Choosing a Farrier

My lovely farrier, who is too popular for his own good, couldn’t trim Phoenix because she’s the wrong side of the road, and is slightly out of his area. Which is a shame but I understand that it’s important for him to try to keep his work in one area. Of course, I asked him to recommend a suitable farrier.

A young, newly qualified lad was recommended. I have mixed feelings about newly qualified farriers. Or newly qualified professionals of any sort. Yes, they’ve had the most recent training so have the most up to date information, but they’ve also the least experience. Phoenix is a straightforward trim though, so it’s worth giving this new farrier the opportunity. If I had a horse with more complex shoeing needs I’d probably find a farrier with more experience in that particular area.

It was a successful visit last Friday. My brief to the farrier was that I wasn’t 100% sure when Phoenix was last done but I suspect November time, and that she doesn’t kick but is a bit of a scaredy cat with new people and things. It was just about tidying up her hooves and giving her a positive experience.

I have to say that I was very impressed with the quiet, patient way this farrier introduced himself to her and took his time trimming her. When she fidgeted he just calmly picked her foot up again and carried on, giving her a pat after each foot was done. While he worked, we chatted about his business. He’s setting up on his own, but does a couple of days a week with some more established farriers, which means he’s got a good network of support and is continuing to expand his knowledge. I liked the sound of this. I told him about Otis’s problems to hear his opinion, and was pleased to hear that he had similar thoughts to Otis’s farrier. Phoenix’s feet were long, but he complimented her on her good quality, and natural shape and balance of her feet, and we made a plan to trim her again in ten weeks time.

Anyway, what makes a good farrier?

  • They need to be good with horses, so be quiet and calming around the nervous horses yet be firmer with the unruly horses.
  • They need to be on time, and work at a steady pace. Often owners have to take time off work or rearrange shifts to fit in the farrier so it’s never helpful to have a farrier who turns up late, or even significantly early. Neither do you want one who rushes the job so doesn’t notice any small changes nor one who takes forever to shoe.
  • They need to be reliable. So you know they’re going to turn up, and equally reliable in that you can leave your horse in his stable (as long as all three parties are happy, of course) and your farrier can begin if he arrives before you. Or he will finish off if you have to shoot off to work.
  • Tidy. No, they aren’t expected to sweep the yard afterwards, but picking up any droppings and not leaving old nails scattered around is a positive!
  • Personally I like my farrier to ask how the horse is going. It prompts the owner to mention any tripping, forging or overreaching. It could be a positive remark too, such as the fact they are tracking up much better or are coping with the ground on hacks. It’s also useful for the farrier to know your plans for riding, whether you’ll be doing more hacking, or need studs for eventing.
  • I also quite like it when farriers give a little tweak to the shoes. This sometimes depends on the owner’s feedback, but if they see a change in the wear of the horse’s foot or shoe and adapt the new set to accommodate this. For example, feathering the inside of a shoe or increasing the heel support by widening the back of the shoe. Adjustments like this can help prevent problems developing and improve a horse’s athletic performance.
  • Having a farrier at your beck and call is perfect if you are super important like William Fox-Pitt, but we aren’t all that lucky. It is nice though to be able to text your farrier when your horse comes in without a shoe and know that within a few days it will be sorted. And if your horse is lame without his shoe, or it’s the day before a competition, then it’s nice to know your farrier will be with you as soon as possible.
  • All horses feet are unique, so a farrier needs to adapt his shoeing technique, and be open to using different types of shoes according to the foot conformation or history of lameness. Again, a sign of a good farrier is one treats ever horse as an individual, and has a wide repertoire of shoes, techniques, and management suggestions.
  • This is especially important with younger farriers, who have qualified fairly recently. It’s good for them to be looking at furthering their knowledge and expertise. Either by regular training, taking more exams, or taking day courses. Having a good relationship with the farrier who trained them is also useful as they then have someone with more knowledge to seek advice from, and they shouldn’t be afraid of admitting that they need help or advice from others in order to best help their client’s horse.

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