david at cincinaWhat does it mean to ‘Balance the Hoof’? Ask any farrier if he balances the hoof and he will say ‘Yes’. Ask him to describe how he does it and he will generally describe very convoluted ways of doing so without having any specific reference points for others to copy. Is balancing a hoof a matter of trimming and shoeing so that it looks right? Is there a simple, prescribed method to balance the hoof? Can it be found in textbooks? What is the method of teaching apprentice farriers to balance the hoof? Do farrier schools have a standard method to balance the hoof? The answer is an emphatic NO. Surely we need to make it simpler for young farriers to learn the simple basics if … Continue Reading ››


When I was a young jackeroo, the boss made the comment ‘If you want to find a shortcut way to do a job, give it to a lazy man – he will always take the shortcut, and finish the job with a minimum of energy output. The outcome is usually that it is done wrong or that it does not last and has to be redone.’

This philosophy is especially true when it comes to the shoeing of horses. I don’t like to be the bearer of bad tidings, but it seems apparent that things are getting worse. I have always stressed the importance of trimming the hoof to achieve a symmetrical shape. This can be and must be done no matter what the size of the hoof. By doing this you will help the horse move in a natural, even and uninhibited way. If the hoof is out of balance in any way, the flight of the leg will be crooked and uneven. Probably the most common error in hoof preparation is simply not trimming out the sole enough. This leads to what we know as the low heel/long … Continue Reading ››


I hadn’t been to America until last month (February 2005), and it was a great new experience. I went for horse reasons (well why else would I go) and America certainly has plenty of horses (although I am told that Australia has more on a per capita basis). I had been running courses in Western Australia during February where the temperature in Geraldton was well over 40 degrees Celsius. My last course was at Northam in more moderate temperatures, then I had to sprint across the Nullarbor to get home in time to catch the plane to LA.

I nearly didn’t make it – water in the fuel left my Patrol hiccuping for the next few hundred kilometres, and I limped into Border Village at five kilometres per hour. There was no RAA patrol and no mechanic, but there was an angel on my shoulder in the shape of a fisherman at the local caravan park, who was a home mechanic with a Patrol of his own and he just happened to have a new fuel filter to get me mobile again on my way home, bless him. … Continue Reading ››


After putting my proverbial toe into the water by checking out farriery in the United States last year, I was invited by the American Farriers Industry Association to address the Third Annual International Hoof Care Summit in Cincinnati in February 2006. Not only that, but I was invited to give both the opening and the closing lectures. I wondered if maybe I had put my whole foot in my mouth instead of in the water – was I being honoured by this invitation or perhaps being lined up for the firing squad?

The two topics I selected were my usual bandwagons – I would open with ‘Back to Basics’ and close with ‘What has happened to the K.I.S.S. Principle’. Everyone who has ever worked with me or attended one of my courses could probably just about recite by heart what I would say.

I did research some … Continue Reading ››


The end result of correct hoof care is survival.

Many years ago, in 1954 to be exact, I learnt to shoe a horse while employed as a jackeroo on a remote station. It soon became obvious while out mustering that if the shoes did not stay on, the horse soon became lame and I had to walk home leading him, regardless of the weather conditions and time of the day. This taught me very quickly to put shoes on to stay on.

Now forty-nine years later, I guess it never crossed my mind that those needs would still apply in today’s modern world with our rapid transport and communications, but they certainly do.

On a recent working tour of our far-northern areas, it was a huge reality check to find that now, perhaps more than ever before, it is so important for our working stockhorses to be shod correctly. Today’s horsemen … Continue Reading ››


What if the horses could literally talk to us? They would be able to phone the farrier when the hooves needed attention (regardless of the owner’s opinion as owners sometimes want to stretch out the weeks to save money, and some often lose track of time and shoeing dates). If horses could talk they would be able to check out the expertise of the farrier/hoof trimmer before allowing them to start, and express an opinion whether they even wanted the farrier to touch their feet after that last episode. They could tell their owner about the seasonal changes in their hoof growth and condition, then go over to the rack and select a set of nice new shoes in the correct size and weight which they would know would suit them for the coming important event. They could say “I don’t want those cheap heavy shoes like that old gelding next door is wearing; I could be a much better athlete with the right shoes, and you had better understand that.” He could say “So what if I am harnessed to this four wheeled carriage and my job is to … Continue Reading ››


I have heard that to tell if a person is healthy, just look at the eyes. I don’t know how true that is, but with a horse, I definitely try and encourage people to look at the hoof, and the hoof will show you 95% of what the horse is feeling. If people would look at the hooves when buying a horse, it would save a lot of heartache, and a lot of money.

