What does a farrier do?
Clive Meers Rainger RSS Bll CNBF CSS, explains how to help your farrier get the best results for your horse
Choosing a farrier can be complicated for the horse owner, many thinking that a farrier merely nails shoes to the horse’s feet. This is far from the case as farriery is a preventative science and, to understand this we need to understand a farrier’s role in the health and wellbeing of the horse.
So, what does a farrier do – firstly, a farrier’s job is to line up the column of bones in the limb to allow the weight to descend through the centre of each joint and, to place the shoe around the centre of articulation of the last joint of that limb. In the case of problems that may arise during the horse’s lifetime, the farrier alters the angle of the column of bones to relieve the pressure from the seat of pain once diagnosed, working on the principle that correct biomechanics should come before medication, to allow said medication the best chance of being effective.
Farriers Registration Council guide for horse owners
The Farriers Registration Council has issued a guide to getting the best from your farrier; freely available on request from the FRC. These guidelines for horse owners, will allow your farrier to do the best possible job for your horse.
Provide a clean, dry and level standing with good light; this enables the farrier to walk around your horse to assess how he stands, which will influence how the feet are trimmed and, the appropriate shoes for the horse as an individual.
The area should be safe for the horse and the people attending it, ideally in the least busy part of the yard to minimise distractions; a horse being a fight or flight animal can be more nervous with one foot being held off of the ground, so please give the horse room and let the farrier know you are coming past, which will enable him to put the foot down if required.
Protect from wind, rain and poor weather; poor weather impairs the horse’s protection mechanisms of hearing and smell, causing them to be potentially fractious, as can be experienced when riding on a windy day.
The horse should always be clean and dry; the reason for this is that when examining the foot, the exfoliating tissue (the tissue to be removed prior to the trim) is chalky in nature; the functional tissue has a waxy appearance. When the feet are wet it is very difficult to find the demarcation between these two types of hoof, which may lead to a poor trim. Secondly, when fitting a hot shoe to a wet foot it can produce super-heated steam, which will penetrate the foot and could potentially scald the sensitive structures. When nailing a shoe to a wet foot the clenches can tear the walls because they are soft and, when the foot becomes dry it will shrink slightly creating a loose shoe.
A secure safe ring to which the horse can be tied with a suitable breakable tie and, a properly fitted, sound headcollar or halter with a good rope of adequate length.
In the event of the horse being fractious, a competent assistant may be required; the assistant is the eyes and ears of the farrier while he is working, being there to control the horse and inform the farrier of anything that may cause a problem.
Since the Farriers Registration Act of 1975 farriers have been in the same professional category as vets, solicitors and doctors, and therefore as professionals should be approachable – giving comprehensive answers to any questions or worries you may have with regard to your horse and its way of going. Providing the best possible conditions to work in will help your farrier to give your horse a long and happy career and, to detect small abnormalities and draw them to your attention before they become a problem.
Images: Figures 1 and 2 show how a horse should stand after shoeing – square with a leg at each corner. Fig 1 is 32 years old still hacking regularly. Fig 2 is a 20 year old dressage horse still competing.