There’s always going to be that one client who wants their horses’ hooves done as little as possible, thinking that leaving them natural is best. However, farriers understand the risks and dangers of letting horses’ hooves grow out too long or go too long without proper support. When discussing the importance of routine shoeings, farriers can use this information to help inform horse owners.
A proper hoof-care schedule is only half of the equation. Having a knowledgeable and skilled farrier is the other half. Jason Maki, the farrier at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, understands the importance of proper routine shoeing.
A good farrier should have experience trimming hoof growth, as well as creating, modifying and applying any therapeutic supports that a horse might need, he explains. Some horses might need regular shoes, but others could need more intensive surgical shoes or braces.
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“What might be needed for the horse’s comfort, usefulness or recovery varies from horse to horse and situation to situation,” Maki says. “The ability to ascertain these needs and meet them is the hallmark of a skilled farrier.”
Each horse requires a different schedule when it comes to hoof care. Depending on the climate, the time in between appointments can be longer or shorter. In periods of cold weather, the hoof growth slows. A horse might not need hoof care as often in winter.
The activity level of each horse also plays a role in the frequency of shoeing visits. Horses that are more athletic tend to demonstrate faster hoof growth while sedentary horses’ hooves grow more slowly.
“Some animals require an every-4 weeks schedule, while others may be well into the seventh or eighth week before attention is needed,” Maki says. “An important point to remember is that excessive growth will cause the hoof to deteriorate; therefore, more frequent work is better than allowing hooves to grow long.”
Hooves need to be trimmed in order to prevent other foot distortion problems. Neglected or poor hoof care can lead to injuries, fungal infections, sole bruises or abscesses of the hoof. The hoof becomes prone to flaring, chipping and defecting. Then, the hoof can’t properly bear the weight of the horse, causing problems to climb up the limb.
Farriers are also concerned with providing shoes for protection, traction, comfort and other special needs. Maki says farriers must be able to select and fit the perfect shoe for each horse, each foot. An ill-fitting shoe is less effective and sometimes even dangerous to the health of the horse.
“The role of the farrier in the human-equine relationship is to provide the best hoof a horse can have and then provide that animal whatever is required to perform its job comfortably,” Maki says.
While shoes are a large part of the farrier’s job, not all horses require some type of footwear. Maki evaluates each individual horse to see what it needs and then shoes based on a case-by-case basis.
“If an animal can work and live well without horseshoes, then it should be barefoot,” Maki says. “The horse should be provided with what is needed for is comfort and usefulness. That is our obligation to the animals we are partnered with.”
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