I was sight-seeing in New York in November, thinking of anything but horses, when I saw a horse skeleton in a Fifth Avenue window display.(Pic 1) Fortunately the horse was dead, as its front feet had been trimmed to the shape of hind feet, so it must have had a pretty miserable life.

I continued along Fifth Avenue, and stopped to chat to two mounted policewomen, both on beautiful quiet horses, (Pic 2) but both horses were far too long in the toe (Pic 2a & 2b) and must have been most uncomfortable standing … Continue Reading ››


A farrier’s life is certainly full of variety. During January and February 2006, I spent five weeks in the USA, firstly speaking at the Third International Hoof Summit, lastly attending the Omaha Convention, and, in between, juggling 21 plane flight legs, speaking, teaching and learning a lot about how American farriers and horse owners work without actually seeing much of the country itself apart from airport lounges. People are so friendly and interested everywhere which is wonderful, and hoof problems are the same everywhere which is not wonderful at all but that is another story. I spend a lot of the year travelling Australia in my 4WD, teaching the ringers (cowboys) on the cattle stations (ranches) how to trim and shoe their own horses, as there are no farriers in the Outback. The obvious benefit of running these courses is that the ringers and managers tell me that their horse-related accidents are virtually nil after five years of teaching, solely due to better hoof care. I run two day courses or clinics on approximately 40 stations, and run another 20 or so courses mainly in rural towns where horse … Continue Reading ››


ADIOS (From Australian Stock Horse Journal July-Aug 2014) By David Farmilo (Accredited Master Farrier) Oakbank SA This is my last article for the ASHJ. I am forever grateful to the ASHJ team for the opportunity given to me to provide articles of interest for readers over the past 16 years, and for the feedback I have received from readers over that time. I retired from teaching at the end of June as I realised that if I keep going I will have been shoeing horses for 60 years next year and that sounded just too ridiculous. I decided to stop writing these articles at the same time as I stop teaching. The reason? I’m turning into a Grey Nomad and going fishing!! Fishing and golf are two things I simply never had enough time for in my life and are now high on my bucket list. One of my first plans is to go helicopter fishing for barramundi with Tony from Katherine. I caught a huge barramundi with Shane Dunn when teaching on … Continue Reading ››


I have never believed in expending more energy as a farrier than I absolutely have to, and this came home to me at a recent course where I had a young farrier attending one of my advanced courses over five days. The self-taught farrier knew he was working too hard and wanted to refine and improve his methods. For a career farrier, it is important to be able to increase workload and at the same time to conserve energy wherever possible without taking shortcuts; also to keep the body fit and healthy, particularly the back, and to challenge the mind so that burnout and complacency don’t finish the career prematurely. I believe that it’s OK to be lazy if it benefits the farrier, but only if it also benefits the horse. The first morning the young farrier was scratching his head saying ‘How do you manage this at your age?’ But by the first afternoon he was already finding it easier. This farrier was going through four rasps a week – I blunt one a month. Plus he had a fine rasp, a heavy rasp, a dull rasp and a half way dull … Continue Reading ››


Recent changes to the Australian consumer laws may very well be the catalyst for change in the trade of farriery. The new laws give the horse owner legal redress for substandard work carried out by the farrier and has far reaching impacts on our profession.

In this country as in many others, any person with even limited knowledge is allowed to provide hoof care to horses; there are no laws to prevent them doing so even when their efforts result in lameness to the horse; as a result many owners have gone for months or even years before finding a true tradesman to get satisfaction, with no redress for loss of costs.

Doubtless many people in the industry of providing hoof care will be concerned by these new laws, however we should be welcoming it as an opportunity to change. Starting from the top, farriery must be recognised as a skilled trade and profession by the Government.

It may be a … Continue Reading ››


As farriers, we have let the horses and the horse world down. With information technology on tap, we are still not getting it right. The over abundance of horses with long toes – low heels, flares, contracted heels and Seedy Toe are ample evidence that things are not right, and that farriers are not correcting these simple problems. And I am not just talking about Australia, as these problems are world-wide.

The reason the farriers are not correcting these problems is they don’t know how to, and the reason they don’t know how to is that they have not been taught correctly. The farriers working for the Sultan of Brunei, or for the Hong Kong Turf Club no doubt do an excellent job, as do the top few percent of any trade. But these farriers are an elite group and do not travel around shoeing kids’ ponies and enthusiasts’ pleasure horses.

This leaves the stable door open for newcomers to … Continue Reading ››