It would be difficult to find another industry that’s undergone as many changes as the farrier business since this publication got its start in 1975. If you are a farrier still relying extensively on the same products and shoeing techniques today that you used 25 years ago, this business has left you far behind.
To give you an idea of what’s really made a difference, the American Farriers Journal editors gathered the opinions of a number of farriers and suppliers in determining the most important milestones in the shoeing business since 1975.
Here’s our list of the 25 most valuable ideas, innovations and events that have shaped the North American farrier industry over the past 25 years.
When you go back 25 years, the horseshoeing business seemed quite simple. But with more education, more products, more affluent horse owners and development of new worldwide technologies, your business has changed significantly. This is true not only for shoers, but also for manufacturers, farrier supply shops and educators.
Less Horsemanship Skills
Instead of farriers working with highly-skilled, old-fashioned extremely knowledgeable trainers, some of the trainers you work with today are basically only riding instructors. There’s also a considerable lack of horsemanship, health care and foot care knowledge among many of today’s horse owners.
No other product has had as much impact on shoeing efficiency over the past 25 years as the gas forge. Coal forges are a thing of the past for most farriers.
There’s a change in attitude among today’s affluent suburban horse owners. Some owners don’t know how to ride, but are still convinced they know everything there is to know about shoeing a horse. Even so, many owners want to do whatever it takes to make their horses happy, but often get bad advice about shoeing and foot care products from suppliers and from reading general horse publications.
Shoers are more highly respected than they were 25 years ago, among owners, trainers and equine veterinarians. The industry has recognized the importance of having a horse “go right” with the increased competitive spirit of many horse owners.
Affluent horse owners have recognized the value of good hoof care and the expense that goes along with it. As a result, farriers have significantly increased shoeing prices over the past 25 years, especially compared to other agricultural and horse-related work. The trim and four shoes that cost $21.40 in 1975 averages $64.89 today.
Heart Bar Shoes
Lubbock, Texas, farrier Burney Chapman’s research and re-development of the age-old heart bar shoe for treating founder ranks among the most significant shoeing changes over the past 25 years. Widely accepted by farriers and equine veterinarians alike, this shoe changed the way laminitic horses are treated and allowed many horses to return to normal lives.
Industry leaders indicate this has been helped a great deal by the North American trade publications—American Farriers Journal, Anvil and Hoofcare and Lameness—which have contributed immensely to the continued education of shoers. They maintain these publications have given farriers, researchers and veterinarians a platform for discussion of relevant topics and shoeing controversies.
An increasing number of clinics dealing with shoeing techniques and business management methods are available around the country. Suppliers are sponsoring more sessions and have made well-known individuals affordable to even the smallest clinic audience.
An onslaught of shoeing videos has proven to be a great way to swap valuable shoeing ideas. Instead of attending a clinic in person, farriers can watch industry leaders doing hands-on shoeing demonstrations from that “favorite chair” in the living room.
With the touch of a keyboard on the internet, farriers today can communicate with each other around the world. Within hours, a new shoeing technique can be the topic of conversation, scrutiny and comment in many languages and countries. In the farrier area, Baron Tayler of the Farrier & Hoofcare Resource Center has pioneered this educational idea for horseshoers.
More New Products
The number of products coming on the market in the past 25 years is mind-boggling. Practically anything you want in the way of shoes, pads, nails and other shoeing products and tools is now available.
For instance, you can now pull a pair of egg bar, wedged aluminum shoes off the shelf which are better and more consistent than any you can make yourself. These include clipped shoes, glue-on shoes, aluminum shoes and titanium shoes.
New products enable shoers to do what they couldn’t do before. Yet manufacturers have so many products that farriers no longer have to learn all of the necessary shoeing skills to be a highly-qualified, efficient shoer.
American-made tools and other products are selling like wildfire in Europe and other areas around the world. Over the past 25 years, United States suppliers have become the worldwide leaders in shoeing tool development.
Items such as magnetic therapies, chiropractic care, acupuncture, glue-on shoes, acrylic resins and many more non-traditional treatments have also shed new light on the profession.
Suppliers have listened carefully to the needs of farriers, something old-time shoers say didn’t happen very often 25 years ago.
Decreasing Hoof Quality
Over the past 25 years, hoof quality has decreased in the eyes of some farriers. With vets being forced to pump horses full of medicines which can’t help but impact hoof quality, everyone needs to look at all aspects of horse care.
