Hoof care is an essential part of keeping your horse sound and comfortable. A significant portion of this maintenance includes trimming, resetting the shoes, and regular hoof care provided by the service of a farrier. Being a farrier involves some skills of a veterinarian while caring for horses’ feet and some of a blacksmith in the making, applying, and adjusting of horseshoes!
What Does a Farrier Do?
Farriers care for the hooves of your equine by watching for signs of disease or other health issues. They also look out for potential lameness issues, such as an abnormality of a horse's gait or stance, and intervene before a problem occurs. Trimming and cleaning are also important jobs of your farrier! First, farriers care for hooves by keeping them trimmed. Then, they cut away the hoof material using tools such as rasps and nippers. This is an important part of hoof care because it helps maintain foot balance by keeping feet in the proper shape and length.
Farriers also clean the feet and cut out excess hoof walls and dead soles to keep your equine happy and healthy! Domesticated horses need horseshoes because their hooves harden less than horses in the wild. In addition, these equines are not often walking on hard surfaces, so horseshoes are required for horses’ safety.
Farriers apply horseshoes as a corrective measure to improve a horse’s gait and to help them gain traction when walking in slippery conditions. Horseshoes are also used for race horses and performance horses. The farrier removes old shoes, trims the hooves, measures shoes to the feet, bends them to the proper shape, and applies them!
Preparing a Farrier Visit
Owners should prepare their horses for their first visit from a farrier. It makes the process easier and more convenient for you, your horse, and your farrier. These sessions do not need to be excessively time-consuming, but they are necessary to train a horse to set them up for success.
Practice leading your horse to the location where their new farrier will handle them. Tying and standing are also crucial so the farrier can work on the equine. Horses will need to have experience being tied and be capable of standing relatively still for an extended period. Training your horse to lift their feet is also an important skill to teach prior to a farrier visit. Like any other type of training, the process can be complicated, so be sure to practice patience. Horses learn at their own pace, and it is an owner’s job to adjust to their pacing.
Tip: Begin with desensitization! Stand close to the horse’s legs and gradually touch to place small amounts of pressure on them. Then, lift the legs to prop the hooves on your knee or thigh. This gets your horse used to the position they will be in during the farrier visit!
Your farrier should get a good sense of your horse’s hoof growth, the conditions surrounding your horse, and how often visits should occur. Going months without seeing your farrier puts your horse’s hooves at risk of developing severe issues, so establishing a schedule based on your farrier’s recommendations is vital! Hoof maintenance should not be ignored or put off. It is crucial to hoof health, comfort, and the performance of your equine.