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Do's and Don'ts of Working with Farriers and Vets

Tips From The Professionals

A healthy hoof with a ferrierWe love our horses, so it's important to keep them as healthy as possible. A horse that feels good and comfortable is a happy horse, and a happy horse means a better ride, and a better ride means a happy rider! So, in pursuit of keeping our horses happy, we turn to two people: our farrier and our equine veterinarian. These trained professionals specialize in keeping our horses' feet in tip-top shape and their bodies functioning properly. So it goes without saying that these are two people that we want to be on the good side of! Remember, time is money, so don't keep them waiting. Making their visits as smooth and efficient as possible is important to these in-demand experts. We've gone straight to the source to find out what their pet peeves are and what they want you to know.

Professional farrier, Donald Jones. Donald is from Pleasant Garden, NC and has been shoeing horses for over 30 years. Now a retired farrier, he has trained 365 other farriers.

"Don't give your horse a bath right before the farrier shows up."
A common pet peeve of farriers is when they show up to work on a horse to find that the horse has just been given a bath. "A farrier can't work on a wet horse. It's dangerous. They slip and slide around."

"But don't hand me a horse that I'll have to clean before I can work on him."
While you don't want your horse to be freshly bathed when the farrier shows up, don't make the opposite mistake by expecting him to do the basic grooming for you. Make sure that the horses to be shod don't have mud caked on their hooves. Ensuring that your horse is ready to be worked on is the least you can do.

"Do have the horses close and easily accessible."
Your farrier does not want to chase your horse around the pasture. Enough said.

"Do make sure your horses behave."
It's very important for a farrier who is bent over for hours at a time working under your horses' feet for him to want the horse to stand relatively still. "If a horse stands still on his own, I don't mind cross-tying him. But if the horse is moving around a lot it would be nice if there was a handler to help me out. A farrier's job is to shoe a horse, not train it to stand still." Farriers do expect for a horse to move a little, but find it frustrating if a horse moves around a lot.

"Do keep me company."
Most farriers enjoy talking to people while working because of their shared interests. "It's nice to help the time pass and lighten up a long day."

"Do have as much hard information and medical background on the horse for me as you can."
Having as much background information and medical records on your horse as possible allows your veterinarian to make a more educated prognosis. "The more organized you are and the more information I am given, the better I can do my job for you and your horse."

"Do observe your horse closely and report to your vet."
"Nobody knows a horse as well as the people around him most. Their insight is very valuable and important to me." Because the veterinarian is only there for a limited amount of time, hearing what has been going on with the horse in their absence is crucial.

"Don't be too sure about your own conclusions."
"I do like to listen intently to the observations of the horse's owners and handlers…but not always their conclusions." Cindy says that while owners' observations are oftentimes golden, their conclusions are often misguided and just plain wrong. So when dealing with your veterinarian, make sure to give him or her as much background on the horse as you can, but refrain from asserting your own prognosis too heavily. After all, you did hire a veterinarian to make an educated decision.

"Do be present during the examination."
Cindy says it is definitely helpful to have an extra set of hands to help handle the horse, but not necessarily to make him stand still. Your veterinarian may want to see the way a horse moves from a distant vantage point and need someone to lead him. "Veterinarians are accustomed to working on horses that are fresh from being on stall-rest so you don't need to worry about that. Having the owner, the trainer, or a knowledgeable and competent handler to lend an extra hand is always appreciated though."

"Do find the vet that works for you and stick with them."
One of the most important things you can do for your horse is develop a working relationship with a regular veterinarian. "There are many advantages to finding a veterinarian you like and sticking with her. We get to know the horses we work on and the people as well. Having our own knowledge of the horse's history is invaluable to his health, especially in emergency situations. Not only does having a regular veterinarian facilitate your horse being seen at a moment's notice, but also it allows them to know exactly what they are dealing with. Over time, veterinarians will stand behind the people and horses that stand behind them. "Of course I would rather stay home with my family on Christmas Eve, but when one of my regular clients calls with an emergency, I'm there for them whenever they need me."

The professionals that work with us to keep our horses in the best shape possible really don't ask much. They want us to know our horses and convey that information to them. They want us to make sure our horses are manageable and if not, that we are on hand to manage them. Other than that, giving them the room they need to do their job is about all they ask. Be kind to your farrier and veterinarian. They're here to keep your horse happy.

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