Q. I’d like to start shoeing my own horses so I no longer need to use a farrier. Is there a weekend course I can go on or better still a book I can read to learn the basics? I just want to put shoes on my own horses, not learn about the advanced stuff like anatomy or fixing hoof problems. Kerry, Northland
Answer: Kerry, contrary to popular belief, horseshoeing cannot and should not be learnt at a weekend course or from a book.
There’s little doubt in my mind that farriery should be left to professionals who have studied the trade in-depth, full time and over a number of years. The mistakes and damage that occurs from semi-skilled people attempting to shoe or trim horses can be horrific.
I don’t think it’s appropriate to only learn how to do a basic shoeing (or for the matter, trimming) job on a horse. Qualified and experienced farriers make corrections to most of the horses they see on a daily basis as a matter of course. The ability to recognise problems and conditions is paramount to achieving the best for each horse. A lack of understanding of a condition will likely result in it being missed and therefore left untreated. How will you know that a hoof is straight forward if you don’t have an understanding of anatomy or some of the problems that the horse may have but you have failed to identify?
My advice is that it’s not possible to learn only part of the job or have a basic understanding and be able to safely shoe or trim horses. Hiring a professional with experience and a comprehensive understanding of everything hoof related will often be better for the horse and save money (avoiding the need for somebody to fix up the horse afterwards) in the long run.
On the other hand, the commitment to undertake a period of full training to become a farrier can be very worthwhile. There are strong demands for qualified professional farriers in many parts of NZ. The training can be challenging both mentally and physically with dedication and determination vital in order to succeed but those who do, find the job rewarding in many ways.
David Hankin Dip.WCF
This question and answer was originally printed in NZ Horse & Pony magazine