Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Whole New Hoofer Experience

The new farrier, the third I've had since moving here -- to no fault of my own, came by to get my horses caught up on their barefoot hoof trims.  I didn't think I would continue to use his services since he charges so much more than farriers I've used in the past, but I was impressed with the way he handled my horses, and the way they behaved for him.  I did set up another appointment.  It turns out that he's a natural horsemanship horse and human trainer too.

He also doesn't want me to hold the horses for him.  He loosely draped the lead rope over the fence while he worked, and I just stood by in case he needed help.  He said that people sometimes hold the horse too tightly or jerk the horse around.  He finds that if he gives the horse the freedom to move about and back out of an uncomfortable situation, it ends up just holding still for him.  My farrier where I used to live had me put a stud chain on Bombay and yank it every time he moved too much.

At one point Rock kept trying to sneak his way over to a food trough, and I kept straightening him out.  The farrier said, "Is he not allowed to eat?"

I said, "Farriers have always asked me to keep the horse's head up, so I'm trying to help."

He said, "I don't care.  If he's happier eating, let him eat."

It's great.  It's almost like I don't even have to be there.  The farrier can take care of himself, and the horses don't give him any trouble.

He sits on a stool while working.  My horses had never seen a stool like that before, because all the farriers in the past stayed on their feet.  I figured my flightier horses might be resistant to having that stool so close to their legs, but the farrier had such a kind, relaxed demeanor, that it rubbed off on my horses and they instantly relaxed after the initial stink eye they gave the stool.  Bombay even accidentally backed into the stool, and the tools in the tray beneath it clattered, but he didn't overreact.  He just moved where he wouldn't be bumping into it.  When my horses behave better in the presence of a new person, I know that person is a true horseman, capable of influencing my horses' feelings and attitudes.

I also liked that he took his time examining his work, paying special attention to the sole.  The last farrier I used left the sole lumpy and uneven, so after a few weeks I would find hard lumps the size of rocks on their hooves.  That couldn't have been comfortable to walk on.

He was quiet, but not rude.  He chose his words carefully.  I asked for his opinion on something, and he thought long and hard about it before responding with his three word answer.  There's something very zen about him.

But there was one thing he did that went against what my previous two barefoot trimmers taught me, and I'm not sure which approach is best.  Do you think that a horse's hooves should be trimmed to compensate for body conformation faults or just for hoof conformation faults?

Gabbrielle has one shoulder that is several inches lower than the other, so her legs are uneven.  The barefoot farriers I used in the past left her heel longer on the shorter leg, just like when people with uneven legs wear higher soled shoes on their shorter leg.  However, this new farrier says you don't trim the hoof to compensate for body conformation flaws.  He trimmed the heel way down, because the collateral grooves were too deep.  Allowing the grooves to get so deep has led to Gabbrielle getting thrush more often than the other horses, but now I wonder if she's going to be even more lopsided and rocky to ride.

On the other hand, perhaps by compensating for the uneven shoulders, we allowed the discrepancy between her shoulders to get even worse.  Perhaps if the hooves are trimmed based upon the depth of the collateral grooves, her body would balance itself out over time.  What do you think?

He said he could tell that my three Arabs have been barefoot their whole lives, because their hooves are strong and healthy.  Rock still has a ways to go in making up for all those years he was in metal shoes and being trimmed incorrectly.

Every farrier I've used has had a favorite horse.  My first farrier favored Gabbrielle.  My second liked Rock.  My third liked Lostine.  I was hoping this new farrier would prefer Bombay since no one has liked him yet, but he felt a connection with Gabbrielle.  So the score is Gabbrielle 2, Rock and Lostine 1, Bombay 0.  Poor Bombay.


Camryn said...

As far as the cost goes try to think of it as "you get what you pay for". Sounds like he's worth it. My friends switch trimmers back and forth according to price. I've stuck with my trimmer for 6 years (she came with my first horse). Friends used her but didn't like the cost. Guess who's horse has better feet!

How Sam Sees It said...

My only complaint about Arizona is how hard it is to find farriers. A good one is worth a higher price.

Stacey C said...

Sounds like the extra money for this guy is well spent! Patience and calmness in farriers is priceless, in my opinion.

I pay extra for a DAEP that travels up from Florida to do our three and she is worth every single penny.

Good luck with this new guy!

BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

I'm going with the new farrier on this one. There are a few structural defects that can be mitigated by slight alterations to the trim job, but a shoulder that is structurally shorter on one side than the other is not one of them.

And I agree with How Sam Sees It on this one, it is exceptionally difficult to find a good farrier in AZ. I've been through 3 down here in 2 winters. This year I told my husband, I'm not looking for a farrier in AZ. I'll haul my horses back to CO to get them reset. Thankfully, my farrier now has so many clients that come to Arizona in the winter and says he is so sick of fixing the damage inflicted by the crappy work that is done down here that he is planning on coming down once a month just to do his regular clientele's horses.

Cut-N-Jump said...

I agree on finding a good farrier. I would like to fire my current one (me!) but can't seem to get one to commit and actually show up! My horses are well behaved and their feet are good, for the most part, but I know when to call someone else in and have them take over.

I'm going with the farrier on this one too and here's why. Horses don't have collarbones. Their shoulder is free and the front leg is not structurally attached to everything else by bone like ours is. Instead it is attached by muscle. If Gabrielle's shoulders are out of alignment, it's in the muscle. Compensating for it in the trim, may 'seem' like it would help, but over the long haul, it's not going to change things much, if at all. You might have a good equine therapist take a look at her. Getting things resolved would make a huge difference for the better.

fernvalley01 said...

I am not sure enough of myself and knowledge of trimming to speak about the way he trims, but that said, putting a lift in your shoe doesn't make your leg longer so I think I would defer to the farrier as well. See how she does with him for a while I guess. As for the rest, a little more money for good quiet work, respect and good horse care is worth it to me

achieve1dream said...

Wow it sounds like you found a great farrier! I look forward to seeing how well he does in the long run. It done like you struck gold. :-) It's so hard to find good farriers. Most of them are so flaky. My current farrier is very reliable and very patient. She trims more for shod horses than barefoot horses, but so far Chrome is doing well with her. I think his biggest problem is lack of exercise lol. Since I've been riding him on the asphalt they are looking great!