We all learn within roughly 17 minutes of owning or managing a horse that a farrier can make or break you. Without a good one, abandon all hope, ye who attempt to enter at A…
But what makes a Good Farrier? In the US, becoming a farrier requires extensive effort – to write the word after your name, with no mandates regarding skill or experience. It’s up to us to clamber up the painful learning curve of figuring out who knows what they’re doing. Because, ya know, we’d hate to make some aspect of equine-keeping easy (I think that might actually be illegal?).
My top criteria (compiled mostly the hard way, of course), embodied by The Amazing Wonder Farrier:
- Eyes. He’s watching my horses move even before he gets out of the truck.
- Ears. He (no offense to Lady Farriers, I’m just sticking with mine for simplicity) LISTENS. If this was a numbered list, it’d be #1! No one knows your horse better than you do & a Good Farrier knows & respects that.
- Curiosity. He asks how my horses responded if we changed something. He seeks out continuing education & is not afraid to try new products & techniques.
- Experience. My farrier is actually younger than I am, but has been handling hooves for nearly 20 years. Experience also means he knows what he DOESN’T know & never lets pride stop him from consulting with other farriers & my vet (see next bullet).
- Communication. Ok, he may not agree with me that MY horses are the most important (duh!), but if there’s an injury or special need, I get a response, even if it’s a text at 9 pm (I’m not the only one with an over-committment problem).
- Attention. It takes him two hours to do Encore’s shoes – because he is meticulous. If he doesn’t like the way Encore blinked when he drove a nail, it gets pulled. Each hoof gets tested multiple times. Even before he pulls the old shoes (or trims the bare feet), he walks around the horse & stares at everything thoughtfully.
|Solo: always waiting for me to get with the program|
Let’s see this combination in action. Last winter, Solo became very sore in his right shoulder. It was perplexing, as he’d suffered no injury I was aware of, had no previous issues there, & was not under any taxing workloads.
During the same time, there was a persistent whisper in the back of my head every time I looked at that front foot. It just…looked funny, in that way you can’t quite put your finger on. But that’s his white front ankle & with furry winter fetlocks, there’re plenty of optical illusions.
Dr. Bob (vet) & Wonder Farrier were both consulted, we found some saddle wool that needed to be re-fluffed, but it didn’t quite go away. Finally, I dug into my extensive collection of “obsessive photos of my horses’ feet through time.”
You should totally make one of those, if you haven’t already. Bingo.
When I pulled up a photo from the spring of 2011, when Solo was competing at Training Level, the light bulb practically exploded. His front feet had just crept out in front of him incrementally. Enough that his angles were NQR but still so slight if you hadn’t looked at him every day for 9 years, you wouldn’t see it.
I’m not sure who was more excited when I dragged the laptop out at our next appointment, me or Farrier. ANSWERZ!!1! Now: a plan. This is where the awesome happened.
Along with backing up his feet, he needed a slight wedge (which he’s worn before) & a square, rolling toe for easier breakover. However, the shoe we’d used for that previously was aluminum. I have come to hate plain aluminum, primarily because it transfers significantly more concussion to the foot. I won’t sidetrack into the materials science, but a steel shoe, however counterintuitive it may seem, absorbs more shock.
|Ready to roll|
Farrier: “Hmmm, I shall ponder while at kids’ horse show…I have an idea…”
And then he invented exactly what we needed. (Although I told him it would have been much more impressive if he didn’t say, ‘wow, I didn’t think that would actually work,” LOL!)
He took a set of steel hind shoes which are made with a tiny wedge & simply widened the heels. Because there were rounder & squarer (it’s a word now) than a typical hind shoe (sorry, I can’t remember the brand), they gave us both the shape & angle we needed.
Solo couldn’t stop licking his lips as he set his restored feet down. The next time I got on, I could practically hear him giggling, “Yeah!!! So much better!! Let’s go!!”
Not only that, but they worked so well, we gave Encore a set too! I think I’ll call them The Johnathan Special.
And that is why it pays to be picky.
|Can we have some more of this?|