10 ways to make your farrier visits easier

logo best lines only10 ways to make your farrier visits easier

It takes a “special” type of person to sign on for twenty or so years of avoiding poop, drool, kicks, and sometimes bites courtesy of very large beast .  Add in the desire to hammer hot metal, hold thousands of nails in ones mouth and having hands that seem to permanently smell of thrush.

In addition to the physical demand of the craft, this person shall also have a complete working knowledge of  equine anatomy and locomotion as well as being an entrepreneur,  teacher and salesperson.

Sometimes with all of this knowledge and experience comes the tendency to become annoyed when non-farriers are not aware of things that can make our job harder, more dangerous or our work less effective.

jump rock
it takes a “special” type of person to commit to the farrier life

There are some things you can do to becoming a favorite on your hoof care professional’s calendar.  Here is a list of farrier visit suggestions I believe the horse-owner can do to make the experience better for everyone involved.

1. Do your homework. There is no prerequisite to buy one of these animals and the instruction manual is sold separately. If you are new to the sport  seek some sort of guidance. Horse are big and can become very headstrong and if they think they have the upper hoof in the situation.

farrier visit
if you are new to the sport, seek a more experienced partner. photo b. cagle

I highly recommend taking some lessons at your local stable before acquiring a horse. A little supervised instruction will save you a lot of headaches and money down the road. If you can’t do that, buy or borrow a more experienced and older horse to learn on. You will enjoy horse ownership much more with a reliable and steady partner.

2. Provide me with a level, dry work area free of  clutter. If the horse decides to have a come-apart I want to be able to get away from him without tripping over your hay string collection. Also, it is dangerous to work in the field where other horses are loose.

Keep animals at bay as they are all very curious, Dogs like get underfoot, sometimes literally, trying to nab hoof trimmings.


dogs love 'em
dogs love ’em

3. In the summer it is too hot to work in direct sunlight. Let’s try to set up under a tree if there is not a barn to work in.

4. In the winter having some shelter is great, however, I work for plenty of people without a barn happily. Those people have a well drained sunny place and maybe a building acting as a wind break. I’m  happy to reschedule if the weather is truly awful.

5.If I am shoeing your horse, being close to my truck would be appreciated. I will have to make a lot of trips back and forth when fabricating and fitting the shoes.

tools for hot shoeing
tools for hot shoeing


6. Train your horse to be able to stand patiently. If your horse is  shying away from me and defecating constantly it is usually because he’s nervous.  Most likely he just needs more good experiences being handled.  Work with your horse from the ground regularly and watch him transform into a more confident and  agreeable companion.

Tie him regularly and he will become accustomed to being confined and messed with. If the only time this horse is handled is for farrier and vet work it is understandable that he would be suspicious.

7. Make and keep appointments. Not all horses are going to be able to go the maximum 8 weeks between farrier visits and trying to save money or time will yield unsatisfactory results. The farrier must stay ahead of the hoof growth especially with distressed feet.

waaay too long between farrier visits


8. Have all the accessories. A minimum of working halter and lead rope with the animals in a nearby confined area ready to be caught. Bonus points for having your horse fly sprayed in the warm months. Super bonus for cleaning the horses feet out.

horse, halter and lead rope
horse, halter and lead rope

9. Follow follow up directions. Your horse has white line disease or thrush? Treat the hooves with the medication and they will be WAY more likely to improve. I get a warm, fuzzy feeling whenever I see purple stains as evidence of your campaign for hoof health, Thrush busted!

10. For the love of all that is good, pick your horses feet out as part of your pre-ride or grooming routine. Horses are not naturals at standing on three legs. At all. The more you handle your horses legs the more skill he will have at balancing his thousand pound frame over a triangle instead of square.

Doing so on a regular basis helps me so much. Most of the reason for  farrier anxiety in horses is based upon the fear of the unknown. Problems start when the horse  looses balance.  The animal gets nervous which  causes the farrier to also become nervous. This is a vicious cycle that can end in all sorts of tragedy! Don’t let it start by having your horse comfortable and bored by the whole procedure.

e smokin apache

In conclusion, I would like to add that I strive for progress not perfection. The fact that you have read my little post about my preferences goes a long way. Us cantankerous, crumpled and stinky farriers thank you for your interest. In the end, I love being a part of team “your horse” and want to right by him, and sincerely appreciate your business.