Aging Horse Populations
More owners are holding on to older horses which live much longer and require better nutrition and hoof care. As a result, horseshoeing and veterinary care bills are often based on the benefits of the animal to the owner rather than the animal’s value. This is much different than the attitude about older horses in Europe.
The introduction of plenty of new shoeing ideas has created a friendly bond between farriers that has helped break down barriers that used to exist between competitors. In 1975, two farriers often would not work next to each other in the same barn, much less have a conversation and exchange ideas.
More Recreational Usage
There’s more emphasis on all types of recreation in our society and horses play an all-important role in people’s social lives these days. Even old-time ranchers have gotten involved in competing in recreational activities such as team penning.
Meeting The Challenge
Farriers, equine vets and researchers who are not satisfied with the status quo have raised the standards of your profession over the past 25 years. Many people are willing to go the extra mile to find new ways of shoeing horses and improving the overall health of their horses.
St. Croix Shoes
Development of these specialized, consistently-manufactured shoes over the past 15 years were listed by many American Farriers Journal readers as the product with the most impact on their farrier work. Even by other shoe manufacturers!
More Farrier Groups
The annual American Farrier’s Association (AFA) annual convention, the Bluegrass Laminitis Symposium and state farrier meetings have greatly enhanced tThese meetings give farriers the opportunity to rub elbows with the foremost foot care experts in the world and to see the latest shoeing products. These meetings offer farriers the opportunity to come together as “family” and provide valuable information for anyone who wants to take the time to learn it. he eShoeing associations have improved shoeing knowledge, shoeing skills and relationships between farriers. Even farriers who don’t belong have benefited from increased emphasis on educationducation of farriers.
AFA has grown from 54 members in 1975 to more than 2,600 members today. Through growth and expansion of educational programs, the organization provides valuable shoeing information to farriers and the general horse industry.
Increased Research Funding
More research monies have been invested during the past 25 years in search of answers for laminitis, navicular, long toe/ low heel, balance and white line concerns.
Helping Young Shoers
Unlike 25 years ago, shoeing veterans are more willing to help young shoers get started. More farriers are teaching apprentices the ins and outs of the shoeing business. Newcomers no longer have to make the same mistakes that older farriers made when they started.
Increased Disease Emphasis
Farriers are paying more attention to the impact of white line, navicular and other diseases of the foot. As a result, we have a new library of ideas for treating hoof care concerns.
Horse Breeding Concerns
Part of the growing hoof quality problem is a lack of interest in feet and legs when breeding horses. We continue to breed horses with poor quality feet and keep them going with drugs and shoes.
Farriers in Europe see fewer inherited foot problems because breeders have tried to eliminate these problems through selection. You also see fewer bad-mannered horses in Europe, thanks to improved stallion and mare selection.
These have proven to be an indispensable aid for farriers to use in visualizing the inner working of limbs and hooves to trainers, horse owners, equine vets and other farriers. Many farriers use these models from Horse Science-Horse Sense to demonstrate shoeing concerns and outline shoeing solutions.
While not for everyone, this program offers farriers pride in knowing what they are capable of doing and being recognized by other shoers, trainers, equine veterinarians and horse owners.
Acceptance of the AFA certification program for farrier registration in Great Britain had a major impact on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. This program may also play a key role with the federal government if licensing of farriers ever moves to the “front burner.”
Development Of Composites
New developments and adoptions of dental and auto resins, composites and various commercial acrylics for hoof work have been major developments. It’s easier than ever to repair hoof cracks, rebuild missing hoof areas and effectively treat many other hoof care needs.
This AFA program has helped immensely in educating young farriers in the United States, Canada, Great Britain and Australia. Shoers who’ve traveled overseas through this program and farriers who have hosted visitors say people on both sides of the anvil and the oceans have benefited from these exceptional educational opportunities.
Shoeing contests on every level have created more interest and enthusiasm for the farrier profession. The development of farrier skills has exploded since the first international shoeing competition was held in Ireland in 1977. As a result, farriers travel the world sharing valuable ideas with other shoers.
British, Scottish Influence
There’s been a tremendous influence on farriers in North America from British and Scottish farriers. They’ve taught us a great deal about shoeing techniques. Yet the reverse is also true, as they’re attending our meetings and looking to North America for many new shoeing ideas and products.