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Farrier Visits 101: How To Prepare and Handle Your Horse

a farrier trims and shoes the hind foot of a dark bay horse
Getty Images

Hoof care—trimming and/or shoeing every four to six weeks—is an important part of keeping your horse healthy. As such, it’s important to know how to handle your horse to keep things moving smoothly. Remember these tips to make your horse’s farrier visit a piece of cake.

Prepare your horse before your farrier arrives.

Don’t wait until your farrier pulls in to get your horse from the field and clean him up. Arrive in time to catch him from the field (extra early if he can be difficult to catch!), and bring him to a well-lit, safe area for your farrier to work. In many cases, the barn aisle is perfectly acceptable. Ideally, you’ll want to be away from farm equipment, barn pets, and frequently traveled paths (to and from pastures, for example). Let him relax in his stall or the crossties until the farrier arrives.

Also, if possible, have your horse well-groomed (at the very least, clean up his legs) with his hooves picked before your farrier arrives. Ask your farrier in advance whether he or she would prefer a horse with muddy legs and hooves hosed off before they arrive. Some would rather mud be dry than legs be wet, others might want you to hose just the hooves, not the legs. Still others might be fine with holding wet legs and hooves.

Don’t expect anyone else to hold your horse unless you’ve made prior arrangements.

a woman picks the hoof of a bay horse
Clean off your horse’s lower legs and feet, and pick his hooves before the farrier arrives. | Getty Images

Some barn owners or trainers (even fellow boarders) are happy to handle your horse during farrier visits. They might even include the service in boarding or training fees. Likewise, some farriers—especially if they have help—might be happy to take care of a longtime client’s well-behaved horse without the owner present.

But always ask in advance if you think you might not be able to attend a farrier appointment. And if someone offers to help, see what you can do to make it as easy for them as possible. This might include leaving your horse in a stall or an easily accessible paddock for the day or leaving a check for the farrier on your stall door.

That said, it’s best to be there when your farrier trims or shoes your horse. You’ll be able to ask questions and learn, discuss issues that have arisen and/or any trimming or shoeing changes the farrier might want to make, and ensure your horse is on his best behavior.  

Watch: How To Restrain a Horse

Be attentive.

Pay attention when your farrier is working on your horse. Some well-trained horses stand tied quietly when their hooves are trimmed or shod. But if your horse is less cooperative or you’re unsure how he’ll react, be prepared to hold and restrain him if he starts to act up.

Keep your horse’s mouth off your farrier.

It sounds obvious, right? But it’s not uncommon for owners to allow their horses to nuzzle their farriers’ backs during trims or shoeing. And while sometimes things don’t extend past nuzzling, horses can wind up nipping, drooling on, pushing, or leaning on the farrier—complicating the job and potentially putting your farrier at risk for injury.

To be on the safe side, keep your horse’s nose and mouth away from your farrier while he or she is working.

Teach your horse ground manners.

silhouette of a horse standing in the cross ties in a barn aisle with green hills behind him
Have your horse restrained in a safe, neat area, and ensure he’ll stand quietly for the farrier. | Getty Images

Before your farrier visits, ensure your horse will stand quietly during his trim or shoeing.

Start by tying or cross-tying him and spending time picking up his feet, holding them, and tapping the hoof with a hoof pick (to help get your horse used to hammering or rasping). Gradually increase the amount of time you ask him to stand quietly and reward with treats or affirmation when he does what you’ve asked. If he’s very fidgety, reward even the shortest amount of time spent standing quietly so he understands what you’re asking (to stand still).

If your horse has had a bad experience in the past and is genuinely afraid of the farrier, it’s best to discuss your situation with a trainer and/or equine behaviorist and get help in solving the issue. Also inform your farrier of your horse’s problems well ahead of your scheduled appointments so they allow enough time to handle him slowly, if need be.

Take-Home Message

Spend a little extra time preparing for hoof care visits. Your farrier will appreciate your efforts to have your horse at the ready and well-behaved for trims and shoeing. And the appointment will go smoother and quicker for your horse.

Related Reading: How To Find a Farrier for Your Horse

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