At Horse Listening, we are emphatic life-long learners of all things horsey. You will be reminded time and again about how there is so much to be learned from horses and other horse people, if only we listened.

This guest post is by Kaleigh Arbuckle, a professional farrier, riding instructor, trainer and breeder of quality horses. Visit her blog, www.farriersnotebook.wordpress.com, a blog for the horse owner who wants tips about shoeing and trimming advice for today’s equine.

The Farrier As An Artist

The farrier as an artist

The farrier, though required to scientifically balance and shoe a horse, is an artist working with a living canvas. In order to create a balanced and beautiful foot, the farrier must understand movement, anatomy, break over, "air time", and conformation. To be a successful farrier, practice and theory must work in harmony with one another.

If the farrier is open minded, a great relationship can develop between farrier, owner and veterinarian when problems arise. Farriers must acknowledge any limitations they may have in dealing with a hoof issue. It's the experiences of competent farriers and vets, working together, through trial and error and past case studies, that make lame horses sound and prevent sound horses from going lame.

Horse shoeing is a rewarding profession as long as the farrier has compassion for, and is passionate about horses. After all, what would posses a human being to sacrifice his/her body through years of physical stress, and at the risk of injury?

What makes a GREAT farrier?

Good farriers can trim or shoe a horse correctly and in an efficient manner.

Excellent farriers can shoe a horse correctly but have a finesse in the way they go about the whole shoeing process:

- they can "use their gut" to stay safe around dangerous horses.

- they use their instincts to address a mysterious lameness.

- they have many tools to pull from when shoeing gait imbalances.

- they have a gentle touch when trimming foals.

- they can keep peace with a fractious equine.

The farrier as a horse rider

Farriers with riding and training backgrounds have an advantage over non-riding farriers because they understand the terms used when a trainer or rider comes to them with a gait issue or when "something just isn't right".  The "feel" used when riding a horse is developed over time, with many miles under saddle, and can be invaluable when trying to solve a soundness issue.

The educated farrier can:

- tactfully assess the current state of training of a horse.

- identify any rider errors.

- suggest age appropriate strength building exercises for the horse. 

- encourage use of longitudinal and lateral suppling under saddle on the lunge line, or in hand.

The benefits of farriers that actually ride are simple - they know what the owner wants, have felt it for themselves, know the heartache when an equine partner is  not able to give its best, and have the same feeling of fulfillment when a problem is solved and goals are achieved.

Be aware!

Be aware of farriers who think their idea of quality shoeing is superior to other farriers and the opinions of veterinarians. This type of thinking is an unfair and dangerous practice.  One cause for concern is when farriers consistently trim heels too low.  These farriers want to trim the foot to the widest part of the hoof and fit a very large shoe. The end result is a horse that has low heels, long toes, and  incorrect angles.  The horse suffers from fatigue earlier in the ride, causing gait abnormalities, and heel or suspensory pain.

The horse owner should feel as comfortable about having a farrier work on their horses as they do a veterinarian.  Competent farriers are in demand everywhere there are horses; farriers willing to communicate with owners and veterinarians, enjoy the work involved, and are keen to put the horse first, have a bright future.

They should be able to put a personal stamp their work, and with the feel of an artist, produce a beautiful, functional, balanced hoof.

What qualities do you like about your farrier?

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6 Comments

  1. I’m biased; my Appy enjoys the expertise of Kaleigh’s gifted talent; and my horse isn’t the only one that benefits, she is also my riding instructor – extraordinary woman

  2. I’m not sure how a farrier trims the heels to the “widest part of the foot”. Most farriers are taught the guideline to trim to the widest part of a dressed frog, though. This is because heels that are left too long will often become crushed and under run. This means the heels are quite long, but stretched forward on the foot. This will make them look “low” and cause the toe to be “long” and the horse will often have a broken back angle. Of course, this is a guideline, and the entire foot and horse must be taken into consideration. However, it is dangerous to imply to naive owners that their farrier might be hurting their horses by consistently “taking too much heel”.

    Owners will tell their farriers “don’t take any heel, the angles are too low!” while not realizing that not taking any heel is exactly what’s causing the heels to “be low” and the toe to be too long. Articles like this are long on opinion and short on knowledge. If you don’t understand why your farrier is doing something a certain way, the best course of action is to ask them instead of trusting online “facts”.

    If your farrier can’t explain why they are doing it, then that is a red flag, but if your horses is going well, and they have reasons for their actions, that is worth putting your trust in.

    1. Thank you! Most owners read these kinds of articles and then know everything. The clarification is well put!

  3. I thought this was a great article until I read: “One cause for concern is when farriers consistently trim heels too low. These farriers want to trim the foot to the widest part of the hoof and fit a very large shoe. The end result is a horse that has low heels, long toes, and incorrect angles.”

    You are feeding the epidemic of horse owners encouraging farriers to “stand their horse up by leaving the heels” all this does is encourage under run, crushed and contracted heels, exactly opposite of what they trying to achieve.

    How about: “make sure when your farrier is providing hoof support by taking the heels back, he also backs the toe up to bring the break over point back underneath the leg”.

    A great site to reference with scientific information can be found by searching for the Equine Lameness Prevention Organization.

  4. “Farriers must acknowledge any limitations they may have in dealing with a hoof issue.”

    Most farriers DO acknowledge it. It’s often the owners and vets who say things like “well can’t you stand the horse up more” on a horse with long sloping pasterns and shoulders or “take off more toe to stand him up” when you’re millimetres away from bleeding the horse.

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