If your horse has ever had issues with his or her feet, the old adage, ‘no hoof, no horse’ could not ring truer. When considering hoof health, multiple factors influence the state of your horse’s feet including nutrition, conformation, environment, use and overall management and care.
One of the keys to success of healthy feet is your farrier. He or she plays a critical role in the maintenance and ongoing assessment, treatment and wellness of your horse. When selecting a farrier to work with you and your horse, there is more than just price to consider. Here are some questions to ask to learn more:
- What schooling or certification have they received?
- If new to the industry, have they completed an apprenticeship? Is the Master known for doing good work? Ask around your barn, veterinarian, tack or feed store to learn more.
- Have they worked with a veterinarian? Are they willing to work with a veterinarian?
- Are they a member of a professional organization such as the American Farrier’s Association or the American Association of Professional Farriers?
- What do their current or former clients have to say about them? Check references.
Consult with your farrier on the appropriate frequency for trimming. For example, I live in a Northern climate, where hoof growth is slower in winter months and faster in summer months. My farrier trims my horses every 4-5 weeks in the summer and 6-8 weeks in the winter.
The genetics of your horse have a significant impact on the management program. Some horses are blessed with good heels, strong walls and naturally cupping soles. Others may have issues with low slung heels, flares or misshapen soles. Such feet may require more frequent or special trimming methods and in some cases, shoes may be required to maintain soundess. Refer to your farrier and vetrinarian to determine if this solution is best for your horse.
Be sure you are regularly picking out your horse’s feet with a hoof pick between farrier visits. One of the best times to do this is grooming before and after work. Check for rocks, bruises and signs of concern, such as white line disease or thrush. The frequent time spent observing can help you understand the overall health of his feet. In partnership with your farrier, your efforts toward regular care of his feet will go a long way toward soundess for years to come.