I have resorted to using an alter for the first time ever! Here we go....how do you know if you farrier is not good? I am the barn manager at a 25 horse pleasure/show barn. The horses are primarily warmbloods with a few TB's and ponies. They are all fed good quality hay, grain specific to their needs, supplements specific to their needs (some of the horses are on hoof supplements). Horses get turned out for 4-10 hrs depending on the time of the year and the horse. Turnout is either a grass field or a dry lot which is sometimes mud (not ankle deep mud but mid hoof mud if it has just rained). Horses that are known shoe pullers or have not normal shoes (bars, pads, etc) wear bell boots for turnout. Area of the country is Zone 2.
Here's the problem. We have had our farrier for over 8 years now. He has managed to do some amazing things like keep a club footed horse sound for a number of years that a vet had said would never be sound and should be put down. Keep shoes on a big jumper that other farriers said could never wear nail on shoes and would always need glue ons, etc. However, it seems that over the past 2 years or so a lot of our horses have now become "problem" horses whose feet look like crap 1-2 weeks after shoeing (breaking up around the nails, crumbly etc), pulled shoes, the squirt in kind of gel falling out, etc. Farrier says that it's the feet and the reasons are myriad - we bed on straw, the feet get wet from a lot of hosing during the summer, the feet get too wet because the horses are on dew soaked grass in the summer, the mud in turnout (our mud situation has improved significantly from 5 years ago), thrush, etc.
Some more info - alot of the horses are shod small/tight because he feels this keeps them from pulling shoes. He always set the nails low because, he says, if they pull shoes they won't rip off as much foot (most of them have shoes with side clips). A few of the horses look like their toes are way out in front and there is no shoe under their heel. Recently, a vet came to do a lameness eval (not related to shoeing) on a pleasure mare and commented on how bad the front feet angles were. We currently shoe most of them at 5 weeks and it's a stretch getting there. A lot of them have a loose shoe or a lost shoe before the 5 weeks. When asked about putting high nails in instead of low nails, the farrier said he would do it if asked but a lot of our horses did not have hoof wall structure to support high nails. When asked about anything else, the answer always seems to make sense (to a non farrier person like me).
However, there are some horses that have no problems at all. They rarely lose shoes, the feet don't break up, they get to 6 weeks without a problem.
At a recent away shoe, when pummeled with questions about why the feet look this way, the show farrier said he thought that our farrier was not nailing deep enough, probably because he was gun shy of sticking a horse, and the shallow nails were contributing to a lot of our problems.
So, wise ones, how do you know if your farrier is not good? This guy has obviously been with us for a long time, he's very nice and comes out within a day or 2 to replace pulled shoes at no charge (if he did charge, we probably would have changed farriers a long time ago!).
Edited to add - can anyone suggest a good performance farrier NW of Philly?