If you have owned or ridden horses, you would know about farriers and hoof maintenance but hoof maintenance is a question we get asked about often while out and about with our horses, so this blog is to hopefully answer any of those questions you may have. Obviously this is my version, with every facet of life there are options, and variations, but I will explain about our horses and their hoof maintenance.
I’ll start by saying every horse is different and has different requirements. The intended job for each horse also makes a difference to their hoof maintenance. The job of the farrier is to maintain their feet, trim off excessive length, replace shoes, and keep their feet looking healthy and maintained. There is truth in the saying ‘no hoof no horse’. If a horse has sore feet, there is no way they can perform their job.
As most of our work is on bitumen, it is imperative that our horses are shod. Without shoes their feet would chip away, could crack and break off and likely they would end up with very sore feet. The shoes help to prevent the cracking and chipping away, but think of hoof material like for finger nails. They keep growing. With shoes on, the ‘angles’ of the legs change. As the feet grow out, the ‘pasterns’ (the bit between their fetlock(ankle)) get more angulated, putting more strain on ligaments, tendons and muscles further up. For this reason, their feet need to be trimmed, and shoes reset approximately every 6 weeks. This length of time does vary depending on the time of year, nutrition, the individual horse, but if we schedule in every 6 weeks it’s a safe bet.
What does the Farrier actually do
The farrier comes out, removes the old shoe, trims the foot back to the appropriate length, reshapes the shoe, nails it back on, then tightens the nails, and tidies it all. Each horse takes approximately an hour. I often get asked the cost of this- again this varies, but on average, each horse is $150 each shoeing.
I also get asked if I can do it myself. Simple answer is no. It’s not as easy as cutting some foot off and nailing a shoe on. The internals of a hoof are very sensitive. A horse could be permanently ruined if one were to take off too much hoof, or damage the laminae (internals of hoof). The hard exterior of a hoof houses a ‘capsule’ with the pedal bone, and the angles are so important to keeping a horse sound and comfortable for the long term.
Horses feet are as varied as what each individual horse is. They come in different sizes and shapes. For this reason, shoes are available in different sizes and shapes. Our Clydesdales have very large feet, and due to their weight, require a heavy duty ‘draught horse’ shoe. These are solid and heavy and require different nails to attach them to the horses feet. The process is the same (although we need to bandage all of the hairy feathers up so the farrier can see what he’s doing).
Special shoes for Calvin
Calvin is a lightweight. We were finding he would have some traction issues while on bitumen, which when you think about it, steel on bitumen can get very slippery, especially when there is a bit of moisture. To try and assist with this, we gave our farrier a challenge to find some plastic shoes for him. What he came back with were some fantastic polyurethane shoes, that not only help with traction, they also act as a shock absorber, to soften the workout on his joints, and the flexibility it has given to his feet, have resulted in a better shape to his hoof. While these shoes cost more to purchase, we are getting great wear our of them, with them able to be refit 2 or 3 times, depending on Calvin’s work load.
As Boris and Stanley are not yet in proper work and walking on bitumen, they don’t require shoes. This doesn’t mean they don’t require maintenance however. Every 6 weeks they also get a pedicure, to rasp off any chips, stop any cracks and take off any extra length. You may have seen on socials, that Boris is about to commence proper work, meaning he will soon require shoes, so he can get the work and exposure he needs on the road. This will mean that we will have 7 shod.
I’ll let you do the maths on 8 horses, seen by farrier every 6 weeks… BUT it is such an important part of maintaining our happy healthy horses, and that really is the main consideration.