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Farrier Focus: Greg Speltz and Donald Voyles


By Nancy Brannon

This month’s Farrier Focus is a “two-fer.” Greg Speltz and Donald Voyles have been working together for 17, going on 18 years. Greg has been a farrier for 32 years and Donald, for 38 years. Together they have a lot of hoof and horse experience, and their partnership allows them to take care of their clients’ horses on a very timely basis. The two average 7-8 hours a day working on horses, even though “farrier work is a young man’s game,” Greg quipped. When we were out delivering the September issue, Greg and Donald were busy at work at Hunters Edge Stables. Owner/trainer Beanie Cone had praise for Speltz: “He is great!”

Greg and Donald primarily work on hunters and jumpers, as well as a few “Quarter Horses from time to time,” Greg said. Their clientele are mainly in the Eads, Fisherville, Collierville, and Germantown areas of west Tennessee. We met with Greg and Donald at Allison Rayburn’s Southern Sky barn in Sparkle Creek in the Eads/Fisherville area.

While they specialize in hunter/jumpers, Greg says that “it’s all basic horse shoeing regardless of discipline. There are a few nuances between breeds and disciplines. For examples, you might have to drill and tap the shoes for studs for jumpers. Hunters often have aluminum front shoes, and jumpers have steel shoes all around. But it all boils down to good basic shoeing – that’s the key to being a good farrier.”

Greg emphasized that maintaining a horse’s hoof health is “a group effort among the farrier, the trainer, groom, owner, rider, veterinarian, and even the chiropractor. Everyone needs to be on the same page. The groom sees the horse every day so can notice subtle changes that others might not notice. The farrier sees the horse eight to twelve times a year,” so needs complete information from others who are involved with the horse on a regular basis.

One of the most common problems Speltz sees in this area is too much moisture in the hoof. With all the rain and humidity in this area, “the drier you can keep the feet, the better,” he said. “Too much moisture in the hoof weakens the foot and allows bacteria and fungus to grow. The hoof really gets all the moisture it needs from the blood supply in the foot.”

Another recommendation for healthy hooves is to keep your horse’s feet trimmed and shod on a timely basis. “Maintaining hooves regularly is important,” he said. Speltz and Voyles have a regular schedule for their clients. They keep track of the horses and know when they are due for trimming or shoeing, so they show up at the barn on a regular basis. “We know where we’re going every 4 to 5 weeks,” Greg said. “The barn’s main responsibility is to let us know their show schedule” so the farriers can have the horses ready for show on a timely basis. They trim/shoe the typical horse 10 – 12 times a year.

Greg says that glue on shoes are gaining popularity and are a “good option” for many horses. Donald added, “They stay on, even better than nail on shoes, especially for horses with poor quality feet.” The glue on shoes started about 30 years ago, Greg said, but are now much more common. “I was skeptical about them at first, but now I am a firm believer in using them. You can glue on a regular aluminum shoe or you can use the Polyflex horseshoe,” a shapeable, polyurethane glue on shoe that mimics the natural composition and wear characteristics of the hoof. Greg says, “Their downside is the longer time it takes to apply a glue on shoe and the expense. There’s a lot of hoof prep time because you can’t have moisture and dirt on the hoof. But the advantage is that they can be used on horses that can’t wear nail on shoes and, with the glue on shoe, the feet grow a better quality hoof wall with better growth rate.”

We talked about the importance of a horse learning to stand for the farrier and for the farrier to have a clean work place.  Greg says it doesn’t pay to criticize another farrier’s work because “you don’t know the conditions under which they had to work and you don’t know the condition of the horse’s feet at the start.”

As I watched Greg prepare shoes for Abbey Vincent’s horse Nicodemus, the grey in the photos, he put the hot shoe to the horse’s hoof. Greg says he does that to make a mirror image of the bottom of the shoe on the sole, which helps make a good union. It also helps burn out any bacteria or infections and helps toughen the hoof. It also helps seat the clips. He doesn’t do this for all horse, but it does help with some.

Allison Rayburn asked Greg and Donald about the effect of limestone arenas on horse hooves. The arena at her barn is limestone and she plans to show at Germantown the coming weekend, which has limestone arenas. Greg didn’t see any particular problem with limestone and, if anything, the limestone powder could help draw moisture out of the hoof. His recommendation, and Allison agreed she does, is to pack the hooves at night after showing with Magic Cushion® hoof packing. And, of course, brushing off the legs and hooves is a good thing.

Greg emphasized, “Communication among all those involved with the horse is important. If your horse pulls a shoe, tell me where it happened, what the horse was doing.” That helps him evaluate what he can do to help the horse better keep on his shoes between farrier visits.

Greg had one last piece of advice: “Don’t complicate things. Keep it simple.”

Greg can be reached at 901-568-4487.

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