Tips for Working with Draft Horses

Be mindful of their environment and consider the necessary traction to improve footcare with draft horses

Pictured Above: Illinois farrier Joel Nielsen works with fewer draft horses, but his childhood experiences of raising and showing draft horses drove him to be a farrier.

Woodstock, Ill., farrier Joel Nielsen understands when he hears other farriers say they don’t want to work with draft horses.

“To succeed with draft horses, it
really must be a labor of love,” he says. “You can’t charge what it is worth for the physical wear and tear in comparison to any sort of riding horse. I think shoeing a draft horse can require three times the physical effort of a regular riding horse.”

Nielsen should know. He grew up in a family active in showing draft horses. At one point they had 24 drafts on his family farm. The lifestyle would continue as his career.

Farrier Takeaways

  • Get a feel for working with a draft horse’s temperament before you try to pick up a foot.
  • Consider the draft horse’s job before deciding how much additional traction to apply to the shoe.

“This is what I started with and thought I would work with for a career,” he says. “At 19, I was driving to clients with stocks in the back of my pick up.”

Nearly 30 years later, the drafts largely have been replaced in Nielsen’s books by other breeds. He still has one account with two draft horses used for pleasure driving and another that uses two for dressage. Although his career took a different path, Nielsen’s experience with drafts may…

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Jeremy mcgovern

Jeremy McGovern

Jeremy McGovern is the former Executive Editor/Publisher. A native of Indiana, he also is president of American Horse Publications.

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