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When Does a Horse Need a Farrier?
We all know what it feels like to break a fingernail or toenail,
and it is certainly not comfortable. Luckily for humans, we do not
have to walk or stand on that nail after it has been cracked or
split. Horses do not have that same luxury. When a horse cracks or
splits his nail, the results can be especially painful since the
horse must continue to stand and walk on the broken nail. A horse
cannot just clip his own toenail off; that must be done through the
services of a professional farrier.
A farrier's job is to provide shoes for horses, and to
administer care to hoof problems. The Texas A&M College of
Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences does a great deal of
work on lame horses, and a big part of treatment for horses' hooves
often requires therapeutic shoeing, and a specialist who knows what
"Hoof growth is a constant occurrence, though the rate of growth
is affected by several variables" said Jason Wilson-Maki,
professional farrier for the Texas A&M College of Veterinary
Medicine, and graduate of the Heartland Horseshoeing School.
"Weanlings can grow as much as half an inch a month; yearlings grow
slightly less. A mature horse will grow roughly .38 inches per
month. An aged horse has a slower rate of about .25 inches a month.
The seasons also play a factor in hoof growth. During the summer
when forage is plentiful the growth rate burgeons. Winter growth
rates are usually slower. Another contributing factor is exercise.
A fit horse who is worked daily will have a greater growth rate.
This is most likely due to an increased metabolic rate. Individual
genetic factors should also be considered: some animals just grow
more foot. Extrapolating from these growth rates, a schedule of
four to eight weeks should be followed for hoof maintenance."
There are several signs that will inform an owner that a horse
needs the ministrations of a farrier.
"The first that comes to mind is excessive length" Said
Wilson-Maki. "This is a subjective area and hard to quantify, but
excessive length will lead to chipping, breaking of the horn and
stumbling. Though not a hard and fast rule, if the wall extends
beyond the solar surface more than a quarter of an inch, a trim may
well be in order. If a horse is shod, other indicia will be
present. If the rear third of the foot has grown to the edge of the
shoe or the clenches have become raised, the horse should be
reshod. If a shoe becomes sprung or loosened attention would also
If lameness arises your first call should be to your
veterinarian, but a farrier may be able to offer a degree of
insight. If the problem is hoof related, the farrier may be a
valuable asset to your vet. The most efficient practice for
assuring proper hoof care is regularly scheduled hoof maintenance
by a skilled farrier. This schedule should be dialed in to your
horses' specific requirements.
"Hoof care and farriery is as much an art as a science. Never
say always!" said Wilson-Maki. "Employ a competent and educated
farrier who is willing to listen to your concerns, and follow a
schedule that fits your horses' needs. Perhaps most importantly do
not allow a single ideology or belief to cloud your judgment. Many
horses functions well barefoot while others can't limp to the
pasture without some form of hoof protection. There are many hoof
care systems and methods which can be utilized to achieve the goal
of a sound, functioning horse. Allow the horse to decide which
method works best for him."
The benefits to clients of the Texas A&M College of
Veterinary Medicine have been tremendous ever since they hired full
time farrier Jason Wilson-Maki last fall.
"The direct communication between the clinicians and myself
benefits the animal by reducing the risk of a miscommunication. If
I have any technical or application concerns, these issues can be
discussed" said Wilson-Maki. "This facilitates an individualized,
comprehensive treatment for the animal which accomplishes the goals
of the attending clinician and stays in step with the fundamental
principles of sound farriery."
The farrier service at the veterinary medical teaching hospital
has given the clinicians at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary
Medicine another tool for helping their patients who need help with
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