and Keeping a Good Farrier
2008 Cherry Hill ©
In your search for
a good farrier, you come across Hank and David. From their profiles that
follow, which one is the best farrier?
Hank is fifty-something and has been shoeing horses for over twenty-five years.
Every horseman in the area knows Hank and Hank knows a little bit about every
horseman in the area. Hank's rasp, at one time or another, has touched the
hooves of the majority of the horses in the county. Hank shoes everything
from ponies to draft horses, roadside plodders to show ring performers.
Hank is friendly and can tell a great story. Because he is popular, his
regular customers sometimes find it hard to get an appointment with him when they
really need help and it usually takes Hank about a week or so to get to a horse
when it loses a shoe. Hank is a self-taught farrier; he didn't go to farrier's
school and doesn't care much for anatomy and physiology discussions. His
shoeing style tends toward the long toe, low heel. Hank shoes six or more
days a week and charges about $45 per shoeing, but it depends how long a person
has been his customer.
and previously a roofer, graduated from a comprehensive farrier program eight
years ago, set up a practice in his home state for five years, then relocated
to the same county as Hank. David attends all of the farrier conferences,
seminars, and workshops that he can afford. He reads the three farrier industry
publications and keeps up with the latest in hoof care technology. David
voluntarily submitted for testing by the American Farrier's Association and has
recently earned the Journeyman Certified Farrier designation. David is very
businesslike: he is punctual and reliable; he talks very little before, during,
or after his work; when finished shoeing, he makes an appointment with the client
for the next visit. David researches new products and techniques and when
appropriate, he offers to try them on his client's horses. His shoeing style
is based on balancing the hoof. David schedules appointments for four days
each week, which leaves the fifth day for overflow and emergencies. He charges
his regular customers $65 per shoeing, new and one-time customers $75 per shoeing.
So, who do you think is the best
farrier, Hank or David? It's kind of a trick question because it depends
on your horse involvement, your priorities, and your budget. Choosing a
farrier depends on your level of riding, your event, and your horse's specific
shoeing requirements. Since you want to give your horse the very best care
you can, no matter what you use him for, investing your time in a thorough farrier
search is very worthwhile. After all, your farrier can help preserve the
usefulness of your horse.
WHAT MAKES A GOOD
INTEREST AND PRIDE
A farrier should be a true craftsman, one who has genuine interest
and pride in his work. He should look at each hoof that he prepares and
shoes as one that will bear his trademark and demonstrate the quality of his work.
A keen farrier wants to keep informed of the latest research and developments
in hoof care technology. A farrier that does not stay updated is outdated.
GOOD TIME MANAGEMENT
Because a farrier must usually be the secretary, accountant, and chief laborer
in his small operation, he must be a good business manager. Time is one
of his most valuable assets and it must be properly managed. In order to
be successful, a farrier must be organized when making and keeping appointments.
A farrier who is not dependable or punctual can cause unnecessary inconveniences
and frustrations for horse owners and his negligence can result in irregular care
for his client's horses. A horseshoer must be careful to not pack his schedule
so full that he gets in a hurry because then he will not do his best work.
If he fills the entire week with appointments, or gets behind schedule because
of excessive visiting, then he has no time left for emergencies such as replacing
GOOD HORSE HANDLING
In order to get along with the variety of horses belonging to clients, a farrier
must understand and be comfortable using standard methods of horse handling.
Although a farrier needs to remain flexible to the different ways of doing things
at various barns, he should never consent to work in unsafe conditions or work
on an untrained or unmannerly horse. A big part of his being a good horseman
is knowing when to say NO when a client presents an unruly horse for him to shoe.
Story telling is not a prerequisite to being a good horseshoer but being able
to explain hoof care principles and management to owners is important. You
should be able to ask your farrier what thrush is and get a thorough, intelligent,
and accurate answer. After all, that is supposed to be his area of expertise
- the health and care of the hooves. If the answer to "what is thrush"
is "black gook and you don't want it", then you haven't really learned
anything you didn't know. Although your farrier doesn't have the time to
teach you everything he has learned, he should be able to give you a good answer
and then refer you to books or articles that deal with the topics that concern
or interest you.
APPROPRIATE SKILL LEVEL
as there are all levels of horsemen, there are all levels of practicing horseshoers
as well - from very basic, self-taught individuals to thoroughly educated, high-tech
farriers. Horses with abnormal hoof problems will require the experience
and skill of an upper-echelon farrier. When an inexperienced horseshoer
is faced with quarter cracks, run-under heels, laminitis, or navicular syndrome,
he may not know what to do or what he tries may make the situation worse.
The greater the performance demands are on a horse, the more precise his
shoeing needs to be. The backyard pleasure horse with normal hooves may
get along very well with shoes put on by a farrier who has only very basic (but
acceptable) skills. However, when that horse is headed into the barrel-racing
arena, over a hunter course, or on an endurance ride, his shoeing requirements
may become much more specialized.
With farriery, as with many other things, you usually get what you pay for.
Although the price of a standard shoeing (four keg shoes) can vary from over $100
to less than $25, the national average is about $50. Prices vary regionally
with West Coast farrier fees being the highest, followed by the southeast, the
East Coast, the Midwest, the west, and the southwest. Within a region, the
variation in prices among farriers will be based on their level of experience,
education, skill, demand, and location.
While the above factors are
important when selecting a farrier, the following characteristics do not determine
whether a farrier is a skilled professional or not.
- How good-looking
- How much chrome he has on his truck.
- How many stories he tells between horses.
How hard he is to get a hold of.
- How many years he has been
- How many designer labels he has on his clothes.
2008 Cherry Hill ©