Foot care and shoeing is something often taken for granted until you have the experience of walking out to go for a ride and finding your horse standing on three legs. No foot no horse is more than an old adage.
Many novice owners wonder if their horses need shoes. Shod or not all horses need regular foot care. The preparation for it should start on the first day they’re breathing air. They’re never too young to begin learning to have their feet handled.
What are you doing with your horse? What conditions are you riding in? How do his feet look normally? Are you showing or competing with him? These are all key questions. If you’re riding in the pasture on the weekends shoeing is probably unnecessary and an expense that is not needed. If you’re riding on harder surfaces, rocky areas or mixed footing, if you’re riding daily and asking for more than just casual riding shoes may be needed, as well as if the horse’s feet are chipping, flaring out or other growth problems. Some opt to do the fronts, where the majority of weight and wear is, and leave the backs barefoot, particularly if the horse is turned out with other horses – reducing somewhat the chances of injuries to kicking.
Good foot care isn’t just the horseshoer’s job. It’s YOUR job – he is just part of the care. A professional farrier should have an understanding of the horse’s foot, proper angles and care of the foot and be willing to answer questions. You don’t have to be a farrier yourself to understand foot care – but if you have an understanding what he (or she!) does you’ll understand then why it’s so important to have the horse well trained. A testy horse with a nail partway in can injure the farrier, the holder and himself. Horses than lean on the shoer create problems and if he doesn’t work he don’t eat – so they appreciate the horses that are good. Be considerate of your shoer – have the horses in, ready to work on and someone to hold them if necessary. If it’s raining bring them in plenty early so the feet have time to dry and aren’t slathered in mud. If nothing else bring them up, rinse their feet off and tie them in the barn – a clean stall is better. Have a concrete pad available that’s well lit for the shoer to work on.
Have a calendar where you write appointments down so everyone knows when the shoer is coming. If you have several to do be sure to let him know so his time can be scheduled – and have them ready to go. This can’t be stressed enough – everyone has so many hours of work to make money and a shoer is no different. If he gets there to do 4 horses for you and you spend 45 minutes chasing them trying to catch them while he’s twiddling his fingers at the barn waiting – that’s almost an hour he’s down doing nothing – and he has to work that much harder to get them done to be at *his* next appointment.
When you get a good shoer who trims your horse well, treats the horses well and is willing to explain to you problems and treatments hang on to him! Be prompt in getting horses in and have payment waiting for him when he’s done. With fuel costs, supplies and time there’s not a great deal of profit but it’s a living. If you price a set of shoeing pliers, knife, etc you’ll get a glimpse of what they have for expenses.
Start when your horses are young – lift the feet and hold each just briefly without a struggle. Slowly hold each foot a little longer. If he struggles tip the toe up and try to keep the foot up – don’t let him jerk. With a baby it helps to back their rump in a corner…they feel it and don’t fight as badly. With the hind feet put the front end in the corner. Once they’re comfortable holding it and letting you put it down pick it up and pick it out. Tap the bottom and side of the hoof gently with the side of the pick. This gets them use to the tapping of a hammer later in life. It makes the difference in trimming taking 10 minutes and much longer – it saves people or horses from getting hurt. Get the foal used to having his feet painted – use a brush to spread hoof grease – Hooflex or some other product. Even once a week – just to get him used to the routine.
A horse that’s easy to handle and an owner that is considerate quickly becomes a horseshoer’s favorite customer. Stock lemonaide, sweet tea, sodas in a fridge for hot days and that is a bonus that’s sure to be appreciated.