The Well Shod Horse

The farrier brings to the job the skills and the knowledge acquired through lengthy apprenticeship, intensive college training and experience.

Trimmed Hoof

The horse owner can help the farrier make the best use of these skills by:
• Making regular appointments as necessary for foot trimming and shoeing
• Giving adequate notice when additional farriery services are required
• Ensuring the horse is caught, settled and prepared with clean legs and feet, before the farrier arrives
• Making available a clean, well lit place, under cover if possible, with a firm, level surface to shoe on, or
• Always arriving in time for appointment at the forge

The horse will be better able to co-operate if used to handling, in order that it will stand quietly while the feet are picked up, trimmed and shod. Proper feeding and regular foot care – picking out the feet, oiling if necessary – help build strong horn, which makes good shoeing easier.

With co-operation from farrier, owner and horse alike, the best possible farriery service can be given in the interest of the horse – its comfort, well-being and usefulness over a long, active life.

Points of shoeing
Just as horses and ponies come in all shapes and sizes, so horseshoes and shoeing must vary according to the type of horse and the work it does. However, good farriery practice has some basic requirements:
1. The horse must be able to move freely, naturally and comfortably when
shod. Good shoeing takes into account the natural line of balance
through the limb of the individual horse – each horse is different, and
so is its way of going.
2. The hoof evolved to offer a tough, protective, ‘non slip’ base capable
of absorbing concussion without the covering of a metal shoe. Whatever
shoe is used, the farrier seeks to interfere minimally with the natural foot
function and to prevent any alteration of the hoof pastern axis (HPA).
3. As metal shoes prevent the feet wearing down, the farrier trims away
excess horn to the correct level of weight distribution over the whole foot.
The hoof wall should be trimmed to the best natural shape – a straight
line from coronary band to ground surface, not flaring out or cut back
too far. The shoe, chosen as the correct weight and size for the individual
horse and the work it is to do, should be fitted level, with clean nail
holes evenly spaced between the toe and the quarter. The shoe should
be shaped to fit the hoof accurately, with the clip bedded into the hoof
wall to fit flush.
4. The shoe must be long enough to support the heel and ensure there
is no loss of foot bearing surface.
5. When the shoe is fitted, it should appear like an extension of the level,
well prepared foot, with no gaps between them. The nails, driven into
sound hoof wall should emerge a third of the way up the foot and should
be turned down into strong clenches, then rasped smooth. The nails should
fit the nail holes so that they are level with the surface of the shoe.

HOOF CLEANTo sum up, the well shod horse has:
• Shoes of correct weight and size, shaped to fit the foot
•  Level feet, correct limb alignment for free movement
• No loss of foot bearing surface
• Clenches in a regular line, smooth and firm into the hoof wall
• And last but not least, an owner who realises that foot care is his or
her day-to-day responsibility too
the shoe for the job
For optimum grip and safety, horses doing much fast work on grass or soft going, for example hunters, event horses, polo ponies – are often best with fullered concave shoes, close fitting of adequate length with well sloped heels.

Horses doing mainly slower work or road work may be more effectively shod using plain shoes, fitted full to the foot especially from quarters to heel, with upright heels.

Horses used for competitive driving or long distance riding are often effectively shod with plain stamped or three quarter fullered shoes.

All working horses’ feet will need regular attention, usually at not more than six week intervals. When horses are shod, the shoes must be removed and the feet trimmed back as they grow, even if the shoes are not worn out.

Farriery, the law and you
The Farriers (Registration) Acts of 1975 and 1977 require anyone shoeing horses to register each year with the Farriers Registration Council. This includes people who only shoe their own horses. The prime aim of this law is to safeguard the welfare of the horse.

Anyone wishing to register should contact the Registrar of the Farriers Registration Council, who will explain the procedure. Normally, application is made on completion of an apprenticeship with an Approved Training Farrier. The apprenticeship involves attending regular college courses with an assessment successfully completed at each attendance.

Having passed the final examination held under the auspices of the Worshipful Company of Farriers, which is necessary for registration, the successful candidate may then use the letters Dip WCF after his or her name (Diploma of the Worshipful Company of Farriers). The equivalent before the 1975 Act was RSS (Registered Shoeing Smith).

The Worshipful Company of Farriers also conducts examinations for farriers already qualified, registered and in practice as proof of their enhanced competence. These are searching examinations by the Associateship of the Worshipful Company of Farriers (A WCF), formerly AFCL Associateship of the Farriers Company of London, and the Fellowship of the Worshipful Company of Farriers (FWCF).

All farriers’ registrations must be renewed annually. Horse owners should make sure their farrier has a current registration certificate. The Farriers Registration Council publishes a full national list of all registered farriers, which is regularly updated with addresses, telephone numbers and county listings.

A farrier should not be confused with a Blacksmith. A farrier works with horses but needs training in blacksmithing to enable him to make shoes properly. A blacksmith works with irons and may never have any contact with horses. A blacksmith may have been trained in farriery and if so may shoe horses legally alongside his blacksmithing, providing he is a Registered Farrier.

Printed with kind permission of The Worshipful Company of Farriers, 19 Queen Street, Chipperfield, Kings Langley, Herts WD4 9BT. Tel: 01923 260747 or email:

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