In 2003 I took the Kentucky Horseshoeing School‘s Master Farrier course in Lexington. The course consisted of 16 weeks of full-time classes with a 6-week internship of on-the-job training with a professional farrier. Going to school is a must for anyone aspiring to become a farrier due to the strenuous study schedule that is a needed to graduate.
Henry Heymering – 1½ years
Henry Heymering was the first farrier I apprenticed with. He has been inducted into the Horseshoeing Hall of Fame for all his contributions to the craft. Henry instilled in me the importance and value of the 4-year apprentice program and what it does for your ability. I apprenticed with Henry for two years until we decided I should also get experience from a larger practice to get more exposure and become more rounded as a farrier.
Tom Parris – 4 years
Henry recommended my services to Tom Parris, owner of Alpha Omega Equine Service, who has been a farrier for over 50 years. I apprenticed with Tom and was certified by the AFA while working with him and his crew of certified farriers. At that time, Alpha Omega was doing over 800 horses every 6 weeks. After apprenticing for that year with Tom, I was offered a full-time job with Alpha Omega and continued to learn under Tom’s direction for the next three years. Having a proven farrier watch my every move helped me learn rapidly and bring my skill level up every day. With Mr. Parris, there is no room for error, which is invaluable with horseshoeing.
AFA CERTIFICATION – 2007
The American Farrier Association (AFA) has a set of tests designed to evaluate the ability of a farrier on an individual level. These tests are designed for the farrier to show his or her ability as a hoof care professional. The tests consist of a written test of anatomy, conformation, and gaits, and shoe types and their uses. There is also a practical test in which you shoe a horse with two shoes in an hour and are graded on every aspect of the shoeing process. Another test involves a shoe board consisting of a certain number of shoes with a set number of everyday shoe modifications, all of which must be shaped to match a given pattern perfectly. The evaluators of these practical tests are chosen because they have proven to be the most proficient in the field of farriers.
In 2008, I went into business for myself, starting Maryland Horseshoeing, LLC.
My philosophy is “Whole Horse Balance” (WHB).
Whole Horse Balance starts with hoof quality. Hoof quality is of the utmost importance to all horses’ feet. Without proper hoof quality, your horse cannot move to his or her full ability. Hoof quality is obtained through proper trimming and/or shoeing. Proper trimming/shoeing means the horse’s foot is trimmed in a way that is conducive to how the foot lands, the way the foot breaks over, the conformation of your horse’s feet and legs, and the way he/ she goes around the show ring. If one of these details is overlooked, your horse will not obtain its full ability. Your horse’s hoof quality will suffer from not being in WHB. It’s impossible to truly balance the foot without hoof quality. This means the foot must be trimmed in proper medial/lateral (inner portion of the bottom of foot/ outer portion of the bottom of foot) balance and anterior/posterior (hoof angle) balance.
If your horse is to remain barefoot, it is possible to accomplish anything and everything that you can with shoes as long as your horse grows enough good quality hoof to be balanced. That being said, your horse will never need a pair of shoes if his or her rate of wear does not exceed the rate of growth of the hoof. Only when the horse starts to wear his feet more than he can grow, do the feet then need something to change, whether it be less work or to get shoes. If you choose to ride less to help his feet catch up with the wear, then shoes are not needed. If you choose to continue the work regimen that wears their feet faster than they can grow them, then it’s time for at least a front pair of shoes as horses carry 60% of their weight on their front feet and 40% on the back feet. We start with front shoes because the front feet have a higher arc of flight when in motion and also carry more weight than the hind feet do. The hind feet are used for propulsion, so if the horse is to be ridden often, then four shoes will help to ensure WHB.
Once the foot is trimmed into proper balance and if it is to receive a shoe, then a shoe of proper dimensions must be applied to maintain hoof quality. To pick a shoe with proper dimensions, all aspects of the horse come into play: How big/small is the horse? What does the horse do? How much work is the horse in? What discipline is the horse to do most of the time? Do they interfere at any gait? If so, which gait? Once the proper size and type of shoe are decided upon, we need to evaluate any issues with the feet/legs to decide whether any modifications are needed at this time.
Now we are ready to nail the shoes on. Most people do not pay attention to the location and height of the nails in their horse’s feet. The location and height of the nails will decide how well the shoe stays on and how well the hoof quality is maintained. Low nails are more susceptible to water damage and are not as solid as higher placed nails. Hoof that is lower to the ground is older and weaker than hoof that is higher up on the foot; therefore the higher the nail, the better quality hoof it has to secure to, and is less susceptible to water damage. Higher nails take much more skill to accomplish because you are closer to sensitive structures of the foot. Lower nails will crack the hoof wall and cause the hoof quality to deteriorate, which coincides with balance.
Dynamic balance is motion balance and, because your horse must move when you ride, it is obviously a very important part of the balance process. Dynamic balance starts with the way the foot lands initially and secondary landings on each foot individually. Then how does each foot break over, which means how does the foot take off from the ground? How does the foot travel once in the air, and does it interfere with another limb? Do they paddle out/wing in? Finally, if the horse does not look comfortable or move fluidly, then it may not be in WHB.
Rest assured, I will go above and beyond to bring the horse into WHB, but I am not a miracle worker. Being shod/trimmed properly helps the growing of quality hoof, but if your horse’s diet, turn-out paddock, or stall are not managed properly, then you are not giving your horse the chance to grow good quality hoof.
All of that said, your horse must be trimmed properly to its own individual needs, shoes or no shoes. All of the above will not matter without a good trim.
Finally, the one natural thing horses do today is chew grass. If you want your horse to live a natural life, then stop feeding any and all grains and treats, stop riding them, tear down your fences and let them roam free. A farrier is needed because man has domesticated horses to our needs. As a good farrier, it is my job to find out what their feet need, because they are domesticated animals that need to stay happy and comfortable. Remember, the most important piece of horse care information you could possibly receive is, “NO FOOT, NO HORSE!”
Maryland Horseshoeing, LLC