Horse farriers might seem like they're just horsing around with ease, but trust me, tending to the hooves of a 2,000-pound Palomino is no walk in the park! Farriers trim and balance horse hooves, clean their feet, watch for disease, measure and place shoes, and talk to horse owners about how to best care for their horse's feet.
My brother, Mitchell Johnson, does farrier work, and watching the work being done up close gives you an entirely new perspective. He's given me a few things to share with you.
No Feeding While Ferriers Work
"Feeding other horses while your horse is busy getting their feet done could put the farrier in danger." Johnson says. "You don't want the horse trying to get away while their hoof is being worked on with sharp equipment." Johnson asks you hold off on feeding the other horses while one is being worked on. A hungry horse equals a distracted horse, and with their mind on food, they're less likely to behave well for the farrier.
Stick to One Provider — for Your Horse and Pocketbook
Staying loyal to your farrier isn't just about making sure they have a solid clientele. It's more about your horse's hoof health and mental well-being. According to Johnson, "A quick shoe job by someone else can not only add a ton of work to the farrier's plate, but it can also cost you a lot more money because the fix might not be easy or quick."
Your horse gets used to your regular farrier and builds a relationship, which makes them calmer during care. So, keeping the same farrier helps make sure your horse gets the best treatment.
Horse owners who switch between farriers typically end up spending more than if they had waited for their regular farrier.
Understand They Have Other Obligations
Keep in mind that your farrier, just like anyone else, can't always be available immediately. If you do need to call them last minute, remember that they will have to juggle their schedule to fit you in quickly. Farriers, whether working full-time or part-time, often have their own families and busy work calendars to manage. So, their ability to come to you at a moment's notice is limited, and understanding this aspect of their professional life is important.
Johnson says, "I have a wife and four kids at home on top of a full-time job. I can't drop everything right in that moment, but I'll do my best to get there as soon as I can." He explained that most farriers these days have regular jobs plus their farrier work, especially in small towns like ours.
It's Serious Business
The danger that farrier work entails is serious business, with any horse. Kudos to my brother, because I wouldn't want to do it. One of his horses, a percheron he was doing foot work with, kicked him against the wall. And they're definitely no small pony!
Any horse can pose a danger to their ferrier. The horse that kicked my brother was definitely one of my favorites and one of the most loving horses I've ever spent time with. He LOVED being the center of attention. I'd walk outside and yell, "Droopy!" and he'd come running to you like a puppy. If he could kick, any horse could.
Regular Maintenance Can Help
Keeping up with your horse's farrier appointments can make the process easier and faster. When you're consistent with your horse's hoof care, it becomes less of a time-intensive task. Plus, it makes it much simpler for your farrier to maintain your horse's hoof health.
Regular maintenance also helps them catch any potential issues early on and prevents more complex problems from developing. "People new to horses might not know they need to work on their horse's feet, so if you know someone who is getting a horse, ask them about it to get their mind rolling," Johnson explained. "The sooner they know this, the better it is for the horse and the farrier."
Farrier visits should be scheduled every 4-6 weeks to keep their hooves in tip-top shape.
Practice With Your Horse Between Appointments
Teaching your horse to be comfortable with foot handling is really important for your farrier. It makes their job easier because they often need to lift and hold your horse's legs to work on the hooves. Horse farrier Johnson explains to owners, "If your horse is used to footwork, it helps a lot, especially when they need more extensive hoof care."
He continued to tell a story about a horse that didn't like their feet touched, and it ended up kicking him into the wall behind him as he was working.
This kind of training makes the whole process smoother for the farrier, less stressful for your horse, and more efficient overall. Just a bit of footwork practice can make hoof care sessions much simpler.
Spending a little time each day touching these areas on your horse can help them become more comfortable with farrier work.
Your Horse's Nutrition Matters
Feeding your horse high-quality feed does wonders for their overall health, including significantly benefiting their hoof health. Like us, what a horse eats plays a huge role in their well-being. A nutritious and balanced diet can lead to noticeable improvements in the condition of your horse's hooves, promote strength, and reduce the risk of hoof damage.
The right mix of vitamins and minerals improves hoof health, making it less prone to cracking, splitting, or other ailments.
Consider Their Recommendations Seriously
Experienced farriers have extensive knowledge regarding hoof health, and their recommendations are valuable. Farriers appreciate owners who take their advice seriously, as it not only shows respect for their profession but also ensures that your horse receives the best possible care.
"When a horse owner doesn't follow my recommendations, it makes it a whole lot harder on me to do their feet," Johnson explained. Farriers understand the intricate details of what keeps a horse's hooves in optimal condition. While it's not a requirement for most farriers that you follow every single suggestion to the letter, showing that you value and consider their expertise goes a long way.
Please Show Up
You'd be surprised at how many farriers wait for their clients to show up with their horses. Or, sometimes, they don't show at all. Doing the proper work takes a lot of time, and they cut out a large part of their day to make sure your horse gets the care they deserve. Plus, the tools are expensive.
According to Johnson, "The time I spend on your horse is time spent away from home. I already work full-time, and I'm tired. I only do farrier work because I know it's needed where we live. By not showing up to your appointment, not only do I lose out on money, but I also lose out on time that I would have had to relax at home."
A quick shout that you won't make your appointment is beyond appreciated.
It's Easy to Encounter the Unexpected
There's no one-size-fits-all to farrier work. It's not until the farrier picks up your horse's hooves that they really get the full picture. As soon as they get a good look at those hooves, they've got to think on their feet. They assess hoof health right there and then and whip up a plan on the spot to ensure your horse gets the care they need.
Johnson explained, "As farriers, we don't want the horse to get too upset, so making a plan as fast as we can is important. The horse depends on us to get this done as fast as we can. But we don't know what we're in for until we lift up their feet."
If your horse's hooves aren't cared for properly, it affects their overall health and well-being and could result in life-threatening damage.
Patience is Important
There are times when farrier work might stretch out a bit longer than planned, especially if your horse's hooves aren't in the best condition. Your farrier might come across some unforeseen challenges along the way.
This can be a bit of a headache, not just for you but also for both your farrier and your horse. Showing a bit of patience and gratitude during these moments really goes a long way. Johnson said, "When a horse owner gets impatient, the horse can feel it, and we're trying to keep them as calm as we can. And it's important for us to stay calm so we don't spook them."
Appreciation is Appreciated
Farriers are becoming a rare breed. With fewer farms around, this skilled trade is dwindling too. And caring for a horse's hooves isn't a job just anyone can do; it requires a lot of expertise and effort.
Before my brother became a farrier, we looked all over the place, even calling places a couple of hours away — and that's saying something, considering we live in a farm town! There were only a handful available. That's the main reason my brother took up the trade: to ensure our horses received the top-notch care they needed.
Don't forget to thank your farrier for a job well done!