All horses need their feet looking at approximately every four to six weeks. In this blog post we are doing to go through the process of ‘hot’ shoeing a horse and what happens during this process.
We talked about how to prepare for the farrier in the last blog Keeping your farrier happy. Nearly all farriers have a website, and are contactable by phone in the modern climate. It is straight forward to get hold of a farrier, as you can go to the Registered List where you will find all the registered farriers in the United Kingdom.
It is a good idea to have your horse in and ready for your farrier, on a flat area and the horses feet dry and ready for shoeing. If the horse is new to you it is a good idea to find out from the previous owner how they are to be shod and what they are used to. This is so you can tell your farrier and have an idea yourself. Most horses are happy with the process, but it is good to know the history.
You can also let your farrier know what type of horse you have got and what work they are going to do. This will give your farrier chance to have the correct type of shoes on board so that they can fit the shoe to the horse and not the horse to the shoe.
Removing the Shoes.
The farrier will first remove the shoes of the horse. To do this he will need his hammer, buffer and pincers. The hammer and buffer will knock up the clenches (the end of the nails on the wall of the horses hoof) on the side of the hoof and then having knocked up all the clenches, using the pincers the farrier is able to take off the shoe.
Once the farrier has lifted up all the clenches, he then takes the shoe with the pincers and lifts off the shoe. There is usually three nails on the inside of the hoof and four nails on the outside, as a guide allowing less chance for the inside clenches to cause a problem. This looks easier than it is and when a farrier does it, it looks like he pulls the shoe off at the toe, when he is making sure that he pulls the shoe off level and does not brake the wall off the hoof.
Once the shoes is off the farrier can get a good look at the hoof and start to dress the hoof with the paring knife and rasp. This is a skill that each farrier has under gone over a five year apprenticeship to achieve. We are allowed to take our own horse’s shoes off, if the need arises. For instance, if the shoe gets sprung (when the shoe twists and moves on the horse’s hoof) or if a nail has come out and the shoe is in a difficult position.
If is a good idea to have a buffer, hammer and a pair of pincers just in case you need to take a shoe off. It is also an idea to ask you farrier to show you how, just in case you are caught out with a shoe half off.
We are not qualified or legally allowed to shoe a horse. In the five years the farrier is training they study the anatomy of the horse, it’s legs and feet and how the hoof grows. It is not something that can be done easily and a lot of hard work, time and skill goes into this process.
After the shoe is taken off, the farrier needs to ‘dress’ the hoof. They will take into consideration the growth of the hoof and how the confirmation of the horse affects the hoof.
In the pictures above, Sam is dressing the hoof and looking to see what he needs to do and how much hoof has grown over the last six weeks. Silvie is slightly pigeon toed. This is where her toes point inwards and this has to be taken into consideration.
When a farrier dresses a hoof, he needs to look at the growth on the frog as well. The horse’s wall, sole and frog, all grow rather like our nails. These areas like our nails are not tender if treated correctly. Always remember the saying ‘no foot, no horse’ which is so true. All of the horse’s weight is on their limbs and feet and if the foot is in pain or has a problem this stops the horse from doing anything. This is why farriers have to train for such a long time, so they do not hurt the sensitive part of the horse’s hoof.
Once the hoof is ready the farrier will forge the shoe.
Forging The Shoe.
The farrier will have a size of shoe ready to use, or if the shoe hasn’t worn to much he will replace the shoe. This process is call ‘removes’. For both processes you need to heat the shoe.
A farrier will have a mobile forge in the van and is able to heat the shoe up to a very hot heat. This is why you also need to provide a bucket of water, so that the shoe can be cooled off after it has been shaped as required.
The farrier will have made the shoes earlier or theses days they can get different weights and sizes made and get them ready for their clients horses. They are then able to on site fit the shoe to the horse, not the horse’s hoof to the shoe.
Once the shoe is near the size and shape required the farrier will take the shoe to the horse and see if it fits or it there are any more adjustments to be made.
The farrier will take the hot shoe to the horse and check it’s fit and shape. This does not hurt the horse. Some horses do not like the smoke and have to be ‘cold shod’ which can be done if necessary. Some horses are also barefoot, all processes can be used and we will discuss the other systems in another blog post.
This process does help the shoe ‘sit’ to the horse and it gives the farrier chance to see if any work needs to be done on the shoe. Most farriers tend to do the two front shoes and then the two back shoes. This allows the horses to be comfortable on their front feet and stand easier whilst the back shoes are being done.
Once they have taken off the front shoes and have forged the shoes the will then nail on the front shoes and finish them before doing the back shoes.
Once the shoe is forged the farrier might file down the heals with a rasp as this will encourage the horse to not step on the heals of the shoe. Here Sam is using the anvil and a anvil vice to hold the shoe.
Nailing on the Shoe.
Once the shoe is ready the farrier will nail on the shoe to the horse. He will work with the area between the white line (the line between the sole and the wall). This area does not have any feeling and the farrier will work at keeping the nail in this small area. If the nail gets to close to the white line you can have a ‘nail bind’ or a ‘pricked foot’. Your farrier gets to know your horse really well and understands where the best area is on your horses hoof to nail on too.
Once all the nails have been nailed in the farrier will work on the clenches and finish off the hoof. To do this he will use the buffer and the hammer again.
In the picture above Sam is working with the buffer and hammer to set the clenches in. Then the farrier uses the clencher to secure the clenches. The horse’s hoof is on a foot stand , this helps keep the hoof still and allows the farrier to work on the hoof.
Once the clenches have been done the farrier rasps the hoof to finish off the hoof. This will allow the farrier to look at the hoof and check his work.
Above are the finished shoes. You can see the toe clip and that the shoe has been made to fit the hoof. This hoof has one toe clip and is a front shoe. Back shoes and some front shoes will have two toe clips. This is because with a back shoe the toe clip does not catch the heals of the front foot when the horse is working.
With a front shoe, two clips are used to balance a shoe that might have long heals to protect the heals of the horse. All the clenches are tight and the shoe has been finished well.
I would like to say a big thank you to Sam Phelps for letting me use pictures of him for the blog and a big thank you for the work he does with Silvie and Lolly.
We will be covering cold shoeing and barefoot in a future blog, so keep your eyes out for our new posts. If you have enjoyed reading this please feel free to leave your email on our site and we can keep you connected with the blogs we are writing. Thank you.