International Hoof Care Month is celebrated throughout the month of February. During this time, it is important that we recognize the significant contributions farriers make to the equine community.
“Farriers perform duties such as trimming horse’s feet and often applying shoes for protection,” said Jason Wilson-Maki, farrier for the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. “How complex the shoe(s) will need to be depend on the horse’s individual needs, what activities he undertakes, and what may be needed to address any hoof issues.”
Due to the fact that no minimum education is required to become a farrier, a large diversity exists within the farrier community in regards to skill sets and knowledge. However, organizations such as The American Farriers Association offer a series of voluntary examinations by which individuals can earn credentials.
“Within the United States, there is no minimum education or skill set requirement to trim or shoe horses’ feet; any person at any point may technically do farrier work,” said Wilson-Maki. “With that being said, many horseshoeing schools, both public and private, exist and attempt to impart to their students a good basic skill set.”
Though they differ in job titles, both the veterinarian and the farrier have important roles in the long and short term care of the horse’s foot. “A farrier works on the hoof capsule and corrects distortions that are evident by observation,” said Wilson-Maki. “However, a farrier cannot diagnose nor treat lameness, and are not required within the United States to have any formal education.”
In contrast, veterinarians have different tools, such as regional anesthesia, radiographs, ultra sound, and MRIs to diagnose lameness, as well as a specified education and specific practice laws under which they work. “They may also treat the diagnosed lameness by means of medical treatment. Often, shoeing and trimming protocols are an integral portion of the overall approach,” said Wilson-Maki.
As far as farrier service pricing goes, it is known to vary greatly within the region and county. “What would be considered usury in rural Texas may well below average in New Jersey,” said Wilson-Maki. “An owner could ask about the pricing ahead of time and get a feel for what is normal within a given region.”
Each horse owner and horse will have different needs and expectations of a farrier. “A salient point that must be highlighted is that the owner must be able to communicate clearly and well with the farrier,” said Wilson-Maki. “An owner should seek out a farrier that can meet the needs of their animal and with whom they can communicate.”
Whether your horse is a champion barrel racer or merely a leisure-riding companion, farriers are vital to your horse’s health and well being, and finding one that meets their specific needs takes clear communication between horse owner and farrier.
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.