“For want of a Nail the Shoe was lost; for want of a Shoe the Horse was lost; and for want of a Horse the Rider was lost; being overtaken and slain by the Enemy, all for want Care about a Horse-shoe Nail.”
Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1758.
The importance of good farriery has been recognised for hundreds of years as this quotation from Poor Richard’s Almanac demonstrates, and these days there can be no phrase more true than that of “no foot, no horse”. Accordingly, finding a good farrier for your horse is paramount, and here at World of Horses you will find a list of contacts to assist you in your search.
So why is finding a reputable farrier so important when horses survive in the wild without any shoes at all? Being a flight animal, the horse has evolved from having several toes to just one, and his legs and feet are purposefully lightweight to enable him to flee swiftly from predators. Yet it is the relatively fragile lower leg and foot that take all of the strain, and as a result of this problems may occur. Whilst a wild pony will walk far enough in rough conditions to keep his feet correctly worn, the domesticated but unshod horse in a field will need his feet rasping by a good farrier every six weeks to ensure correct foot balance. Furthermore, a shod horse will require not only this regular trim but also his shoes either refitting or replacing every 4 to 8 weeks, depending on his natural growth and the amount of work he is being asked to perform.
Correct hoof balance should never be underestimated as it is essential to correct movement – and thus soundness – in the horse, and therefore is possibly one of the most crucial aspects of the farrier’s craft. It is evaluated by observing how the foot meets the ground whilst the horse is both in motion (dynamic) and standing still (static). In an ideal situation, the whole of the weight-bearing surface of the foot should strike the ground as one element, whilst in the case of lateral-medial imbalance, the outside of the toe will come down before the heel, thus creating uneven stress and pressure over the hoof itself as well as on the joints, tendons and ligaments. In such cases as this, a good farrier will strive to achieve a more equal balance through careful and gradual trimming, although sometimes total correction can be both impossible and even harmful. Thus it is crucial that such an assessment should only be carried out by a qualified, registered farrier and/or horse vet.
Whilst farriery itself is an ancient craft dating back to the Roman Empire, the Farriers Registration Act and Council were only brought into force in 1975. The Farriers Registration Council is a statutory body which maintains a register of farriers who have undertaken an approved apprenticeship and passed the Diploma Examination of the Worshipful Company of Farriers. By law, only such registered farriers, their apprentices and vets may practise farriery legally, and unless you are prescribing first aid to a horse in an emergency situation, to practice farriery otherwise is a criminal offence with fine of up to £1000. It is essential that the horse owner does not confuse the term of ‘blacksmith’ with that of ‘farrier’ as the former is simply a tradesman who works with iron and may have no experience of working with horses or hold the qualifications necessary to perform the act of farriery.