Keeping a Schedule
At one time I would schedule farrier work solely at the horse owner’s discretion. I would find myself showing up to a mess of blown out hoof walls, lost shoes , trims that would take two to three times as long as they should and sometimes severe lameness. It didn’t take me long to figure out the cause of the problem – the schedule! As a farrier not setting a schedule can get you in trouble. It can cause you to have to work much harder, not satisfy your clients needs and get stuck running around like a rodeo clown at the NFR. As a horse owner, not setting a schedule can compromise the health of your horse and cause your farrier to be unreachable when you need him or her the most.
Now not every horse needs to be done at 4, 5, or dare I say even 6 weeks. A farrier should be able to tell within a couple of visits as to the horse’s scheduling needs. The purpose of a schedule is to keep the horse’s foot within an optimal range of hoof length. Long hooves, barefoot or shod, can mean more stress on the tendons, ligaments and hoof capsule. This can be bad news for any horse in work, and even horses who are just mowing the back 40. A horses individual schedule will be determined by the your discipline, how a horses hooves react to work, by the time of year or even by the weather. In the summer months hooves can grow quite rapidly. I find this to be especially true in times of high humidity. In the winters like we have hear in the northeast some hoof growth slows quite a bit. Horses under a lot of work, some of whom generally are fed supplements or a hotter feed usually need farrier work on a closer schedule.
Many of the problems we see can be traced back to scheduling, such as a horse who chronically pulls his shoes at 4-6 weeks, or those who trip or stumble at the latter end of their shoeing cycle. The level of hoof growth has changed the horse’s gait enough for him to pull a shoe or stumble. Or the stresses on the hoof have caused the laminar bond to be compromised and we see big distortions, chips and or cracks in the hoof. Debris can become trapped in the hoof or folded under the bars and create an abscess which is very painful for the horse. Retained sole can form and give the farrier quite a workout, not to mention the stress on the hoof from the overgrown bars. The nails of the shoes are displaced and lose their effectiveness, at which point (sometimes to the benefit of the horse) he may throw a shoe. Not to mention the extra work involved. When I show up to a horse that’s at 10 weeks, I know it and my back knows it. I am under the horse two or three times as long, and it’s two or three times the work. This can make a horse just as impatient as the farrier, and rightly so effect the bill.
Keeping a schedule can solve a lot of problems before they start. I am reminded of one case especially. He was a beautiful paint gelding. He was set for a 7-week shoeing protocol. The owners called me to reschedule a week before our appointment because the horse’s feet “looked fine” and they had some things to do. I obliged and set an appointment for the next week. I received a call the following week. Then a couple more reschedules were made, until it ended up at 15 weeks – at which time the owner was quite demanding that I come out as soon as I could. Keep in mind that I have a schedule too. Not withstanding, I made it out there to discover a toe crack that had developed from the toe to well into the coronary band. The horse was lame and was showing signs of laminitis. At this time I also discovered the horse was eating a very high protein cow feed. The horse was a mess. He was never right after that. I was told the crack developed at 8 weeks and rapidly spread up the hoof wall. Had there been a regular schedule, the whole situation could most likely have been avoided.
So set your schedule. For the farrier, it can help you better serve your clients without getting bogged down with unexpected work. For the horse owner getting your horse done sooner than later can help keep your horse sound!