CHOOSING A FARRIER
One of the most discouraging things for many horse owners is trying to find a farrier that they can depend on who will do a good job on their horses. There are several factors that may influence your decision when trying to decide which horseshoer in your area you should use. The factors I wish to discuss are Knowledge & Skill, Dependability, and Price.
Unfortunately, the most common determination is price. This is too bad because, like most things in life, you get what you pay for. The factor that is most important is probably Knowledge and skill because a horseshoer who is on time and honest, but lames your horse is not what you’re after either. Ideally, you want someone who is knowledgeable and skilled, honest and dependable, and that your budget can afford. I hope this article will help you find such a farrier!
Step One: Make a list of all the farriers serving your area. (You can get names from newspapers, phonebooks, feed & tack stores, and of course your horse buddies!)
Step Two: Do a little research yourself so you’ll know what you’re looking for and what to ask when you call. I recommend reading articles about shoeing that have pictures or drawings which make it easy to understand. Read out of farrier magazines, horse magazines, internet articles, and anything else you can find. One big mistake is to take the word a friend who has good intentions, but really doesn’t have the knowledge to tell if someone is a good farrier or not...they usually just refer a farrier whom they think is a nice person! In fact, I have heard many licensed veterinarians give poor hoof care advise! This is very common for them to not know any more than the average trainer or horse owner, when it comes to the functions of the hoof and proper hoof care methods. An equine specialist should know much more than a regular vet though, as they’ve had more schooling specifically on horses, including the hoof. Anyway, don’t be discouraged here; I’m not saying you need to know more than your vet! I am saying though, that you need to know what a properly shod horse’s hoof looks like, and how to recognize major faults in a horseshoeing job you see.
Step Three: Call the farriers on your list. Ask them for referrals of customers in your area. Get their prices. If you can make yourself relax enough to visit with them and be friendly then find out what kind of schooling they’ve had, and also visit with them about how they like being a farrier. I recommend this for a couple of reasons. First, you want someone who is pleasant to visit with and this will give you an indication of their personality. You also want someone who takes pride in their work, and has knowledge to back it up! Scratch off your list, the names of any who were rude or unpleasant to visit with after you’d asked these questions!
Step Four: Call referrals of those on your list and ask to look at their horses. Be friendly and ask about their farrier and how they’ve liked his work and if he’s dependable, and how he treats their horses, etc... While there, make sure to look closely at the hooves of the horses he’s shod. Your previous reading will prepare you to look for things such as dubbing off hooves, uneven trimming that leaves gaps between the shoe and hoof, and the always important natural pastern angle being matched by the hoof! If you look at several horses a farrier has done in the last month, you’ll have a fair idea of whether you want him working on your horses. Make notes of what you learn at each place for later reference.
Step Five: After following the above steps, look at your notes and list, scratching off the names of horseshoers whose work you could see was faulty. Then decide on which farrier to try first. You will likely get a pretty good one if you’ve followed these five steps! If you are not totally pleased with their work then use someone else!
May you have many happy years of enjoyment with your properly shod horses! - Alma DeMille
* Don’t try to save $ on a shoeing job if you can possibly afford the best farrier available, as it will cost you much more in the long run. (Many horses are retired in their teens with joint problems that would have lasted into their twenties with proper hoof care! Thus your savings are eaten up and surpassed by having to purchase another horse!)
* Don’t think your friend that’s a great trainer, knows it all when it comes to hoof care! In my years of shoeing horses I’ve seen many very good trainers give poor advise when it comes to farrier work. (It’s the same principle as asking your cousin who is a great dentist to operate on your body organs!) It is good to get their input, but make decisions for yourself, based on knowledge!
* There are many farrier schools in the USA which are offering graduation certificates as a “Certified Farrier.“ Some of them produce very well educated, ready to go to work students. But, many are offering this certificate of graduation that only means the person spent the required time in class and paid the required tuition. There are some schools whose course is only a 3-day weekend and others that are 8 hrs/day for half a year, with apprenticeships following that! Being “Certified” means nothing, in and of itself, so don’t be fooled by this!
*Years of experience are almost irrelevant. I graduated school and as a beginner was shoeing much slower than many farriers, but was doing an excellent job from day one! There are numerous horseshoers who have shod horses for many years, but done so incorrectly all along! Practice only makes perfect if the practice is done perfectly! So don’t let time in the business be a factor in your decision.
Book: The Principles of Horseshoeing, by Dr Doug Butler
Internet courses of instruction: www.AskTheFarrier.com
The American Farrier’s Association
4059 Iron Works Pkwy. Suite 1
Lexington, KY 40511