Horseshoes have been fitted to domesticated horses for centuries. They protect a horse's hooves and allow the hooves to cope with the burden of a rider's weight and to cope with hard surfaces. Every six to eight weeks, a farrier removes the horse's old set of horseshoes, trims and rebalances the horse's feet and fits a new set of horseshoes, using a special set of tools for each stage of the process.
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What a Farrier Does
A farrier is a specialist practitioner who looks after horses' feet, including trimming and possibly fitting some type of horseshoe. In the United Kingdom (UK), only a registered farrier can fit shoes, although other professionals can trim feet, including barefoot trimmers and veterinarians. UK farriers should be registered with the Worshipful Company of Farriers.
In the United States, farriers have no one governing body of registration, and farriers do not have be registered or even qualified. Three organisations, the American Farrier's Association, the Guild of Professional Farriers and the Brotherhood of Working Farriers, maintain voluntary registers of members.
The best way to find a good farrier is by personal recommendation.
Tools for Removing Old Shoes
The first step in the horseshoeing process is to remove the old set of shoes. Horseshoes are nailed to the hoof, and the end of nail is then cut off and filed flat to hold the shoe in place. These nail ends are called clenches.
As the horse's hoof grows over a six- to eight-week period, the nails holding the shoe in place are gradually forced downward and the clenches straighten, loosening the shoe.
To remove the shoe, the farrier first uses a clench cutter and a hammer, in order to straighten any clenches that are still tightly attached. Then he uses either a pair of nail pullers (similar to pliers) or shoe pullers to pull the shoe loose from the foot.
Tools for Trimming Hooves
When trimming hooves, either for a barefoot trim or prior to refitting shoes, a farrier uses a hoof stand or jack. A metal tripod with a shaped head, it supports the weight of the horse's foot and leg while the farrier works.
In addition, a farrier uses a hoof knife to trim the overgrowth of horn. The foot is trimmed to a balanced shape so that the horse is comfortable. Poor foot conformation can be corrected at this stage.
After trimming, the farrier uses a rasp to file the edges of the hoof and fine-tune the shape.
Tools for Fitting New Horseshoes
To refit shoes to newly trimmed hooves, the farrier uses a pair of tongs to manipulate and hold the hot horseshoe to the horse's foot. Once she is happy with the fit, she nails the shoe to the foot using horseshoe nails and a hammer.
To fasten the sharp end of the nails and clench the shoe tightly, she uses a clincher, which is a sharp nipping tool, or a clinching block and hammer before finishing the wall of the hoof with a rasp to achieve a smooth finish.
Other general tools in the farrier's kit include a hoof pick and wire brush for cleaning the feet, knife sharpening blocks and a leather apron for protection.
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