Q. My young mare is naughty with her back feet. I’ve had a number of farriers who all seem to come once then disappear into thin air when I call them for the second time. I’d like to find a farrier who is willing to teach her how to stand still so the shoeing is not such an ordeal but none seem to have the patience. Am I expecting too much? Please help! Tara via Email.
A. Sorry to hear you’re having trouble with getting your mare shod. From what you’ve told me, it may help for you to do some work on the youngster yourself before asking the farrier to come in and shoe her. Whilst a certain amount of the learning process for your horse will come from a patient and understanding farrier during those initial shoeings, much of the groundwork should be done by the owner/handler well in advance.
Most farriers will agree that it is their job to shoe and/or trim the horse and your job as owner to train it accordingly. My advice is that you could consider spending the time and effort on the horse now and only ask the farrier to visit once the horse is trained and well handled enough so that picking up the hooves and all that is involved during the shoeing process is second nature and the horse understands what is expected from her. When this is the case, it can be surprising how straight forward and uneventful those initial shoeings can be.
There’s lots you can do to prepare your horse ready for the farrier (and save yourself the ordeal of having to find a different farrier each visit!) Having a second pair of hands is a good start and ideally, somebody who can play the role of the farrier during the education process. Introducing new people to the horse and swapping roles may also be helpful – it’s all part of the learning. Usually, having one person holding (and reassuring) the horse whilst the other person does the work on the horse is the best approach. Feel free to enjoy the education process yourself. Dressing up like a farrier and telling bad jokes might be fun.
Going through some of the routines that farriers do and introducing these slowly is recommended. These include picking up the feet one by one, holding them up for a few minutes at a time, extending the hind feet rearwards and taking all four feet forwards. Also, gentle tapping with a small hammer on the hooves will get the horse used to some of the things they might experience when the real farrier turns up.
Having the right people to help you may save a lot of heartache too.
The key to success is repetition and making the learning process stress-free for the horse. I recommend spending short amounts of time to start with then building up after a few weeks depending on how things are going.
Once you’ve put the work in, finding a farrier who is patient and has the time to work with you and the horse is important too of course. Locating the right person (and keeping them) should be a lot easier if you can present a relatively well educated horse at their first visit. The farrier will then be able to put the finishing touches to the education with the end result of a horse who is a pleasure to work on.
David Hankin Dip.WCF
This question and answer first appeared in NZ Horse & Pony magazine, September 2009