Farming Magazine - July, 2014

COLUMNS

Working Horses: National Farriers Week

You should thank your farrier year-round
By Vicki Schmidt


Drafts that naturally grow more toe than heel may need to be trimmed more often than every eight week.
Photos by Vicki Schmidt.

There are a lot of tough jobs in the world, and in the grand scheme of things, being a farrier is not a bad job at all. My farrier, Cassie Bedard, is one of the best. She is kind and gentle with my drafts, and she always arrives with a smile.

Bedard goes above and beyond to give the best service she can, and she's not only dedicated to the successful soundness of the working horses in our region, she also knows she can't get hurt. Bedard is committed to her own personal safety and professional health, and it shows. In celebration of National Farriers Week, July 6-12 this year, I'd like to say a special thank-you to Bedard from all the drafts here at Troika Drafts, especially Willy, who has passed on and whose hoof care was trusted to Bedard in his final years.

As draft owners, we have a responsibility to maintain our horses' all-around health, and that includes proper hoof care. Many drafts suffer from hoof and hoof-related soundness problems from historically poor breeding as well as neglect. It's always less expensive to pay for proper hoof care from a qualified farrier than it is to fix a soundness problem due to neglected hoof care. In addition, many hoof-related soundness problems are expensive to fix, and they often can't be fixed to a degree that offers total soundness and a pain and trouble-free existence for the remainder of the horse's life.

Suffice it to say, prevention is the best medicine. Frank Lessiter of the American Farriers Journal offers the following tips to help your farrier care for your horse's feet to the best advantage.

1. Have your horse ready for the farrier's arrival. This means your farrier is not responsible for catching your horse or leading it to where the farrier sets up to work. Your horse should also be brushed, and its legs and feet should be free from caked dirt and mud. It should also be well-fed and hydrated so it will be comfortable and patient about standing still for a while.

2. Provide your farrier with a safe area to work that also offers protection from the elements. To do the best farrier work on your draft, whether it's just a routine trim or a full set of shoes, your farrier needs a comfortable location with good lighting. It should be free from harsh sun, rain, snow, bitter cold and strong winds.Additionally, there should be no loose dogs, kids running around or other distractions. In the summertime, don't forget to spray your draft with a fly repellent or make other arrangements so biting and irritating flies are not a problem.

3. Make sure your horse is well-behaved for your farrier. A lot of farriers refuse to work on draft horses and others prefer not to. Draft horses are heavy and most of them like to lean on the farrier. Your farrier rarely makes enough money to train your horse to stand on three legs, so if he or she spends extra time with your draft, give him or her a good tip.

If your draft is lame or arthritic, talk to your vet about the use of painkillers for a few days before and after your draft is trimmed or shod.



Sadly, many drafts are genetically predisposed to poor hoof quality. These drafts often require special shoes and care in order to maintain enough hoof to carry their weight.

4. Take good care of your horse's feet between farrier visits. Pick your draft's hooves at least once a week. If it works on gravel, do this more often to make sure no stones are caught in the frog area. As much as possible, keep your draft out of mud, but if its hooves get wet at least once a day due to rain, puddles or dew, that's good at keeping the hoof wall from drying out. In addition, work with your draft between trims so it's used to holding its foot up.

5. Listen to your farrier's advice on hoof care. Most often this will be a recommendation for a diet change or supplement. It might also mean trims at six weeks if your draft tends to grow more toe than heel. The genetic lines of some drafts have bad hoof quality, resulting in a "shelly" hoof that may need shoes all the time. Farriers care about satisfied customers and want your draft to be sound and happy.

6. Pay your farrier on time. Most farriers are dedicated professionals who also spend considerable time keeping their skills and knowledge current. They have bills to pay and often work long days. Not only is their work to be appreciated, it should always be paid for on time. An added offer of lunch, a snack or a hot cup of coffee is often the best thank-you they can receive.

Vicki Schmidt owns and operates Troika Drafts, a 100-acre working draft horse farm in western Maine. The farm features drafts and crosses for work, sport and show. Comment or question? Visit http://www.farmingforumsite.com and join in the discussions.