This week is National Farriers Week which means celebrating the work of farriers everywhere and spreading the word about the importance of good hoof care. The horse’s hoof tells a story; in fact, the Arabs believed that a horse was nothing without a sound hoof to stand on.
With this in mind, the work of your farrier is paramount, and every so often it is worth thanking him for the work he does and thinking of ways to make his life easier. It’s all about helping your farrier help you – something we can all do! In turn, your horse will have a much better experience.
So, if you love your farrier and want to give him (and your horse!) a helping hand, follow these simple steps:
- Support the health of your horse’s hooves by 1) using a quality hoof oil regularly and 2) adding a hoof supplement to its diet. While farriers are highly skilled at what they do, they’re not magicians, and keeping the hooves sound should always start with you. The best hoof supplements on the market are those that are high in biotin and vitamin A, which work together to improve hoof growth and the condition of the horn. The appearance of cracks, hoof rings and brittleness can often be dramatically improved with a combination of hoof oil and supplements, especially ones that are high in calcium.
- If your farrier is due anytime and your horse is still turned out in a muddy paddock, bring him in and brush his feet down, as your farrier will only have to do this when he arrives. If the feet are so caked in mud that your farrier struggles getting to them, the whole process will be held up and your horse will have to stand for longer.
- Make sure your farrier has an even surface to stand on. You'd be surprised at how many people expect their farriers to work on uneven ground or in a churned up paddock where it's difficult to keep their footing. Not only is this incredibly unhelpful to your farrier, it is also dangerous. A smooth, solid floor is the ideal ground surface, and preferably under a well-lit canopy in case it rains! Your horse will have a much easier time standing still on this surface and is likely to be more cooperative as a result.
- Train your horse to accept handling. Horses are flight animals that naturally feel threatened when one of their limbs is out of action. If your horse learns to trust you and discovers that foot holding isn't a threat, he will soon feel comfortable being handled by the farrier. Use positive reinforcement to teach your horse that cooperation brings rewards. Sometimes horses don't raise their foot, not because they're ill-mannered, but because they feel unsteady on their other legs. This could just be an issue of balance or a more serious problem relating to the health of the legs. If your horse is older, arthritis could be making your horse stiff and uncomfortable. If you suspect something like this is the case, communicate with your vet.
- Alert your farrier to a distraction or if you anticipate sudden movement. Often, something will catch your horse's eye and cause him to move, or a change in weather will make him shiver or twitch. If your farrier is aware of what's going on around him, he will be better able to react. Some horses are more restless when their owners are close by, so it might be that your farrier asks you to step away. Other horses may need to be held, in which case you could be asked to stand at the shoulder and correct bad behaviours, as well as helping to position your horse depending on the farrier's instructions. Don't let your horse bite his bum - you might find it funny but your farrier won't!
- Get your horse comfortable and relaxed before the farrier arrives. Make sure his temperature is right; not too hot or too cold, and ensure he has been fed. Standing your horse beside his paddock and in clear view of his herd will only cause a distraction so try and station his elsewhere. Not preparing his feeds in front of him while he's being shod also goes without saying.
- Finally, offer your farrier a cup of tea! Shoeing a horse isn't the easiest job in the world, especially if the horse in question is ill-mannered or nervous. It might only be a simple gesture, but a cuppa could be just what your farrier needs! It really does pay to stay on good terms as not only will your farrier be the first to alert you to a hoof problem, he will probably be the one to treat it as well.
If you have any advice on the topic of helping your farrier help you, please share it with our other readers! We would love to hear from you so feel free to email us directly: [email protected]
Written by Hannah Dyball