I am always quite surprised when I read a question like this on one of my local equine social media groups:
“Hey guys. I need my horse’s feet trimmed. Does anyone know a farrier who can be out to my place tomorrow?”
At first, the question seems pretty simple, but if you think about it longer you should find it a little strange, if not disturbing. Why would a horse owner trust someone they don't know to come work on their horse’s feet simply because they are “available” or “in the area”? The simple answer is “They shouldn’t!”
As a responsible horse owner, you should have at least three people you know and trust with the health and well-being of your horse in your list of contacts: your veterinarian, your trainer and your farrier. In this article, I want to give you some simple tips on finding and selecting a farrier who you can trust to handle all of your horse’s hoof care and shoeing needs.
You should select a farrier with the same care that you would select a trainer or a veterinarian. A farrier can literally make or break your horse. A poor trimming or shoeing job can result in poor performance, temporary lameness, or worse. On the other hand, appropriate trimming and shoeing can improve not only the performance, but the short- and long-term comfort and health of your horse.
Here are some important things to consider when choosing a farrier:
Ask Around – Ask your trainer, your vet, your neighbors and your friends who they use and why they use them. This will probably be the best place to start. And don’t just settle for one person’s opinion. The fact is that a farrier who works well for one person may not work well for another.
Look for Experience – How long has the person been a farrier? Do they have any certifications? Are they a member of the American Farriers Association or other reputable organization? Do they continually update their education and knowledge through clinics and workshops?
Ask Good Questions – Make sure a prospective farrier is willing to take the time to answer any and all questions you have before hiring them. A farrier's unwillingness or inability to do so should be a red flag that they might not be a good partner for you and your horse.
Skills That Match Your (Horse’s) Needs – Does the farrier have experience with your discipline or style of riding? For example, if you compete in reining, even a great farrier may not work well for you if they have no experience with slide plates. If your horse has health-related needs like chronic laminitis or orthopedic problems, your farrier should be comfortable and able to assist with these issues as well.
Check Their Work – There is no reason a good farrier won’t give you references and let you take a look at horses they care for. I even like to watch a farrier work before I use them. I have had situations in which I liked the farriers actually trimming and shoeing, but I did not like the way they treated my horses. Watching a farrier work on a horse or two before giving them the reins (pun intended) to your horses should give you a really good idea if their style and manner will be acceptable to you.
Equipment – A professional farrier should carry top quality equipment and have what they need to get the job done right. This will usually include a truck or trailer customized specifically to hold a variety of shoes, anvils, a forge, and all the tools and equipment necessary for real farrier work. If somebody shows up with nothing but a hammer, nippers, a pocket full of nails and four horse shoes, they’re not what you are looking for.
Reliability – When you call, a good farrier should always get back to you in a timely manner. They should keep their appointments or let you know in advance if they need to reschedule. Of course, you should offer them the same courtesies, but remember a farrier works for you; you do not work for the farrier. If your farrier is always late, misses appointments, or treats you like your time is not valuable, it might be best to start looking for a better alternative.
Cost – Yes, it needs to be mentioned. For many horse owners, the cost of trimming and shoeing can be a budget challenge, but very frequently the cheapest farrier will not be the best. The costs resulting from a bad trimming or shoeing job can be much higher than paying a little more in the beginning. Remember the old saying “The stingy man always spends the most”? Well, that’s often true when it comes farriers.
So now that you have selected a farrier you like, you are happy with their work and with the relationship they have with you and your horses, there are some things you can do to make sure it stays that way:
As a conscientious horse owner, you should spend as much time and concern in selecting a farrier as you would selecting a trainer or veterinarian. In doing so, you will have a valuable partner and resource for the long-term vitality of your horse and your happiness as a horse owner.
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