When Should You Call Your Farrier?

Aug 12, 2013 - 3:58 PM
Establishing good communication with your farrier is an essential part of keeping your horse's feet healthy. Photo by Molly Sorge

When your horse comes in from the field missing a shoe, it’s simple to decide to call your farrier to come. But there are a few scenarios when you might wonder who to call–the veterinarian or the farrier? This can be tricky, and often the answer is not clear until you dig deeper into what may be going on. Let’s attack a few issues that you may discover with your horse and figure out if it’s appropriate to call the farrier.  

First, it’s a good idea to know the best way to communicate with your farrier. What days does he work? If you need him on his day off, can his assistant help you? Is a phone call or text  message better for him? If you are stumped, can you text him a photo? Also, be respectful of the farrier’s time. Know whether he minds being called in the evening hours or not. If your horse’s situation isn’t an immediate emergency, you won’t earn the title of “favorite client” by frantically calling over and over at 9 p.m.

You have a show coming up and you need to schedule an appointment. 

Some farriers work on appointments, and others have a standing schedule. Know in advance about appointments, or if your farrier will call you before he drives to your farm. Busy summer show schedules can create conflicts, be sure to be on the same page!

Your horse has tweaked a shoe, which usually happens on holidays, weekends, or right before a big show or event. 

All kidding aside, a twisted, sprung or shifted shoe is definitely a call to the farrier for assessment. This is when a photo can come in handy as well. Some tweaks are minor, and your horse will be fine with his shoe on until your farrier can arrive. 

Other fixes are major, with twisted metal and maybe even a displaced clip. In this case, you may need to pull the shoe yourself.  Of course, a lesson in shoe-pulling from your farrier before this happens is a good idea, as is a basic collection of tools. Having these four tools and knowing how to use them can get you out of a pickle:  shoe puller, mallet, clinch cutter, and crease nail puller. 

If your horse has shifted his shoe enough to 
embed the clip in the white line, remove the shoe 
as soon as possible.
Photo by Molly Sorge

A note about clips—I have seen a few horses that are experts at rearranging their shoes so that a tweaked shoe can land the clip directly into the white line or sole of the hoof.  On top of being painful, this means the shoe needs to be removed as soon as possible.  This also may warrant a call to the veterinarian to decide how to proceed. 

You notice a crack in the hoof.   

Some cracks are benign, and others need intervention quickly. Horizontal cracks that appear, often out of nowhere, are sometimes past traumas to the coronary band area. As the hoof grows, the past trauma may be a softening that turns into a horizontal crack. 

Quarter cracks, which occur on the side of the hoof wall in a vertical fashion—usually from the coronary band down—are a different story. These quarter cracks can bleed, often cause painful lameness, and can grow from coronary band all the way down. Many require veterinary care in conjunction with your farrier’s work care to ward off infection and stabilize the area with screws and/or wires. Treatment will probably include corrective shoeing by your farrier. 

Your diligent monitoring of the coronary band during regular grooming can tip you off to a quarter crack forming. In general, a crack in the hoof, horizontal or vertical, is going to be a team effort between you, your farrier, and your veterinarian. Other vertical cracks that may occur at the bottom of the hoof can also be addressed by your farrier and veterinary team. 

You suspect a new lameness may be an abscess. 

All horse owners have that feeling—your horse is a little “off” and his foot feels warm. If your farrier has been there recently shoeing your horse, it’s very possible that a nail has been driven too close to the sensitive structures of the hoof, commonly called a “hot nail.” This happens from time to time to every farrier and is easily fixed by the farrier with no veterinary intervention.

If, however, your horse is suddenly quite lame with heat in his foot and no obvious heat or swelling in the leg, chances are he’s developed an abscess. In terms of what’s involved with an abscess, it’s best to call the veterinarian.

Veterinarians are trained and licensed to diagnose, treat, and prescribe for all things soft tissue. This includes abscesses, the inner parts of the hoof that have a blood supply, areas of the hoof that can develop an infection, and disease processes that involve the hoof, as laminitis does.  Any lameness or suspected abscess should be handled by your veterinarian first and then your farrier in a team effort with the veterinarian. 

Your farrier is a vital part of your horse’s team! A good relationship between horse, owner, farrier, and veterinarian is critical. One more piece of wisdom I have acquired over the years—when in doubt, call and ask the ridiculous question. You may hear a chuckle on the other end of the phone. (Don’t worry about that.) But you will only gain knowledge, and be pointed in the right direction even if you are the subject of a story at the next barn barbeque.

Do you have any grooming questions or mysteries you’d like answered? Email them to us, and Liv will address them next month!




Category: Horse Care

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