See you in six weeks;).


Hot shoeing vs Cold shoeing

Hot Shoeing vs Cold Shoeing

I can remember being very nervous the first time I fit a hot shoe to a live horse.  The combination of hot metal,  sharp tools and live horses seemed risky, surely there was good reason. Why do some farriers hot shoe and others  opt out from all the smoke and flame?

hot shoeing vs cold shoeing

In my schooling,  apprenticeships and first years on my own I almost exclusively hot shod.  About five years in, I  became  involved with the thoroughbred racing and breeding industry.  For a variety of good reasons explained later, most race stock, especially, the sales yearlings, and horses in training and racing are shod cold.

hind foot with aluminum racing plate
hind foot with aluminum racing plate

I have shod horses well with and without the use of the forge.  One way isn’t inherently better for every situation, but having a choice lets me  bring more options to my clients.

The benefits of hot shoeing

1. Hot metal is more malleable

Heating the metal prior to trying to change its shape is like letting the butter defrost before serving it with rolls.  The metal is much easier to work with;  the bends and dimensions can be controlled with a much greater degree of precision when the steel is red hot.  If the horse needs a shoe with any sort of modification, ( ex. rocker toe) hot shoeing is in order.

The toe of this shoe has a rocker toe.It would be nearly impossible to get this common modification without the forge.
The toe of this shoe has a rocker toe.It would be nearly impossible to make this basic modification without the forge.
2. Create a perfectly level hoof

A perfectly level foot will hold a shoe much better than one that is almost level.  Imagine a table that isn’t exactly level, and the wobble just a fraction of an inch creates.  It’s the same thing with the shoe except you can’t fix it with a coaster.

level foot ready to nail a shoe on
level foot ready to nail a shoe on

If the foot or shoe isn’t level, it’s obvious, if you are hot shoeing.

I realized the heel of the shoe was slightly bent
the  unburnt hoof  signals  the shoe or foot needs leveling
3. The ability to “hot fit”

When I set the hot shoe onto the hoof, a.k.a. “hot fit,” about 1/8″ of horn is melted. This creates a perfect marriage of hoof and shoe.  The hot shoe has evened-out any variation in the hoof wall and creates a gasket like seal with the shoe.

the seared foot will perfectly match the shoe
the seared foot will perfectly match the shoe
4. Clips work best when “hot fit”

I like to use clips on most horses.  Nails are a necessary evil that damage the hoof wall, to some degree, no matter how skilled the farrier.  Clips help secure the shoe and help reduce the stress on the nails and the hoof.

burn markup

Hot fitting, clipped shoes create a divot that locks the shoe in place.

clip set markup


The case for cold shoeing

Some shoes are not made to be heated up and doing so could be dangerous.  The shoes worn by the majority of thoroughbred racehorses become very brittle when heated, and could easily break under the weight of the horse.

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Hot shoeing may not be practical.  Some clients may not want the fire risk involved with hot shoeing.   Having any kind of open flame in a barn setting requires safety precautions.  If a horse must be worked on in a stall or if the barn is littered with hay, I would rather not take the risk of introducing a flame or red-hot metal.

With cold shoeing, the farrier is more nimble and able to service horses without as much equipment.  A skilled farrier should be able to level and fit most shoes accurately, without the luxury of a mobile shop.

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my hot shoeing stuff
tools for cold shoeing
tools for cold shoeing

Lastly, some horses are “non-smokers.”  Some horses may come completely unglued by the sights, sounds and smells of hot-shoeing, even though, the process is painless.  The hoof is an excellent insulator.  Tests have shown that the heat used for hot-shoeing does not harm or involve live tissue, however, some horses still take issue with the process.

"you want to do what!?!"
“you want to do what!?!”

In conclusion,  there are as many ways to shoe a horse as there are farriers. I hope hot shoeing versus cold shoeing has answered some questions you haven’t had the opportunity to ask or given some insight of the possibilities of more advanced hoof care.   As long as attention as been paid to fit, form and function the end result will be a well-shod horse.

Don’t forget the number one cause of lost shoes is not following Elizabeth’s Farrier Service via your social network of choice.

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