Keeping our horses sound is an ongoing battle. Olympic farrier Ben Benson explains his top farrier tips. After all, a happy farrier and a happy owner result in a happy horse.

A farrier’s competency used to be measured by how long the horse’s shoes stayed on, but nowadays we know that may not be in the best interests of the horse.

Hooves are always growing out of balance, but if you stay on top of these things, your horse will perform better and his shoes will last longer.

Some owners like to save on their horse’s shoeing by going as long as possible between farrier visits. However, ensuring that all the tolerances are kept tight and that the feet don’t get out of balance is absolutely vital.

For every 1cm of toe that a horse grows that is out of balance, it is the equivalent of 50kg of intrinsic weight on his back.

For those owners who like their horse to go seven or eight weeks between visits, the farrier will find plenty of hoof to cut off.

However, removing a significant amount in one go is one of the worst things you can do because you are making drastic changes that will affect the tendons and ligaments. If legs swell up, or the horse is stiff after shoeing, these are indicators that you’ve left it too long.

The owner and the farrier need to have good communication and complete trust in each other. If, as an owner, you have a problem, tell your farrier and they should respond in an appropriate manner.

If the farrier doesn’t listen to you, then they can’t complain if the next time you book someone else to care for your horse’s feet.

Another area for improvement is horse husbandry. An owner can spend thousands of pounds on a new saddle or lessons and yet they don’t even pick out their horse’s feet before the farrier’s visit.

I see a lot more thrushy feet these days than I ever used to, and my theory is that this is due to a drop in husbandry standards.

Dry, clean and picked-out feet should be a priority every day, not just when the farrier is coming.

Ben’s top farrier tips

  1. Don’t scrimp on your horse’s farriery — keeping on top of deviations is the best way to ensure that your horse stays sound for longer.
  2. Speak to your farrier if you have a problem or a concern about your horse and listen to their advice.
  3. Be on the lookout for any minor deviations in the quality of your horse’s hoof and how he performs. The sooner you recognise an issue, the sooner it can be rectified.
  4. Ensure that your horse is ready for a visit from the farrier with clean, dry and picked-out feet.

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