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A Day in the Life of a Farrier


2012/07/06

By Leigh Balllard

The day begins with a pre-dawn departure to arrive at the first client’s barn at 5:30 a.m. There are two horses to shoe there, one of whom is a high-strung Thoroughbred who doesn’t like to cooperate. Then it’s about an hour drive, and some morning coffee, to the show barn for tune-ups on horses due to show this weekend. After that, there’s a trip through the countryside to trim two backyard horses coming out of the pasture with badly neglected feet. A call comes in from a new customer whose horse has a suspected abscess. Her regular farrier can’t get there until next week and the horse needs help now. The horse is near home, so the plan is to take care of that horse on the way home when the day’s scheduled work is done, probably about 8 p.m.

The afternoon is spent working on multiple horses at a regularly scheduled barn a good distance away.  There’s a stop for gas, drinks and snacks, and then appointments to meet two more clients after their work day.

The day gets long because extra horses were added to the schedule, and it’s going to be closer to 9 p.m. to see the horse with the abscess. A call goes out to the client, and that horse is rescheduled for early tomorrow since it’s getting too late for the owner.

This is typical day for a successful full-time farrier – often more than eight hours long, many miles, an expensive tank of fuel, several horses, and gallons of water. It’s back-breaking work, and goes from spring to fall, with some respite in winter.

There are the bad days like the one when the farrier arrives to shoe the horse, and no owner or anyone else is present. The horse is in a paddock, so he has to catch it. The horse is out of sorts because of his separation from the herd. Before the halter even went on, the horse suddenly wheels and landsa full-force kick in the farrier’s gut. He is down, maybe unconscious for a minute, but nobody is there to help. He wakes up, painfully. The cell phone is in the truck outside the paddock. He can’t get up for a while, because he’s hurt too badly. Finally he is able to get under the paddock fence, crawl towards the truck, and inch painfully into the cab to call 911. Not a good day at all.

Tips to help your farrier:

1) Have your horse in a stall, if possible, ready for the farrier.  If possible, you or a designated person need to be present.
2) Have your horse clean and mud-free. However, do not hose the horse off just prior to the farrier’s arrival because he will have to work with wet legs and hooves.
3) Have a dry, flat surface for your farrier to work, preferably under  a roof and shade. The area should be open and clear from distractions, especially playing children and dogs. Sudden distractions and noises can cause a horse to jerk and injure your farrier.
4) If a horse is cross-tied, never try to reposition him by grabbing the crossties. Use the lead rope.
5) If you install lighting in your work area, direct light from both sides. Overhead lighting creates a shadow underneath the horse where the farrier is working.
6) Keep the horses that are being worked on inside until the farrier is finished with all. Never turn out one horse while the horse-shoer is working on another. When the horse leaves, herd dynamics come into play and cause problems for the one who’s supposed to be standing still.
7) Never feed or give treats to the horse while he’s being worked on. If you are doing this to distract him from bad behavior, it is only reinforcing his bad behavior.
8) If your horse misbehaves, let the farrier manage the behavior, unless he asks for help. The horse needs to pay attention to the farrier, not you.
9) If you see a hoof or shoe problem brewing, plan ahead and schedule an appointment. Don’t wait until it becomes critical to ask the farrier to work you in. Give a week’s notice if you can.
10) Think ahead. Let your barn mates know in advance when your farrier is scheduled. If their horses need work, they can be scheduled into the day, instead of being add-ons which causes delay for others.   11) Have your horses on a regular schedule with your farrier so that he can do advance planning.
12) Help your farrier stay hydrated and cool. Shoeing a horse takes a lot of exertion!
13) Have a portable fan handy and an extension cord if your outlet is a distance from where the farrier works.
14) Pay your bill PROMPTLY.

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