How to Communicate with a Farrier
American Association of Professional Farriers
November 1, 2012
This article is presented to members of the USHJA by the American Association of Professional Farriers - a Educational Partner of the USHJA. For additional information regarding equine hoofcare USHJA members are encouraged to visit the AAPF website - www.ProfessionalFarriers.com
Proper hoof care is paramount in successfully owning and maintaining a horse. Most horse owners hire a farrier to trim and maintain their hooves to keep them healthy and worry free. This article will help you learn how to communicate efficiently with your farrier to ensure you get the optimum service available.
It is important to consider your farrier as a member of your horse health team. Others on this team will be your veterinarian and may include your dentist and your chiropractor. You are the most important member of the team because you will be the one that gathers information from all of your professionals and assimilates it into useful material. By the same token you are a great source of information as well, and what you observe between farrier visits will have an impact on the hoof care necessary for your horse.
“There’s the horse, fix his feet”
So, how do you communicate with a farrier? Certainly your initial meeting is a very important one. You need to know things from your farrier like the types of horses your farrier takes care of, what are the payment terms, how the appointments are scheduled, what is the policy if a shoe is cast, and does he or she have a good rapport with your veterinarian. If you are moving into a boarding facility that has already established a house farrier you will find many of these questions already answered for you, but it is still a good idea to touch on these areas during that initial visit so there is no confusion.
“Is he ready for the show?”
It is important to be able to relay information to your farrier accurately. A change in the workload, disciplines or footing may necessitate a change in the hoof care. For example, if you are no longer content with riding Fluffy in the Dressage ring and have decided to try your hand at Eventing you may very well need more traction to get the job done. Shifts in either direction may increase, decrease, or alter the stresses placed on the hoof and the horse, and by informing your farrier in a timely manner you will have a greater success of having those needs met.
“Fluffy’s foot is bad”
Accurately maintaining records will go a long way to solving hoof problems. It is a good idea to keep a journal of your horse’s health that includes pertinent information concerning lameness. Things to record would be the factors involved in the exhibition of lameness, such as if he is off in his left (the horse’s left) or his right, and is he worse going left or right. Is this lameness the same from day to day or does it show up every now and then? Legally it is the veterinarian’s job to diagnose lameness, but most farriers need this information as well so they can make adjustments to satisfy the situation.
New advances in technology are our friends. The advent of smartphones has opened up new ways to share viewable media. Clients routinely send photos of hooves and videos of movement to farriers and veterinarians to augment the perspective of the professional. Veterinarians find it easy to send digital x-rays to farriers in the field instead of having to meet them at the horse. One farrier I know has a client that uses treadmill workouts for his horses and will video the hooves as they walk and trot and send this to the farrier for evaluation.
It is important to be focused and accurate when relaying information to your farrier. Try not to clutter the conversation with extra information. The more extraneous information you present, the more likely something important will be over looked. If there is information that needs to be relayed from veterinarian to farrier make sure that you are not put in the middle of the conversation. You should know and understand the information your professionals share with each other, but you run the risk of getting it wrong if you are the middleman.
“Fluffy’s shoe fell off again”
While most farriers are proficient at keeping shoes on horses, sometimes it can be a very daunting task keeping them on a particular horse. Again, using your powers of observation and keeping records of when and where the shoe came off may very well lead to a workable solution. There are many reasons for a horse to cast a shoe, and by knowing how the shoe came off the farrier can make adjustments that will help keep it on. Save those old shoes that you find that have come off too. They have information on them as well, like impact marks on the shoe, and knowing which side of the shoe is commonly stepped off will lead to a different approach to keeping it on. Keep in mind that some solutions will be solved not by farriery, but by management. This would be the case if the turnout area was less desirable, or if Fluffy was out in a rough herd. Wire fence lines that are commonly trod upon are notorious for getting shoes off of horse hooves, as well as round bale hay strings left in the field.
Communicating with your farrier doesn’t have to be difficult, but it may require some practice to nail it down. The reward in the long run will be well worth it.
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