Horse Hoof Care -
Budget From The Bottom Up!
This is the first part of our Essential Guide to Routine Equine Health Costs.
Horse hoof care forms probably the biggest ongoing expense you can expect to pay aside from livery (stabling) costs.
In this section we will look at why horses wear shoes, whether your horse needs to be shod for the type and quantity of work they are doing, the costs involved and how your farrier resolves horse hoof care problems.
What Can You Do To Keep Your Horse's Feet Healthy?
If you have your horse shod or trimmed this will usually be done at 4-6 weekly intervals depending on how quickly hoof growth occurs. This varies from horse to horse much like our fingernails grow at different rates from person to person.
In between visits from your farrier, you should be actively promoting healthy horse hoof care by checking your horse's feet daily. Visit our
topic to find out how to pick out the feet correctly using a hoof-pick. Keeping the feet clean will identify any sore spots or loose shoes which if left unnoticed will inevitably lead to the horse casting a shoe or becoming lame.
Horse hoof care should be a priority with young horses to accustom them to having their feet trimmed by the farrier. This not only makes them easier to handle later on but identifies any early signs of confirmation or balance irregularities that may not be obvious from just looking at the horse and can be much improved by correct trimming.
Does My Horse Need To Wear Shoes?
This is largely a matter of personal preference because more and more people are coming round to the concept that "Barefoot is Best" as this is far more natural for the horse and indeed many horses are less inclined to trip or slip without shoes.
Obviously horses in the wild do not wear shoes but domesticated horses are subjected to artificial (albeit much less demanding) living conditions that are often far removed from their ancestors. A horse in the wild will likely wear down his feet through travelling across vast acres of plain with the herd.
By contrast, a domesticated horse will ideally be kept in a nice soft pasture and ridden on sympathetic surfaces so this creates its own issues in that the horse's feet must be trimmed regularly to prevent excess hoof growth and enable the horse to maintain correct balance and movement. Find out more about the benefits of
Horses wear shoes to protect their feet if they are being ridden largely on roads or hard surfaces as this prevents injury to the sensitive "frog" or v-shaped part of the foot and prevents cracking or splitting of the outer hoof wall.
Competition horses also wear shoes to enable a better grip on softer ground. Removeable studs (small metal nuts) are screwed into the shoe to prevent the horse slipping or falling when making sharp turns at speed or for cross-country events where additional grip enables the horse to cope more easily with challenging terrain.
If you are a leisure rider and are able to exercise your horse in a field or purpose built arena, you may be inclined to just have your horse's feet trimmed regularly rather than put shoes on him.
Occasional riding on harder surfaces will not do any damage to an unshod horse's feet providing you do not ride at speed (even prolonged trotting on hard surfaces is damaging to your horse's limbs whether he wears shoes or not and should be avoided).
Horses kept on wet ground may not keep shoes due to the wonderful suction power of mud! This will be extremely frustrating for the owner as it is frequently impossible to find the discarded shoe so more expense is incurred calling out the farrier to put on a new one.
Other reasons why your farrier may recommend shoes could be to correct a hoof problem and rebalance the horse so that his weight is evenly distributed on all four legs. If the horse has very weak hooves or frequently becomes lame, the farrier may work in conjunction with your veterinary surgeon to undertake a programme of corrective or remedial shoeing to promote healthy hoof growth.
Over a period of weeks or months the farrier can often successfully correct foot problems even those caused by extensive neglect, but this is a costly process and will require much patience on the part of the owner.
If you are not sure whether to have your horse shod or not it is always best to ask your Farrier's opinion. They are horse hoof care specialists and will be able to recommend the best course of action taking into consideration the make-up of your horse's feet and your intended exercise schedule.
Horse Hoof Care - The Hot and Cold of It!
Once your farrier has seen the horse for the first time he will have a pretty good idea of the best size and weight of shoe to use.
Some farriers practice "hot shoeing" where the shoe is created while you wait.
This is done by moulding a base model in a very hot furnace, then cooling it and fitting to the horse using long nails that are secured to the outer hoof wall.
Cold shoeing is where the shoes are applied having been pre-cast and are the "ready-made" option, measured to the size of the horse's feet and then fitted as above by the farrier.
Some horses wear much lighter shoes than the typical standard metals. For example, racehorses wear very thin shoes (called "racing plates") so as not to hinder their speed. Ponies out at grass are often fitted with shoes known as "grass tips". These are feathered at the back of the shoe so that the hoof can grow healthily but is still protected from cracking.
Driving horses wear much heavier shoes as they often do a greater amount of roadwork.
Plastic or rubber shoes are also available. These are secured by glue and are often used in cases of corrective shoeing where the typical metal or aluminum shoes would not be suitable.
How Do You Find A Qualified Farrier?
In the United Kingdom, Farriers must be registered with the Farriers Registration Council. It is an offence for anyone other than a Registered Farrier to describe themselves as a farrier.
A Veterinary Surgeon may also carry out farriery and will often work closely with your farrier to resolve a complex horse hoof care problem.
The Farriers (Registration) Act came fully into force in England and Wales in 1980 and by 2007 was made law in all areas of Great Britain. This Act was brought in to prevent cruelty and suffering to horses through illegal and unskilled shoeing practices.
The work of the Farriers Registration Council is overseen by the Worshipful Company of Farriers, an organisation with roots dating back to 1356 promoting the welfare of the horse. After a four year apprenticeship, a farrier takes the Diploma examination run by the Worshipful Company of Farriers.
Farriers become professionally qualified following the successful completion the apprenticeship and by passing the Diploma of the Worshipful Company of Farriers (DipWCF). Only at this point is a farrier eligible for registration with the Farrier Registration Council and is allowed to work on his own behalf.
Some farriers choose to continue their professional development by taking further qualifications so may have the letters AWCF (Associate) or FWCF (Fellow) after their names.
If you want to check your Farrier's qualifications or are new to the area and looking for a farrier, click here to visit
The Farriers Registration Council
website and click on the "Search For a Farrier" button.
Horse Hoof Care - What Does It Cost?
The cost of horse hoof care will vary based upon the amount of work your farrier does each time he visits.
We have listed below the approximate costs you can expect to pay for each type of service but it is highly recommended that you check with your own farrier as prices do vary.
Expect to pay:
- Trimming - £20.00 - £22.00 per visit (visits should be every 4 - 6 weeks maximum)
- Shoeing - £50.00 - £60.00 per visit for a set of 4 steel shoes. Shoes will last anywhere from 2 - 6 weeks depending on the volume of work undertaken.
A horse ridden 2-3 times a week with about 50% roadwork and average hoof growth will need shoes taken off and feet trimmed every 6 weeks. If the shoes haven't worn down much the farrier may re-attach the previous set once the feet have been trimmed.
Sometimes an owner will request that just the front feet are shod but the farrier will still trim the back feet when shoeing the fronts to ensure correct balance is maintained.
- Optional Extras - up to £10.00 for Stud Nails (one per shoe) to help with road-grip and are not be confused with Studs.
- Studs - these can be purchased from your horse equipment supplier at approximately £30.00 for a basic set including the tool to affix them.
Horse Hoof Care
to our Equine Health topic for more information on other routine health expenditure.
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