The Importance of Maintaining a Regular Farrier Schedule

Regardless if your horse wears shoes or goes barefoot, hoof care is an important part of keeping your horse sound and comfortable. A major part of this maintenance includes trimming, resetting the shoes, and regular hoof care provided by the service of a farrier. But how often should your farrier visit and why is it important to maintain a regular schedule?

Ernest Woodward, a professional farrier, stated that “Routine and frequent trimmings and shoeings on a regular schedule creates a uniform shoeing cycle with no extremes.” In other words, keeping a regular schedule with your farrier leads to a more consistent and healthier hoof. Which makes sense; a regular schedule allows the farrier to ensure the hoof remains healthy, consistent, and helps prevent other issues from developing. There are many reasons why a regular farrier schedule is important to keep. Below we discuss a few of these benefits.

Farrier Trimming Hoof

Benefits of A Regular Farrier Schedule:

  • Balanced Hooves
  • Tendon/Joint Support
    • Overgrown toes and imbalanced hooves create extra stress on the hoof wall. This extra stress can not only lead to cracks and separations but puts strain on the joints and tendons. The extra strain on the joints and tendons can lead to injury. Proper trimming and a consistent schedule helps to prevent this added stress to the hoof wall, joints and tendons.
  • No Extremes
    • As Ernest Woodward said above, routine visits remove the risk of an extreme situation from being created. Having a regular farrier schedule decreases the chance of a hoof related issue from developing. It also acts as a preventive measure against hoof related issues and diseases.
  • Horse’s Comfort
    • By keeping a regular schedule and ensuring the horse has no extremes, correct support, and balanced hooves, you are helping to keep the horse sound which allows the horse to perform. The regular visits will also help your horse become more comfortable with the farrier and the routine checks.

The average horse needs to see a farrier every 4 to 6 weeks, but not every horse is the same. Some horses may need to see a farrier more, or less, often than the average horse. Determining how frequent your farrier visits will depend on the growth rate and current health of your horse’s hooves. A hoof that is badly damaged or suffering from a hoof related disease may require more attention, but assuming the hoof is healthy, the hoof growth can help us determine how often the horse needs to see a farrier. To do this, we must also look at the factors surrounding the horse that can affect hoof growth.

“Routine and frequent trimmings and shoeings on a regular schedule creates a uniform shoeing cycle with no extremes.”

Factors that Affect Hoof Growth:

  • Genetics
    • Although there isn’t much we can do to change genetics, some horses are born with the genes to build better quality hooves than other horses.
  • Nutrition
    • Nutrition plays a vital role in the growth and health of hooves. One of the first signs of poor nutrition will be hoof related issues and a dull hair coat. Correcting your horses nutrition and feeding a quality hoof supplement will help promote hoof growth.
  • Age
    • As a horse grows older the growth of the hooves will begin to slow. Younger horses like foals or yearlings will typically have much faster hoof growth than an aged horse. This is due in part to a higher metabolic rate in young horses.
  • Environment
  • Exercise
    • Horses that receive regular exercise will typically have better hoof growth than a horse with little activity. Exercise will increase the metabolism, which increases the available nutrients, hormones, etc. necessary for hoof growth.

Your farrier should be able to review these factors and get a good sense of your horse’s hoof growth, the conditions surrounding your horse, and how often the visits should occur. Then determining how often your farrier visits becomes a discussion between you and your farrier. The key point to remember is to establish a schedule based on your farrier’s recommendations, and consistently keep the schedule. Going months without seeing your farrier puts your horse’s hooves at risk of developing serious issues. Hoof maintenance should not be ignored or put off. It is a day-to-day requirement and crucial to hoof health, comfort, and the performance of your beloved horse.

Farrier Trimming

If you have any questions regarding hoof health or maintenance, feel free to contact us at 1-800-624-1873.

How Important are Well Balanced Hooves?

Farrier Trimming Hoof

If you own a horse or grew up around horses, you have probably heard the saying “No Hoof, No Horse.” Many of us horse lovers take this statement to heart. Without healthy feet, a horse is unable to be a horse. Running, working, riding – all these activities become a chore; a painful chore at that.

The importance of a healthy hoof is well established, but what about a balanced hoof? Can an imbalanced hoof create hoof related issues? If so, what issues can arise from an imbalanced foot?

