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Finding a farrier that works for you

Krishona Martinson, PhD, University of Minnesota and Kim Otterson, County Line Farm

One of the best ways to find a farrier is word of mouth. Your veterinarian, industry professionals, and other horse owners are often your best resources. Looking for more options? The Minnesota Horseman's Directory lists local farriers, and the Minnesota Farrier's Association lists their members. Considering the following points will also help horse owners find and a farrier that works for them.

Education. Some farriers enter the profession through formal education, some through apprenticeship, and some through a combination of the two. Regardless, a farrier should be knowledgeable about their field. Anyone can trim and shoe horses in the U.S. because no licensing or certification is required. Farriers should be well-versed in equine anatomy, physiology, and biomechanics and should be able to read a radiograph of the foot. Many good farriers will continue their education through reading and or attending clinics, seminars, and conferences. Ask if the farrier belongs to any organizations, for example the Minnesota Farriers Association.

Experience. A farrier's experience is also important. Be sure to ask how long they have been trimming or shoeing horses, whether they have been doing it regularly, and if they have any areas of specialization. It is important to match the farrier's education and background to your needs. A normal, sound horse, used for occasional trail rides does not need the same level of expertise as an upper level show horse or a horse with lameness problems. Keep in mind that some farriers specialize in a particular breed or riding discipline.

Horsemanship. Observe how the farrier interacts with horses. Does the farrier spend time watching how the horse moves and lands on his feet; do they carefully look at and assess the foot; and does the farrier work quietly and calmly around the horse? These considerations not only affect the quality of the farrier's work, they can impact the safety of all involved. Equally important is ensuring your horse stands well for the farrier and is well behaved.

Attitude. Make sure a prospective farrier enjoys their work, does not rush, pays attention to detail, and seems to care about the welfare of the horse and owner. Ensure the farrier is punctual and reliable with appointments, and calls when running late. Finally, make sure they are willing to work in cooperation with a veterinarian, if necessary.

Communication. Choose someone who is easy to communicate and get-along with. This should include conversations regarding the owners goals, the horses' needs, and the owners financial situation. Your farrier should be willing to discuss and or explain the trimming or shoeing process. Make sure they are easy to reach during an emergency situation. Farriers and horse owners should work together cooperatively and share mutual respect.

Cost. Cost will vary by region and the horse's needs. Ask other horse owners in your area or discipline what they are paying for similar services. Never choose a farrier based on cost alone. The important issue is not the cost, but the quality of service received. A more experienced farrier can be expected to charge more than someone new to the profession.

Maintaining the relationship

Once you find a farrier that works for you and your horse, the following suggestions will help you keep and maintain a good working relationship with that farrier.

Scheduling. Maintain a regular trim schedule (usually every 6 to 8 weeks), even during the winter.

Work space. Make sure you have a flat, clean, well-lit area for your farrier to work in. This will help insure everyone's safety and will allow for better inspection of your horse's hooves. A rubber mat can add traction and comfort for both the horse and your farrier.

Horse behavior. Ensure your horse stands well, is clean, and well behaved. Tie your horse and practice picking up the hoof; cleaning the hoof should be done on a daily basis. Kicking, biting, leaning, or pulling the leg away should never be tolerated. One bad move from an unruly horse can put a farrier out of business.

Horsemanship. Learn how to properly handle and discipline your horse. Ask for help from an experienced or professional horseman if necessary.

Be prepared. Be prepared, have your horse caught, brushed, and ready for the farrier. This is especially important if multiple horses are scheduled to be trimmed or shod.

Payment. Make sure you understand your farrier's fee structure, that your payments are prompt, and you schedule appointments in advance. Although emergencies can occur, scheduling in advance will help everyone plan.

Communication. Finally, remember that communication between a horse owner and farrier is key to developing a good relationship and ensuring your horse has healthy feet.

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