As a horse owner, whether you are in the racing business or not, taking good care of your horse is important. The horse needs to be healthy and have balanced hooves to be functional and run at optimal capacity.
If you think you can take care of your horse, all by yourself, go ahead. Horses need specialized care that only trained professionals can provide. One of such is a farrier.
A farrier is a trained professional that specializes in taking care of horses’ hooves. They may learn as an apprentice working under a certified professional. Sometimes, they attend farrier schools to learn the skills. As a trained professional, a farrier has the knowledge to treat hoof related problems.
Some Of The Responsibilities Farriers Perform Include:
1. Maintaining Hoof Hygiene
An unhygienic hoof is the primary cause of several hoof-related ailments. It causes hoof wall cracks, abscesses, white line disease, and laminitis in horses. These diseases can make a horse become lame if they are not treated.
One of the major causes of these problems is poor living conditions. Some horses are raised in the same place they relieve themselves.
Raising horses in a dirty environment will expose them to hoof-related diseases. A dirty environment harbors harmful bacteria that may cause diseases to fester. As they walk over their urine every day, they come in direct contact with bacteria. This increases their chances of contracting hoof infections.
Good hoof hygiene is a viable solution to this problem. It will protect a horse from diseases that may arise from living in poor conditions.
This is one of the major duties of a farrier. A farrier keeps a horse’s hooves free from infection. The professional cuts off the dead sole, excess hoof walls, and dead frog to keep the hooves healthy. Doing this helps the horse’s hooves to be disease-free.
2. Acts As The Veterinary’s Eye
Farriers also assist vets in keeping horses in good health. While they don’t work as vets, farriers look for signs of poor health such as lameness, thrush, and other diseases. They do this in advance to prevent the diseases from attacking the horses.
When they notice minor health issues in the hooves that are within their range, they treat them. If they can’t handle such problems, they will inform the horse owner. The owner will contact the veterinarian for observation and treatment. As the farrier identifies such problems, it allows the vet to handle the issue before it gets out of hand.
3. Make Horseshoes For Horses
While they help horse owners to correct issues in their horse’s hooves, they offer much more. They also make horseshoes to protect hooves against diseases.
Farriers build horseshoes to soften the impact of hard surfaces on horses’ hooves. When a horse moves around with the shoe, its hooves don’t feel the effect of the hard surface as much. This prevents the hooves from premature wearing.
Walking on ice and in slippery conditions can cause a horse to fall and injure themselves. This is especially true when the horse is not well protected. When such horses wear shoes, it makes it easier for them to walk without losing their balance. It is a protection against unnecessary injuries to the horse.
While making custom shoes, they put several factors into consideration. The following factors determine the type of changes needed to horseshoes:
- Hoof balance
Farriers can make custom horseshoes for horses that carry heavy loads. They will also consider making custom horseshoes if the horse has other challenges. A shoe may also become handy if the horse needs some extra traction as it will make movement easier.
Another area where the horseshoe is useful is their barn. Some owners raise their horses in a dirty environment. Horses that wear such shoes have protection against possible hoof infections. The shoes will protect the hooves from getting in contact with the bacteria in a dirty barn. If there is no contact, there won’t be fear of infection.
4. They Serve As Consultants
When the need arises, farriers also serve as consultants. Their training and years of experience equip them to take on this responsibility. Some owners also contact farriers to help them when shopping for hoof care products.
5. Keep Records Of Activities
Keeping a log of activities is one of the many duties of a farrier. They keep records of horse maintenance, medication, and the likes. Self-employed farriers also help clients handle billing and more.
Accurate records help them know the last treatment they administered to a horse. It also gives them an idea of what needs to be done to improve the condition of a horse’s hooves.
Farriers also trim horses’ hooves as a part of their maintenance routine. With nippers and rasps, they remove the hoof material when necessary. The removal is necessary because it helps a horse to maintain a proper foot length and shape. This helps the horse maintain the right foot balance.
7. They Collaborate With The Veterinarian
Sometimes, Farriers don’t work alone. They work together with vets that are treating their clients’ horses. Their relationship with equine vets helps them understand the needs of a horse. This tells them how best to take care of their hooves.
The basic educational qualification for a farrier is a high school diploma. Diploma holders can attend more training in special schools. This will prepare them for a career as a farrier in the future.
There are farrier training programs that prospective farriers can undergo. These programs equip them with the required skills needed for a successful career.
As a member of a professional body, it may be mandatory for farriers to gain more knowledge and skills. This is necessary to remain active as a member of the association.
For an example, members of the American Association of Professional Farriers need at least 16 hours of training each year. This caveat helps professional farriers push harder and continue to get better. The association de-lists those who can’t take training or are below the 16-hour mark.
Farriers who want to get better at what they do can attend shoeing schools. There they can improve their knowledge about equine health. Such schools offer classes such as physiology, anatomy, behavior, and conformation. The training will help them understand horses better.
