How to choose a farrier


Susan Hopf


When in need of a farrier whether for the first time or a needed change there are certain guidelines one can use to ensure a quality professional. 

Most horse folks find their farriers through word of mouth. This is an excellent first step but it should not be the only step taken. Farriers and clients become very loyal to each other this is a nice relationship but it does make for a biased judgment regarding each other’s skills.

The American Farriers Association is a good place to start once you have a few names to evaluate. This Association is broken down into state organizations you can access your state’s Association members through the national database. It also includes some international connections. Enter the website and you will be able access a list of local farriers that are AFA members. Members are rated as to their standing, education and level of accomplishment. The levels range from AFA Farrier, Certified Farrier, Certified Tradesman Farrier and Certified Journeyman Farrier. Each level up includes more education and experience as outlined by the Certification processes of the AFA. There are also two other certification levels; Therapeutic Endorsement and Education Endorsement.

Certified Journeyman Farrier is the top of the game and for horses with special needs the best place to begin. Those with straightforward farrier needs a trim or simple balanced shoeing - can be confident that those with less certification will give acceptable care remember that all members are educated in proper trimming and shoeing and that what is lacking in the lower certification levels is experience. As the level of accomplishment goes up so too does the cost something to keep in mind if money is not growing on your trees mine are curiously cash-free.

Once you have a few recommendations you must contact and communicate with each prospective farrier. As you speak with each be honest about your expectations and your horse if you do not know what your horse requires be honest about that as well. You should develop a sense of trust and confidence during this first conversation, as communication is as important as high physical skill sets. During this initial phone interview inquire as to a time and place that you may be able to observe each candidate while working. If you know of a barn where each farrier works you can arrange it with the stable if not you will have to do so with each prospective farrier. Attend this visit and observe the person’s manner with various horses. Patience combined with a confident attitude is what you want to see. Do not converse while this professional is working on a horse casual chatter takes away needed attention to the work at hand as well as to keeping one’s wits when working around our half-ton (plus) equine companions. When the horse's work is completed ask questions if time allows - if not take notes and call back at another time. Please note when trying to reach farriers by phone you should expect several days for a return phone call - with the exception of emergency situations such as nails in places they do not belong or a lost shoe that was placed for medical assistance - most farriers work evenings and weekends and actually do deserve some time off as well. That said your choice should also arrive and return phone calls in a timely manner as well as be available for emergencies when they do occur.

Once you have decided upon a farrier based on the above make an appointment new clients must allow a week or more to obtain an appointment with a new farrier. Arrive for this and subsequent appointments on time and have your horse in, dry and clean. We all lead busy lives so do not expect the farrier to wait for you or your horse. Also wet and/or muddy hooves are unpleasant to work with as are wet and/or muddy horses not only is this inconsiderate for the farrier it may very well impact the quality of the job.

Also prior to your first visit understand what the costs will be and be prepared to pay at the time of service. 

Despite all the best efforts to assure a good match there are times when horses and farriers do not get along. If at any time you are uncertain of how your horse is handled or you question the quality of the work you must bring it to the attention of the farrier. If issues cannot be resolved to your satisfaction you are then back to the drawing board. Do not compromise your horse’s hoof health for any reason. The AFA’s credo is “No foot no horse” and this is something that should be just as important to you as the animal’s guardian. With time, effort and a little education you will eventually find the farrier that meets your horse’s needs first and also fits into your world as well.

Happy Riding.