We took this question to Darren Owen, a professional farrier, and asked, “Is a balanced hoof important to hoof health?” Here is what he had to say:

“In my opinion the answer would be yes. The imbalanced foot may become predisposed to the invasion of Thrush or White Line Disease. When the hoof of the horse has greater weight responsibilities placed upon it in an uneven fashion it may distort. This distortion will promote the separation of the wall from the sole and allow for bacterial / fungal invasion. I recently had an opportunity to speak with a number of farriers on the topic of “Hoof wall separation.” While this conversation was taking place, imbalance and distortion were discussed as a cause of the wall separations that harbor tremendous bacterial / fungal invasions.”

We took the same question to Dave Giza, another professional farrier, and asked him about his experience with imbalanced hooves.

“When I trim and shoe a horse, I always pay very close attention to the placement/balance of the heels, how deep the cleft split of the frogs are (the groove/split that starts in the back of the central sulcus of the frog that transitions up the back of the heels and between the heel bulbs), and to the movement of the heel bulbs themselves.  If a horse has well balanced feet, with both heels contacting the ground at the same time, there will be very little independent movement of the heel bulbs, frog cleft/split will be shallow, and the horse will be sound.  If the trim is out of balance, with the medial side hitting first and then the lateral side or vice versa, there will be independent heel bulb movement and separation that will cause lameness issues.

Hoof Imbalance
Hoof Imbalance with cleft split starting at the frog central sulcas and splitting up into the hair line.
Separation of Heel Bulbs
Insertion of narrow blade vet knife into the frog cleft to show depth and separation of heel bulbs.

If you look at the hoof from the back and visualize a triangle (the base of the triangle having points at the medial and lateral side of the hoof and the top of the triangle at the apex of the frog cleft), this will present a better picture of what is actually happening.  When the base of the triangle hits evenly on the ground, there is no movement at the top of the triangle, just compression as the bulbs move as one unit.  However, if the triangle base hits the ground, one side first followed by the other, the top of the cleft will be forced to move from right to left or vice versa.  This imbalance will cause tearing and or shearing of the soft tissues between the heels, and deep heel splits that cause the heel bulbs to gap open and allow debris to enter into the cleft gap.  Now the stage has been set for infected/swollen sheared heels.  The debris that is lodged deep into the frog cleft becomes Thrush, the constant independent movement of each heel bulb and shearing causes the heel bulbs to become irritated and swell closed, the developing thrush is entrapped, and the result is a very sore heeled, lame horse.

frog cleft
Cleaning out debris from frog cleft.
Balanced Trim
Balanced trim with infected central sulcas and frog cleft.

I recently drove 700 miles to treat a horse named Cody diagnosed with equine Canker; however, Cody was misdiagnosed and rather suffered from infected, sheared heels.  Without a doubt, Cody’s issues were caused by improper trimming.  Upon examination, I found that the heels of each hoof were out of balance, causing heel bulb displacement with deep frog clefts penetrating up into the hairline and entrapping infection.  The infection not only compromised the heel bulbs, but had also started to compromise each frog.  I trimmed, balanced, thoroughly cleaned and treated each sheared/split heel on Cody’s hooves.”

Both farriers agree, balanced hooves are important to hoof health. As a farrier, it is extremely important to properly trim and balance each hoof. If this is not done correctly, more issues can arise and create further problems for you down the road. Horse owners must also pay close attention to this detail and do their part in picking and cleaning the feet on a regular basis. If you believe your horse’s hooves are imbalanced, do not be afraid to bring it up to your farrier or to seek the opinion of another farrier or veterinarian. If your horse’s hooves were trimmed improperly, it is important to have this fixed as soon as possible. A hoof supplement combined with a safe anti-microbial hoof clay and liquid will help the hooves recover from cracks, splits or other hoof related issues that arise from the hoof imbalance. Using a hoof supplement will also promote the health of the hoof and increase its growth rate.

 

 

A special thanks to:

Darren Owen, CF, APF
Indian Fields Farrier Service Inc.
Phone: (757) 478-1399
Email: indianfields@msn.com

Dave Giza, APF-1
Genesis Farriers
Phone: (571) 921-5822
E-mail: GenesisFarriers@aol.com