As a young chap learning the trade I can never remember any of my older mentors displaying the attitude that they knew all there was to know about shoeing horses. If the horse had any gait or attitude problems which caused the farrier to take twice as long to complete the job, the fee didn’t alter, because he was confident that any extra effort put in now would make the job much easier next time around.

It should be a matter of pride coupled with expertise that you do whatever it takes to successfully complete the task, without expecting the client to pay you extra for the privilege you have just had to practise something new and learn more.

However what seems to be happening in the horse shoeing industry today is of great concern to the truly qualified tradesman and to the exasperation, dismay and despair of more and more horse owners.

Farriery today it is looked upon as a very lucrative industry and sadly (for the horse) it is money motivated, increasingly infected with buzz words and a myriad of alternative new age horse shoes and methods of preparation and application.

It is obvious that we must have young people continuing to learn the art of farriery. In past times it was easy to teach and to learn the simple art of the trade; it was an uncomplicated and simple trade and so the standard was more consistent and for the horse owner a more consistent outcome was assured. Even today I will not attempt to teach someone who wants to become a farrier unless they are already a competent rider so they can emotionalise and feel the effects of what they do as a farrier to impact on the performance of the horse.

I hear constantly from totally confused owners who have just had their sound horse shod or trimmed and sometimes they have been charged hundreds of dollars by the farrier and their horse is now unsound. Those I can not see in person I do see via email photos in colour and the problem is always the same – misdiagnosis of the needs of the horse’s hoof and the expectations of the owner. The farrier (and I use the term loosely in these cases) has not assessed the horse correctly or has not had the proper basic training to correctly trim the hoof be it unshod or shod; as a result if shoes are required he has fitted totally the wrong size, weight and shape and then used wrong nails to complete the disaster.

One such horse I was asked to look at had been shod (with standard concave shoes) just the previous week by a ‘specialist in corrective farriery’, at a cost of $350. The owner was told it would take several visits to correct the problem of sidebone (a bony swelling above the coronary band) and thrush infection in the frogs, hence the cost because it had to be shod ‘in a special way’. Also, the horse was ‘not to be worked for another three months’.

Firstly, there is no such thing as a ‘specialist in corrective farriery’. You will never find a horse with four perfect feet, so it is the job of every farrier to correctly balance and trim the feet in order to correctly shoe the horse if required. Secondly, the average fee to shoe a horse with standard shoes is around the $100+ mark and varying from state to state. So what justifies a fee of $350? Ego!

On my inspection, the horse with the $350 shoes walked very crookedly with every leg swinging in a different pattern; viewed from in front he was standing splay footed, and from behind he was cow hocked. A closer inspection underneath showed that not one hoof was trimmed in balance and that this unevenness was now causing more pressure above the coronary band where the suspected side bone was supposed to be, while the thrush had already cleared up.

This lovely horse was anything but comfortable on his feet yet only needed to be shod with proper balance to relieve his pain; he did not have any side bone in the first place, just swelling from being out of balance. I dearly wanted to reshoe this horse correctly so that he would be pain free and could be worked next day. However, I chose not to help this horse as I believe the owner has a legal right to compensation from this ill-qualified horse shoer.

You as a horse owner have every right to ask for proof of ability, client references and trade qualifications before anyone works on your horse’s feet. Try it, and if you get a negative response, that should sound enough warning bells not to go there. The best farrier you may find (by asking for prior references etc) will not have an ego which is going to cost you dearly, he may not even be fully accredited yet, but he should be working with an accredited mentor and be willing to listen to your input as an owner or rider.

For thousands of years the horse’s hoof has remained the same and in domesticated use has only needed to be shod or unshod. Now in our modern society we have the benefit of modern methods to gain a better understanding of the hoof, but it is still exactly the same hoof. Our selfish needs require our horses to do many more varied activities now but we still only need our horse to be shod or unshod.

The simple basic principles of hoof care are still correct and will not ever alter, so be aware as horse owners that if we try to disregard the basic principles of balance and use some of the alternatives infecting the horse world today, the long term soundness of the horse may be affected. It is only my opinion but I sincerely believe that buzz words and egos will cost you and your horse dearly.