A degree in animal science or equine science is also a big plus. It will give the individual’s career a massive boost. A degree in a relevant discipline makes farriers more marketable to horse owners.
Identifying diseases and hoof-related problems will make a farrier’s job easier. A degree in veterinary or other veterinary education is also an asset for a farrier.
Having a relevant degree makes it is easier to spot potential hoof-related problems. This helps them make the right moves and prevent the diseases from taking over the hooves.
They also need blacksmithing knowledge to handle some jobs. This is important when changing or adjusting horseshoes.
Farriers work hard to keep horses’ hooves clean and healthy. This serves as a protection against diseases that may affect a horse’s performance.
About 90% of farriers are self-employed. The freedom of working for themselves allows them to treat horses all over the country.
It is not uncommon to see farriers traveling to shows or circuits while working. This allows them to put their training and knowledge to use while caring of their clients’ horses.
Some are part-time farriers. They supplement their regular jobs by working on weekends or specific days of the week.
Some are under the employment of horse breeders, large stables, or racing companies. Many of these positions have hundreds of horses in their stable. Stables, farms, ranches, and riding schools are other potential employers for farriers. These companies hire on a full-time or part-time basis.
Farriers earn a decent income. In 2011 an American Farriers Journal survey reported an average income of $100,000 for experienced full-time farriers. According to the same survey, new and part-time farriers earn an average of $2,000 every month.
A farrier’s pay depends on the following factors:
- Number of clients
- Level of experience
Although their income is decent, running a farrier company is not easy. Farriers incur a huge bill for maintaining their businesses. They pay fees on things such as trade association membership and insurance. Truck maintenance and other fees also form a part of their expenses.
The demand for farriers will continue to grow. As the number of horses and the industry expands, farriers will continue to be relevant in the future. This has the potential boost their earnings.
There are tens of millions of horses in the world. These horses are vulnerable to hoof problems and will need the care of a farrier.
Apart from education, a farrier must have some of the following necessary skills:
- Ability to handle horses well
- Physical strength
- The ability to reshape horseshoes based on each horse’s needs
Without these skills, a farrier may find it difficult to succeed in the profession.
12 Important Farrier’s Tools
Farriers perform many responsibilities to keep their clients’ horses in good health. They use special tools to carry out these duties with relative ease. Some of the common tools in a farrier’s toolbox include:
- Hoof knife: This special knife is the best tool to remove excess frog and sole on a horse’s hooves. For ease of use, the tool is available in both right-handed and left-handed versions. So, users can choose the version that goes well with their dominant hand.
- Horseshoe pullers: This is a larger version of the hoof nipper. It is the perfect tool for pulling off a horse’s shoes. Before a farrier uses the tool, they will first unclench the nails to make the removal easier. This reduces the problem that may arise if the nail remains in its place while the farrier removes the shoe.
- Anvil: A hammer or anvil can adjust horseshoes to fit horses’ feet. The anvil helps the farrier mold the shoe into the style and shape that will fit the horse. The shoe must also be flat, this is another area where the farrier will use the tool. Without the tool, flattening a shoe can be difficult.
- Hoof nippers: This tool is for trimming the hoof wall.
- Hammer: A farrier needs this tool to keep the shoe in the right place by driving a nail through it. The two sides of the hammer serve different purposes. While the round side drives the nail, the other side is ideal for removing the nail when necessary. This hammer is smaller than the regular hammer.
- Forge and tongs: A farrier uses this tool to heat horseshoes. The heating makes it possible to customize shape of horseshoes. The tong will hold the hot shoe on the anvil while working on it. It is also used for holding the shoe in the furnace while heating.
- Hoof testers: These are powerful tools. They can test cracks, weaknesses, and other hoof problems. The farrier uses the testers to apply pressure in some parts of the hoof. This is to enable the tester to detect where there is a problem.
- Nail clincher: It is important that the horseshoe fits into the hoof and stays in place. Clinches assure this. There are two types of clinchers: the alligator-like head and the ball-like head. Farriers use the type they are comfortable with to get the job done faster.
- Clinchers: Farriers hold shoes together with the ends of nails. They use clinchers to bend or clinch the ends for this purpose.
- Stand: A farrier uses this tool to rest the hoof of a horse off the ground to make the rasping easier.
- Nailing block: Another name for this simple tool is clinching block. Farriers use it to “set” wrung off nails before clinching. That ensures they won’t pose a risk to the horse.
- Rasp: A rasp is a multi-purpose tool with a design like a regular nail file. After trimming, the tool is used to remove uneven parts of the hooves. It is also good for smoothing the edges of hooves after trimming. Farriers also use the tool to rasp down hoof walls and nails when necessary.
A farrier plays an important role in keeping a horse fit and healthy. A horse plagued by diseases in its hooves is as good as useless. If you own a horse and want it to remain in great shape. You will need a farrier to help prevent or treat hoof-related problems in your equines.