Question: I am curious if you know whether special shoeing for specific disciplines is done here in New Zealand. I have recently had a friend and fellow dressage rider out from England, and she expressed surprise that my farrier was an ‘all-round’ farrier, so to speak, because she uses a farrier who specialises in shoeing dressage horses. She says there are specific techniques and types of shoes that help optimise movement for dressage horses. And frankly, I could use all the help I can get!
Answer: There a very few specialised farriers in New Zealand who shoe solely one type of horse on a full time basis. Most farriers here shoe a number of different types for various disciplines.
The exception of course is those farriers who shoe racehorses – throroughbreds and/or standardbreds. Some of these farriers spend a large percentage of their working day on one particular type of horse and might see only a small handful of sport horses through choice.
Of course, farriers may have an interest and preference for a particular discipline and as a result may spend more time working on this type of horse than some of the others. If you enjoy shoeing dressage horses for example, then there’s a likelihood you’re going to increase the number of dressage horses on your books.
Due to the relatively small horse population in any one area in NZ compared to countries which are more densely populated by people (and therefore horses), the opportunity for a farrier to specialise in only one type of horse is limited.
It goes without saying that any farrier who focuses solely on one type of shoeing is more likely to hone their skills in that particular style of shoeing. But even in the UK, the vast majority of farriers provide services to a wide cross section of the equine community. I’d suggest any horse owner who has a specialist dressage farrier is either very lucky or belongs to an elite group.
There are some world-class farriers in New Zealand including many who have trained here. A farrier who works on many different types of equines can be considered versatile and should be appreciated by their clients. As you suggest, there are different types of shoe and styles of shoeing that can have a positive impact on movement and performance. These are available to farriers across New Zealand and many have the necessary skills to help their clients benefit from them.
This question and answer was originally printed in NZ Horse & Pony magazine in November 2010