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Your First Farrier Visit: What to Expect

Good hoof care is a very important part of horse ownership. Farriers are professionals who help keep hooves healthy. They trim hooves and apply horseshoes when necessary.

In this article, you’ll learn :

Healthy hooves are a key to a healthy horse. Farriers are an important part of our horse care team.

What Farriers Do:

Farriers are trained professionals who went to a trade school or apprenticed a professional to get this horse job. Farriers trim hooves (they’re growing all the time- just like fingernails!) and fit horseshoes.

Many years ago, iron-smiths (called blacksmiths) shod horses as one of their many jobs. Today, non horse people mostly think of farriers as “blacksmiths,” but it’s not that simple.

Modern farriers have very specific skills:

  • They understand how a horse moves and the ways that horse sports can stress hooves.
  • They can make small changes to a horse’s hoof shape to fix uneven gaits or ease pain for older horses.
  • They know how to do “barefoot trims,” which help performance horses stay sound without horseshoes.
  • And, of course, they put shoes on horses.
    • Horse shoes, like human shoes, have become more complex over time. Farriers fit specific horse shoes using “hot shoeing” or “cold shoeing.” They fit horses with shoes that provide support, traction for riding in the snow, correction, or even veterinary treatment.

A farrier shapes a heated horse shoe for the horse in the background.

Most horses need their hooves trimmed regularly to prevent them from becoming overgrown or developing painful cracks. So if you’re a new horse owner, a farrier should be a regular on your farm.

Most farriers are happy to explain what they are doing as they work on a horse, particularly for new owners who are eager to learn.

However, it may be helpful to know expect before the appointment happens, so here we have a guide to what to expect during a farrier appointment, and how to prepare:

How to Get Ready for a Farrier visit

A few preparations can make your farrier’s day a lot easier!

1. Designate a Dry Workspace with Solid Ground

The farrier will need a designated area to set up and work in. It needs to be somewhere with flat, solid ground, ideally either paved or very compacted dirt.

If possible, there should be a covered area available for them to work in that provides shelter from rain or direct sunlight. This allows them to see how the horse is standing without grass or loose dirt blocking the hooves. It is also much easier than trying to work while standing on a hill or worrying about tripping over uneven ground.

If your farrier will be working inside a barn, help them out. Make sure there is plenty of light so they can easily see what they are doing.   

2. Make Sure They Can Have Their Equipment Nearby

Farriers often have a special truck and trailer filled with their equipment. It’s like a veterinary office and mechanic’s shop all bundled inside a truck!

Because farriers visit farms, they need to be able to carry with them all of their gear, plus the equipment needed to custom fit horseshoes.

If your horse just needs a trim, the farrier can probably carry their tools to the work area. If your horse requires shoes, thought, they may need to park their vehicle close- for easy access to their equipment. This will all depend on the individual farrier, and what they will be doing. Be sure to check with them beforehand. Alternately, have a couple of options for work areas in mind ahead of time in case your first choice spot won’t work for them. 

3. Have someone Hold the Horse

Someone will need to be available to hold the horse while the farrier works on them.

If you cannot be there for the appointment, you will need to find someone who can. Some farriers may be willing to work on a horse while it is tied up, but only once they get to know the horse. They will often request that someone is available to hold the horse’s lead rope. This helps keep both the horse and farrier safe.

4. Minimize Distractions for the Horse

Some horses will stand still for the farrier no matter what is going on around them. Others are more prone to acting up.

Not all horses like having their feet handled, and some are particularly naughty when it comes time for a trim! These horses take extra work, and more time, to get through their appointment.

These horses are less likely to startle if there is not a lot of activity going on nearby (riding lessons, kids or dogs playing, cars pulling up, etc). Try to find a quiet spot for them to stand for the farrier visit.

What to Expect from a Farrier Visit

Most farrier visits look pretty similar. They go something like this:

How Farriers Trim Hooves

Each farrier has their own system for working their way around the horse, but the overall process remains roughly the same.

Some may work on one side of the horse and then the other, and some may work on the front hooves first, then the back.

Some might trim all four hooves first and then put new shoes on; others may shoe as they go.

  • If your horse has shoes, they are removed first.
  • The farrier will then clean out the hoof and make sure the sole and the frog look healthy.
  • They will then begin trimming the hoof with “nippers,” removing excess hoof walls.
  • A “hoof knife” is used to remove any dead areas of the sole and frog.
  • Once the excess of the toe of the hoof is removed, they will use a tool called a “rasp” to file the hoof down. This gives the hoof its smooth, curved shape, and ensures no rough or sharp edges. 

How Farriers Putt on a New Set of Shoes

If the horse wears shoes, the farrier will then work on forming the new set. They will take a shoe and hold it up to the bottom of the horse’s hoof to see how the shoe needs to be reshaped. They will then begin reshaping the shoe.

This can either be done by “hot shoeing,” which requires heating the shoe up in a forge and then using an anvil to change the shape of the shoe.

Or, they may use “cold shoeing,” which skips the forge and just uses the anvil and a grinder to create the desired shape of the shoe. They may need to check it against the horse’s hoof a few times to make sure they have a good match.

Once the shoe is ready, they will secure it to the horse’s hoof with small nails. The nails will poke through the hoof wall a bit, but the farrier will clinch the ends of these nails so they stay in place, then rasp the edges off so the nails are nearly flush with the hoof. 

4 signs your horse's shoes aren't well fit

At the end of your Farrier visit

Paying your Farrier

When the farrier is finished, they will let you know the final cost of services for the day. If all your horse needed was a trim, the cost should be inexpensive. If the horse requires shoes or special treatment, it will cost more. You will have to work out with the farrier the best method of payment for you both.

Should you tip a farrier?

Tipping your farrier is optional. Not tipping will not offend your farrier or cause them to refuse to come back. Most farriers do accept a tip if offered.

I recommend tipping for exceptional care, inconvenient visits, or for their patience in handling an impatient horse. Read more about tipping farriers from the opinions of actual farriers in this forum post.

Setting Up an Appointment Schedule

At this point, you may want to set up the next appointment, or let them know you will call when your horse is ready for another trim. If the horse is new to you, it may take some time to figure out how far apart their farrier appointments should be.

The average horse needs a farrier visit every six to eight weeks. Horses requiring specialized treatment may need more frequent care, while barefoot horses that spend lots of time on rough, rocky surfaces can go much longer between appointments.

Farrier appointments are fascinating to watch. They provide an excellent opportunity to learn more about hoof health and hygiene. Your farrier can also give you insight into how your horse moves and carries its weight. Hooves are made of keratin, just like our finger and toenails. And like our nails, they grow continuously throughout a horse’s life and need to be trimmed.

Regular farrier appointments help keep our horses happy and healthy.

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