Choosing and Using a Farrier

One of the most important people in your horse's life is his farrier, a professional who trims and shoes your horse's hooves. Just as your feet may ache when you wear ill-fitting shoes, your horse's legs and feet may hurt if his shoes are in poor condition or improperly sized.

"Your choice of a farrier may in fact be the most important decision you make in your horse's overall health," says Emil Carre, a certified journeyman farrier and president of the American Farriers Association. "Your horse's feet will need to be attended to every 6 to 8 weeks and can be a major source of concern if the wrong choice is made."

According to Carre, incorrect or infrequent shoeing can amplify bad behavioral traits in your horse and could contribute to an injury. If your horse's hooves are off-balance, it will often lead to serious lameness and performance problems. On the other hand, a good farrier actually can improve a horse's "ease of movement" and soundness.

If you're a long-time horse owner and have lived in your community for several years, you already may have a farrier. But if you're a new horse owner, or if you've relocated to a different area, you may be just starting your search.

Where to Get Referrals

Talk At Length to Farriers

After you have several referrals, contact each farrier and talk with them about their background and how they do their job. Find out where they were educated and how long they have been in business. Ask if they specialize in certain breeds or types of horses. Find out how much they charge and what methods of payment are accepted.

Choose a farrier who has a strong background in the trade, either through education or hands-on experience. He should meet any special needs your horse may have, such as necessary corrective work on your horse's feet. Pick someone you feel comfortable talking with, who is willing to discuss your horse's needs in a friendly and articulate manner.

Once you've selected a farrier, it's important to do whatever you can to maintain a good working relationship with him. "Don't take this relationship lightly," Carre says. "This is an individual you will see regularly and who will, if all goes well, become an important factor in your horse's long-term health."

Tips for Keeping Your Farrier Happy

Your horse may not like having the farrier work on his hooves, but by taking steps to select the right farrier and establish a good working relationship, shoeing is bound to be a better experience for you, your horse and your farrier.