Though some may consider a horseshoe a symbol of luck, many horse owners depend on horseshoes to help keep their horse’s hooves healthy. In turn, healthy horse hooves can result in a happy and performance-ready horse.
The skilled tradesman that make horse shoes and apply them to horses’ hooves are called farriers. Jason Maki, farrier for the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, explained the important role of his job.
“Farriers manage and provide protection for horse hooves,” Maki said. “Protection for the hoof is frequently a steel shoe which is formed and fit to the horse’s trimmed foot. The hoof also grows over time and often does not wear evenly or enough to allow the horse to remain comfortable. Thus, farriers trim excess growth and restore the hoof to a functional form.”
Though Maki said a few horses may be able to self-maintain their feet, horses who perform repetitive motions, such as working or show horses, require horse shoes. If horse hooves are not trimmed and fitted for shoes, the result could mean lameness.
“Most horses require basic trimming to maintain a healthy and appropriate hoof capsule,” Maki said. “Allowing the feet to grow too long or wear short can have painful ramifications for the animal. Proper horse husbandry demands owners provide what the horse needs to stay comfortable.”
To learn proper hoof care, farriers need to be comfortable around horses and have physical skills as well as good communication. Legally, Maki said there are no educational or licensure requirements to perform hoof care. However, he said most farriers attend a farrier school and some may even be an apprentice to more experienced farriers.
If you are a new horse owner and need a reliable farrier, Maki said to contact an equine veterinarian and ask for their input. Additionally, ask other horse owners in the area and see which farriers they recommend. No matter who you choose, Maki said to be sure they are skilled in their craft.
“There are many capable farriers who have not undergone a certification process,” Maki said. “But knowing they have demonstrated, amongst their clients, a measurable skill and knowledge set is important.”
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