A Groom’s guide to maintaining a good relationship with the yard Farrier
By Becky Parker
Teamwork makes the dream work with horses for sure, but one key member of that team you definitely need ‘onside’ is the farrier! “No foot, No Horse” the saying goes, so having a good relationship with your farrier increases the chances of them helping you out in a tight patch (e.g. your employer’s top horse has lost a shoe the day before the seasons most important event) is a no-brainer.
A chatty farrier that is both good at their job and pleased to see you, rather than gritting their teeth and glaring at you with a resigned look of ‘let’s get this over with’, is also an awful lot more pleasant to have around. The question is… how to achieve this?
Farriers, like the rest of us, come with a smorgasbord of different personality traits and we all like to have a giggle about how those traits manifest themselves (sorry just had a bit of a coughing fit 😉), but if you have done your level best to make their job as easy as possible, chinks in their sometimes cynical, battle heartened armour should start to show.
10 Tips for on the day
- Do get the horse(s) in from the field, wash and dry their legs, pick feet out.
- Do provide a level, ideally concreted quiet area for them to work free from passing tractors, screaming children and packs of scavenging hounds. Bonus points if there is shelter from the rain/blazing sun.
- Do clear up any droppings as they work, especially if they have a list of horses to do. If you’re not likely to be around for a while – at least provide a broom!
- Do try to find any lost shoes, particularly if they haven’t had them on long.
- Do book the horses in for the next set when the farrier advises, trying to make sets stretch and playing it by ‘ere is a recipe for emergency call outs that pressure their diary and cause angst.
- Do not put hoof oil, polish, balm or any other lotion or potion on the horse’s feet at any point on the day the farrier is due.
- Do not feed or turn out the other horses on the yard while he is trying to work. This will wind up even the most well behaved polite horse.
- Do not start pulling manes/tails, tacking up or in any other way start fiddling around getting in the way and causing confusion.
- Do be polite, friendly and read the situation and character you are dealing with. Some farriers clearly love to have a chat and a gossip while they work so allow 5/10 minutes in your day to make them feel welcome. Others just want you to clear off and let them get on with it!
- Do offer to make them a tea/coffee or glass of water/juice, rare is the farrier that will turn this down. Bonus points if it comes with biscuits.
Handling tricky horses with the Farrier
Inevitably almost every yard has a minimum of one horse that is a bit of a pain to shoe, be it because they are young, highly strung, bad-tempered, worried or just a bit of a joker. As the person who deals with them daily, you are the one most likely to know this is going to occur and how to best handle them so don’t leave your farrier alone to struggle! Set some time aside to hold the horse for the farrier and make it possible for them to do their best job possible. Below are a few hints and tips we have gathered as suggestions for how to keep those tricky horses standing still.
TRY – Hand-feeding hard feed or treats. Using small amounts in your hand means you can trickle feed them for the entire time rather than going through several scoops in the prolonged period you will be standing there! Depending on the horse you can also make a game for them of nuzzling your closed fist to get to the treat – just watch out for teeth!
TRY – If they are particularly attached to another horse and the type to worry by themselves, bring a level headed calm companion out to tie next to them for comfort and company.
TRY – to have them shod at a quiet time on the yard with not too many people or horses coming and going. Shut the dogs away or at least prevent them for scavenging for scraps around their feet or having an enthusiastic game of chase and wrestle around the yard where they might suddenly appear or make a lot of noise and spook them.
TRY – Standing them up against a wall so they cannot dance away sideways. If they are particularly unbalanced this also gives them something to lean against. For horses that are particularly tank like and likely to throw themselves around or barge off, you can feed a longer rope through the metal ring to give yourself an added bit of leverage to hang onto them.
TRY – Hanging up a hay-net for them to pick at. Ask your Farrier first regarding this as some may find them tugging at it and hay blowing around on a windy day a bit of a pain.
Do talk with the horse’s owner if a horse is/has become a danger to the farrier, handler and themselves, some form of sedation may be required.
Training a horse to stand for the Farrier
While some horses will always be difficult there is much we can do as Grooms, Riders and Owners in our day to day handling that can improve this, particularly in the case of youngsters.
1. Whenever working with a horse who is new to handling or tricky about having his feet handled, ensure you are safety conscious:
- Wear a hat and gloves and safety standard footwear
- Ensure you are not on the yard alone if you are trying something new and/or progressing the training.
- If the horse is likely to pull back and panic, either get someone to hold them or use an extra long rope and thread it through the metal ring, keeping a hold of the other end yourself (only really works for handling front feet).
2. Start handling as young as possible:
- Between trims spend time picking up your youngsters feet.
- Brush the soles and bang gently on the outer walls with something hard that makes a noise such as the back of a brush to get them used to the feel of the farrier tools.
- Ensure you get them used to them having both front and back legs pulled forward as they would be to balance on a stand.
3. In the case of older unhandled youngsters, if they are either too strong or have already learnt to kick out, for safety you can initially pick up their feet with a rope (this is much easier done with 2 people):
- Thread a long rope under their heel and then from a safe position standing by their shoulder, pull the foot towards you to encourage them to lift it.
- Ensure you decrease the pressure when they do lift the foot to reward the correct behaviour.
- Whilst you maintain a steady gentle pressure to keep the foot up, either get a second person to move in and begin handling the leg and picking out the hoof or slowly move forwards towards the hoof yourself.
- All training should be practised kindly with patience and consistency, rewarding small progressions.
Above all, we should show respect and appreciate the knowledge that our Farriers have as they should respect ours. They have a four-year apprenticeship combined with theoretical college-based study and exams plus, however, many years of day-in-day-out work focused solely on this part of the horse, which should add up to a whole lot of knowledge. We absolutely should ask questions and show an interest in what they are doing and why certain horses are shod in a certain way but we should do so without unsolicited criticisms. After all, we wouldn’t take kindly to anyone telling those of us more qualified and/or experienced how to clip, plait or ride a horse, and neither should we interfere in how they do their job. If a horse is having soundness or hoof related issues we should be the ones who play our part in enabling the horse’s owner and the farrier to work in conjunction with the vet to get the bottom of the problem. Like us, farriers appreciate loyalty, good communication and a good cup of tea to make positive working relationships that make everybody’s jobs easier and more enjoyable!
Stuff Riders Say to Farriers…
We love this video compilation of the things Farriers typically hear when visiting various yards!