Horse enthusiasts and professionals alike agree that horses’ feet are their lifeline. Without them they are just expensive pasture ornaments. One of the most important things you can do as a horse owner or rider is to properly maintain a horse’s feet and this will involve finding a farrier.

 

Before starting the search for a farrier it must be understood that a horse needs to have its feet trimmed REGULARLY. It is standard practice to have a horse’s feet trimmed every 4-8 weeks depending on the growth rate, the season and the discipline they are involved in. A retired pasture horse living out its days still needs its hooves trimmed every 6-8 weeks. A grand prix show jumper needs its feet trimmed and shod every 4-6 weeks during peak competition season. The difference is clear but the message is the same; a horse needs to see a farrier regularly in order to maintain good health.

A horse’s health should be a priority for every horse owner. Farriers are skilled in the area of hooves and their care to the extent that if something goes wrong, they can be directly involved in the treatment plan for your horse, along with a veterinarian and other professionals. Farrier work is not something that should be overlooked or undervalued and it should not be attempted by an untrained owner or friend.

There are many factors to take into consideration when choosing the right farrier and we explore this with five guidelines to ensure you are getting the right person for the job.

One…know your area. How far is it to the closest landmark or town? Be able to give good directions and a travel time to where your horse is living. Search out farriers who are working in your area through local resources like a farrier supply shop, tack store bulletin board or veterinary clinic. The American Farriers Association website (www.americanfarriers.org) has a “Find a Farrier” section where you can enter your province or state and see a list of registered farriers. These farriers have chosen to register with this association and are qualified under their guidelines. There is also the Western Canadian Farriers Association (www.wcfa.ca) who strive to improve the standards within the farrier industry, focusing on craftsmanship, quality and service. They will be developing a similar farrier locator on their web site in the near future. Resources like farrier colleges can help you locate a farrier and other important information about the profession as a whole. The other great way to locate a farrier in your area is by word of mouth. It is common for happy customers to recommend their farrier to others. Finding a hoof care professional is only the first step in ensuring they are the right person for you.

Two…investigate credentials. Credentials will impact the quality of the work as well as the price and availability. Jason Wrubleski has been shoeing professionally for ten years, is a Certified Journeyman Farrier, past member of the Canadian Farrier Team, and Vice President of the WCFA. He believes that identifying a potential farrier’s training is important. “Farriers that have completed a reputable form of post secondary education or an in-depth apprenticeship usually have steady work. Continuing education is a strong point to look for in a farrier. Do they attend farrier clinics regularly? Are they a member of an association? Farriers that do not like clinics or continuing education are usually afraid of it.”

Three…look at personalities. Methods of handling horses vary and you will likely be more comfortable with a farrier who subscribes to a similar methodology. A farrier should be someone you can talk to and maybe even have a few laughs with, not someone who you feel intimidated by or someone you feel you can not trust. Jason echoes that sentiment “The personality should be the same as other professionals; pleasant, reasonable, conversation savvy and well educated about their profession.”

It is imperative that owners communicate with their farrier so be sure that he/she is someone they feel comfortable conversing with. Jason says that “In my business I always tell my clients there is no such thing as over communication. We don't ride the horses that we shoe so listening to the horse’s rider provides valuable information for the care of their feet.”

Four…explore expectations. Jason feels that both sides of the business relationship have a responsibility to each other. “Farriers are expected to do a great job, show up on time, return phone calls promptly, treat horses and owners with respect and service their work. Owners are expected to have an appropriate work environment, remember appointments, discuss issues with the farrier first, and respect the farrier and the trade.” It is not the responsibility of the farrier to deal with dangerous horses or provide services above and beyond their trade. “Farriers are not hired to train horses, discipline them, deworm, catch, or do other jobs that exceed what should be expected. We truly appreciate well trained horses. Farriers should not go to work thinking they may get injured.”

Five…investigate and agree on costs. How much will this cost you? Jason feels strongly about the issue of cost. “As far as the cost goes I know most skilled farriers charge for time, supplies, travel, and skill level. I do not know farriers that will blindly gouge someone but price is subject to change depending on the circumstances. Fair work for a fair price.” Farrier work is a necessary service required on a regular basis; so budget for it and plan for it. Calculate in advance how many times you’ll need to see your farrier in a year, how many horses and the requirements for each horse.

In order to find the right farrier for you, know your area and the resources available to you, consider credentials, see if personalities mesh, have clear expectations and find a price schedule that works for you. A great farrier will share their knowledge and experience, and will revel in your horse’s success with you as an owner, trainer, rider, groom or coach. Having the right farrier is just as important as having the right shoes; it should be a good fit!