Frequently Asked Questions
far•ri•er | noun
A craftsman who trains and shoes horses’ hooves.
A farrier is a specialist in equine hoof care, including the trimming and balancing of a horse’s hoof and the placing of shoes of the horse’s foot. A farrier couples a subset of the blacksmith’s skills (fabricating, adapting and adjusting metal shoes) with a subset of veterinary medicine (knowledge of the anatomy and physiology of the lower limb) to address the care of the horse’s feet.
Early history of horse domestication shows that ancient people recognized the need to protect a horse’s foot from excessive wear because working animals were exposed to many conditions that created breakage and injury.
It appears that the Romans attempted to protect their horses' feet with a strap-on, solid-bottomed "hipposandal" that has a slight resemblance to the modern hoof boot, and earlier people may have used rawhide boots or other wrappings to protect horse's feet. The nailed shoe was a relatively late invention.
Why is it hard to find proof of horseshoeing?
Because iron was a valuable commodity, and any worn out items were generally melted down and reused, it is difficult to locate clear archaeological evidence of the earliest horseshoes.
When can you find tangible proof?
By the time of the Crusades, horseshoeing became widely popular as an implement for battle all across Europe. While horses may have been shod earlier, the Crusades finally made shoeing important, and immensely popular. Iron had become cheaper and more plentiful. The crusaders favored the big Flemish horses, daunting in size but weak in their flat feet from being raised on the damp lowlands.
Armor makers could make anything from iron and used it all over the knights' and horses' bodies. Shoes not only protected the horses' weak feet, but also gave the knights a psychological advantage over those they were attacking. Iron from head to hoof coming at you with sparks flying from their feet, who wouldn’t be intimidated?
Is there a standard today?
The American Farrier’s Association (AFA) was founded in 1971 to represent farrier interests throughout the equine world. In addition to its primary concerns of promoting equine welfare and providing continuing education for working farriers and the equine community, the AFA stays abreast of the equine community and acts as an advocate for farriers in relations with veterinarians, breed and sport associations, and state and federal government agencies.
There are several other organizations working to uphold standards for farriers as well. Some of these include the Brotherhood of Working Farriers Association (www.bwfa.net), which was founded in 1901, and the Guild of Professional Farriers (www.horseshoes.com), founded in 1996.
How do farriers shoe a horse?
Carefully. First, they have to cut the clinches of the old shoes and remove the old shoes with pullers. The next tool is usually the hoof knife, used to trim the dead sole, then the nippers for trimming the hoof wall. Rasping the hoof wall level is next, along with removing burrs or flares around the edges of the hoof wall. All of this is performed while crouching under the horse holding the horse’s leg steady. The shoeing process is next.
How do farriers choose a shoe?
There are several factors that farriers consider when determining what type of shoe is needed for each horse. These include the hoof shape, conformation, the type of work required of the horse (trail riding, jumping, racing, etc.), and the surface the horse will be working on (dirt, pavement, concrete, snow or ice, etc.). If a shoe is not properly fitted for the horse or the conditions, it can cause lameness or even more serious problems.
Does nailing a shoe on hurt a horse?
Not if it is done properly. The nail is driven into the insensitive portion of the hoof capsule. Driving a nail “too green” refers to nailing into the sensitive laminae of the horse’s hoof, driving it too shallow leads to a horse "throwing" a shoe.
Why don’t wild horses need shoes?
The ones with bad feet end up as food for predators and the gene pool is cleansed.
Do hoofs grow?
Yes. In fact, the hoof wall grows faster in warmer weather and climates (faster in July than February).
Do hoof shapes differ?
Hoof shapes and subtleties vary from horse to horse and even on each individual horse. Each shoe must be fitted individually and the front feet are generally rounder than the hind feet. Hind feet are narrower than the front feet.
Facts & Figures:
• There are 9.2 million horses in the United States
• 2 million people own horses
• There are horses in every state and 45 states have 20,000 horses each
• The horse industry is a $39 billion dollar industry in the U.S., with a total impact of $101.5 billion on the U.S GDP
• California, Texas, Florida, Kentucky and Louisiana are the highest producers in terms of dollars and industry (for example: there are 979,000 horses in Texas and 698,000 horses in California)
(*Facts above courtesy of the American Horse Council, www.horsecouncil.org, other information courtesy of the American Farrier’s Association.)
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