent care and handling of the equine, quality of work, availability during a situation needing immediate attention, and how long they have been in business. Some farriers attend schooling to learn their trade, while others learn from a pro in the field. Be aware that some farriers prefer working only on certain breeds or in a specific specialization.
For most visits, the farrier will examine the necessary trimming, shaping, and shoeing. A good farrier will check the equine’s gait to see if there is any limping or favoring of a particular leg. The farrier will examine and possibly sniff the hooves closely for signs or smells of abscess from a severe bruise or an injury from a foreign object that might have been in the corral, pasture, or along the trail. The farrier will feel the animal’s legs and hooves for unusually warm or hot spots. And the exam will check for cracks in the hoof wall, signs of brittleness, or conditions such as thrush, laminitis, or infection.
Often, hoof problems are handled by the farrier rather than seeking veterinary care because drawing agents for abscesses, hoof clips, and tools for correct trimming and shaping are often in the “kit bag” of a farrier. You might even get some recommendations for suitable feed, bedding material, boots that will help a barefoot equine, sprays, and supplements that can help improve your equine’s leg and hoof health.
Although the farrier with whom you build a good working relationship has “been there, done that” with all sorts of equines, farriers also expect and deserve a little help from you. Have the equine ready for the farrier’s visit — caught, haltered, and cleaned up on the legs and hooves. Yes, some equines don’t like their legs or hooves handled, but you can usually overcome that by making it a daily habit to use a hoof pick for stones or dirt and accustom the animal to having the legs and hooves handled.
Be sure the farrier has a comfortable, well-lighted, and safe area to work in and that you can give assistance if needed. And, by the way, have the check, cash, or credit card ready at the end of the farrier’s session with your stock. The worker is worthy of the hire, indeed!
Let’s talk about horseshoes and why they are considered good luck. It all probably goes back to the art of blacksmithing — a trade that used iron and fire, both of which were considered “magical” by some of the old lore and cultures. So important was the blacksmith to a community that, in some realms, they were actually authorized to perform marriages.
One famous farrier was a member of the de Ferrers family that served William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings. To honor the farrier’s service, the family coat of arms could bear the images of six black horseshoes on a silver background.
How to “use” a horseshoe other than on an equine has some interesting trivia. Many believe the theory that a horseshoe should be hung or displayed with the points upward to hold in the good luck. If the points are down, the luck is pouring out and away.
Even the finding of a horseshoe has some lore. Many believe the newly-found horseshoe should be picked up, spat upon, and then tossed with the right hand over the left shoulder to land behind. Then it can be picked up to keep, use, or decorate that door, fence post, wall, horseshoe “tree,” or other spots.
Ancient Rome once conquered what’s now England, and “hipposandals” were more common for draft horses than nailed horseshoes, where draft horses had to travel on London’s metal-reinforced road surfaces. The shoe was like a slip-on sandal, bound onto each hoof.
Later in history, most horses wore shoes made of iron and sometimes rawhide. These days, horseshoes are also made of plastic, rubber, steel, or aluminum; some even have nubs welded to grip the ice.
Hoof care is necessary, and your farrier can be a substantial and vital part of your equine’s good health!
DR. STEPHENIE SLAHOR’S farm and ranch background includes cattle, horses, mules, donkeys, dogs, cats, sheep, goats, rabbits, birds, chickens, geese, turkeys, and tortoises — but not necessarily all at the same time! She would be one of the first to agree that, indeed, “Variety is the spice of life!” Her degrees are a Ph.D. and a J.D., which, she says, “cost a fortune in time and money, but well worth it!”
Originally published in the January/February 2023 issue of Countryside and Small Stock Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.