Thursday was horse shoeing time. Our horses are familiar with this routine and mostly stand patiently while our farrier trims their hooves and fits them with shiny new shoes. When you have a good farrier, the horses don’t seem to mind much.
We jokingly suggested that Jazzy the mule should have hers trimmed, too, and laughed it off because as sweet as she is, she’s not one for being manhandled. Surprisingly, our farrier agreed to do it, predicting she wouldn’t be much trouble. Turns out he was right. He established leadership and haltered her and proceeded to trim her little hooves without her offering much objection at all. It’s probably a good thing I’m not a betting man, because I would have lost money on that one. Her feet look great!
Our new farrier, “J”, came out on Thursday, and we are cautiously optimistic. First of all, he showed up on time, which was a pleasant surprise. He brought his teenage son as an assistant, and they were both polite, friendly and quietly competent. Both horses were less of a pain than usual (although it’s possible that we woke them up when we called them up to the barn); because of that, and the fact that he had help, it took him a good 45 minutes less than it did G. Their feet look great, and J guarantees that the shoes will stay on for at least six weeks – he’ll come out and replace any shoe that falls off before then, no matter what the reason. We didn’t even know farriers offered that kind of guarantee; G was going to charge us $20 to replace the shoe Valentine lost after only 2 weeks – if he had ever shown up, that is.
We feel very fortunate to have found this farrier, and even more since he told us that he doesn’t accept new clients. He only agreed to take us on because (1) some of our neighbors are already clients; and (2) more importantly, he’s friends with one of our friends. So we’re very grateful.
There is one downside, though – isn’t there always? J charges about 35% more than G ($150 vs $110, for both). However, he returns our calls in a timely manner, shows up on time and guarantees his work. I guess you get what you pay for, right?
I’m no expert, but personally, I think it’s better for a horse to be barefoot, if at all possible. It just seems more natural, and it’s still a little creepy to watch the farrier nail a hunk of metal onto my horse’s hoof. However, there are many good reasons to shoe a horse, and for several of those reasons, our horses stay shod (or at least, they’re supposed to). Here are our reasons:
Tender feet. Moonshine couldn’t care less what’s on or not on her feet. She was barefoot when we got her and was perfectly happy to stay that way. Valentine, on the other hand, practically limps when he loses a shoe. If he’s missing a shoe, he invariably favors that foot.
Soft hooves. Some horses just have softer hooves than others. Moonshine, tough as she is, gets really dinged-up hooves when she doesn’t have shoes; the big baby Valentine, ironically enough, wears his hooves down, but they don’t get any chips or cracks.
Unfavorable terrain. Our pasture is rocky and rough in a lot of places, and the horses like to walk through there. I think if it were all nice, soft grass and more forgiving soil, they would both be fine. (Of course, the trails around here are pretty rocky too, so we’d most likely shoe them both anyway.)
Here’s a new reason we discovered the day before yesterday, too. At this point, I have to fess up to something: before Wednesday, I hadn’t cleaned out my horses’ hooves for quite a while. Weeks, in fact. Shame, shame on me! In addition to that, with our ongoing farrier problems, they haven’t been shod in about 10 weeks, and are missing one (Valentine) and three (Moonshine) shoes. But here’s what we discovered:
Shoes keep hooves clean. Our soil, in addition to being rocky, is heavy on the clay side. When it’s muddy, that stuff gets all packed up in the hooves. Then it dries out, and the mud stuck up in there dries out too; and it turns to CEMENT. I’m not kidding. I picked up Moonshine’s right front hoof and found a hard, smooth, un-pickable piece of marble. They were all that way…except on the hoof with her one remaining shoe. On that foot, I was able to pick it out with no problem at all. Same story on Valentine: on the three feet that have shoes, the stuff inside was soft and brushed right out with very little picking at all. On the foot that’s missing a shoe, I’d need a mini-sledgehammer to knock it loose.
So, needless to say, I’m very glad that my horses have all four feet covered again. That’s right…we had a farrier come out yesterday! Hopefully our shoeing woes have finally come to an end. We’ll tell you all about the new farrier tomorrow!
There are two very important people in your horse’s life, besides you. First is the vet; second is the farrier. As we’ve mentioned, we live in a small town, so service people are kind of scarce here. When we got Valentine, he needed to be re-shod (he had in fact thrown a shoe, and he was due for a trim anyway). We asked the former owner for his farrier’s name and number, which he gave us, but after several calls, the guy – we’ll call him G – wasn’t calling us back. So I found someone else on the Internet and made an appointment; the next day, G called. He was going to charge less, and already knew my horse, so I went ahead and canceled the first appointment.
On appointment day, we waited patiently at the appointed time of 9:00…and G came at about 10:30. He apologized, said he was already behind. We later learned that 9:00 is usually his first appointment for the day, so he must have put someone before us.
It’s been over a year now since G started shoeing our horses. That’s about 8 appointments. He has been at least an hour late for every one. It takes several calls and at least a week to get a hold of him. Here’s the thing, though – he’s a really nice guy, and in our inexpert opinion, does a good job of shoeing our horses. He’s shod Valentine for years (through 3 owners now) and puts up with his antics. So for a while, that outweighed the unreliability. But the last episode kind of overshadowed the good points. Valentine lost a shoe about 2 weeks after his last shoeing; we called G and made an appointment to replace that one shoe, and he never showed. He also never returned our calls about it. Unfortunately, we left for Phoenix shortly after and never had time to follow up.
After the first few months of spending days trying to get a hold of G for a regular appointment, we had realized that it was much easier to set the next appointment while he was there. So we had a pre-set appointment for June 19. G never showed. He didn’t return our calls for about a week; we missed that call, he left a voice mail saying he’d try again. That’s the last we’ve heard from him, despite a call a few days ago informing him that Moonshine is down to only one shoe and her other feet are all beat up.
So the day after our last call to G, we again prevailed on our best horse friend, Shari, for the name of her farrier. It only took him 2 days to call back, and his next open appointment was only a week away, so it looks like we might have a new farrier. (We’ll call him J, and let you know how it goes.)
Sorry for the rant…sometimes you just gotta rant. I’m thinking the farrier change was way overdue, but maybe you just have to put up with some BS if you find a decent farrier, especially in a small town. What do you all think?
There is a huge debate these days about whether to go traditional and put shoes on your horse, or leave them au naturel, barefoot and free. After all, horses in the wild don’t have shoes and they do just fine, right? So why do we even shoe them at all?
Domesticated horses do a lot of things that wild horses do not. They bear extra weight; they travel over rougher surfaces, such as asphalt. They work for us, whether in a field, on a trail or in a rodeo arena. It makes sense to give them some extra protection. However, more and more people are coming to believe that horses can do all those things barefoot, and many experts agree. If you practice proper hoof care, have the hooves trimmed regularly, and provide any dietary supplements you, your farrier and your vet decide may be necessary, most horses can go barefoot with no problem.
When we got Valentine, he was shod, except for his right rear where he had lost one (or “thrown a shoe” as they say). That hoof was so …