Saturday, June 22, 2013

You and Your Horse Shoer

I received an e-mail from kcadle about horseshoers. "Sir, I have an issue with my horse shoer. I am using a different horseshoer than the woman who place I keep my horse at. My shoer wants me to be on a six or seven week schedule which I don't necessarily agree with. My other problem with him is that sometimes he gets mad and whacks my horse. The woman who owns the barn tells me that I should get a new shoer. This is my first horse so I haven't much experience with horseshoers. Can you help point me in the right direction? Thanks. kc"

Howdy kc, I'll try to give you some things to consider and my opinions on a horse owner to horse shoer relationship. First of all this is a two way relationship. Yes the horseshoer works for you so you can fire him/her if you need to, but on the other hand the horseshoer may ask you to find yourself a different shoer if he/she feels you are asking him to do things he can't do or doesn't think should be done as that horse's feet and as it relates to his soundness and performance. The way that horse is trimmed or shod is a reflection of the shoer's competency.

Keeping your horse on a schedule is pretty vital to your horse being as sound as possible. My shoer comes in every six weeks during the warmer months and every eight weeks during the coldest months, as hooves will grow slower during cold weather. I have known horse owners who think they can skip a session and pick back the next scheduled session. This is a lose lose situation for the shoer as that horse is now walking around on feet that are getting too long, or flaring too much and that shoer risks someone seeing that horse and asking "Hey, that horse's feet don't look so good. Who is your shoer?" Do you think the owner is going to admit being negligent and leting his horse go 12 to 16 weeks without attention?

So the best deal for the horse is regulary scheduled trimming or shoeing. I would beware of the horseshoer who does not want to keep to a regular schedule, be it 6, 7 or 8 weeks.

As far as the shoer "whacking" your horse,....I think it is legitimate for a horseshoer to be up underneath that horse with a foot up and get a little upset when that horse truly tries to pull that foot away. I use my voice when a horse tries to take back a foot when I am cleaning, but have occasionally used my open hand slap that horse's butt to get his attention when he is impatient. Not much of an alternative since you shouldn't let the horse have his foot back as it teaches him and that he can take it back when he wants. Anyway, getting their attention should not be done out of anger.  Timing on correcting the horse is so important.  If that horse succeeds in pulling his foot then there is nothing to correct now except picking the foot back up and not letting him pull it away when he wants. 

Nobody should stand for anyone mistreating a horse.  One my Border Patrol friends fired their horseshoer, and rightly so, when he tried to hit a horse with a rasp.  This same shoer was fired by another friend of mine when he actually hit a horse with his rasp leaving a cut.  And I have fired a equine dentist when he tried kicking my horse in the belly for moving around too much - the dentist didn't give the horse enough sedative so the horse took exception to him being in his mouth with a file.    

But the horse trying to pull his foot back is not the horse's problem - it's the owner who should have made that horse safe and compliant for trimming and shoeing. Probably the biggest complaints from horseshoers, other than not getting paid on time, is that some owners think the shoeing they are paying for also includes training that horse.  So if you think about it, why should a shoer get paid the same for a solid horse that stands still, as he does for a horse that tries to pull his feet away, can't stand still and make it rough on the shoer?

Other common complaints from horseshoers are horses who continually move around, swishing their tails and hitting the shoer, and owners who make excuses for their horse's behavior. 

I think that in the best case you have a shoer who is patient with you and your horse; explains what he doing and why; sets a schedule with you, shows up when he is supposed to, and his work results in a sound horse. If you pick up and clean your horse's feet daily or almost daily, not letting him pull that foot away from you, you'll soon get your horse good about standing for shoers and that will result in an appreciative horse shoer,.....and a horseshoer who won't get into a position where he thinks he needs to whack the horse.

You  start by picking your horse's foot up and when he relaxes it, you set it down.  Even if this is just for a couple seconds.  Then build on that.  Pretty soon you'll have a horse that picks his feet up to give to you when you ask and stand quiet while his foot is being cleaned, trimmed or shod.

One other thing - many people are prone to dropping their horse's foot when they are done with it.  I like to give him a little warning by moving the foot towards the ground before I let go, or otherwise place his foot on the ground.  I think that if you just drop his foot when he is relaxed, the horse will soon learn to keep tension on his foot and misjudge when you are releasing it.  Dropping it when you are on a concrete shoeing stand can also chip up the hoof, it's just kinda not fair to the horse. 

Good luck and safe journey.

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