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Do I need a new farrier for my new horse?

From: Steve

Dear Jessica, my wife and I are getting some agitated about this question, so we decided to ask you what you thought because even when we argue about something we can still agree that you make the most sense of any of the horse experts out there. That's more of a compliment than it sounds like because we've been to quite a few clinics with big-name cowboys.

We are getting on in years but still riding and plan to continue as long as we can. I had a back injury a few years ago and the surgeon fixed me up pretty well, no complaints, but what with that and some arthritis I have it's getting more and more uncomfortable to trot on the trail. So I decided to take some of your earlier advice from one of your books, and I went out and bought a gaited horse with a lot of mileage on trails. He's eight years old, a gelding, about 15 hands and built solid. He's so comfortable I can ride him all day and my back doesn't hurt. I've had him about a month and he's working out great, fitting in just fine and getting along fine with our other horses.

But here's why I'm asking you this question about the farrier. Believe it or not, and I never thought I'd own one of those fancy leg-flipping animals, my new horse is a Tennessee Walking Horse. He's not much of a leg-flipper though. All he's ever had in the way of shoes are just plain shoes like the ones our other horses wear in the fall when the ground gets hard enough that they're wearing their feet down too fast. But he's gaited all right, that's why I wanted him, he's got that smooth easy walk that just lets me sit up there with a big old grin while my wife and her mare trot along to keep up. I want him to keep that good gait, and I don't know if my regular farrier can shoe him right so that he'll keep it. My wife says of course he can, but she's a big fan of his and thinks he can do anything. We've used him for five years, and he 's good, but I know for a fact that he hasn't worked with any Tennessee Walking Horses before, and I'm not sure I want him to be experimenting on my new "back-saver" trail horse!

My wife said to be sure to tell you that our regular farrier does a great job with all of our other horses. That's true. He's a nice fellow and he's never made any of our horses sore, he doesn't hit them or get rough with them, and we do a lot of trail-riding and we haven't had a lame horse yet. Touch wood! He's an easy-going kind of fellow who probably won't get all bent out of shape if I tell him we need a professional for the new horse. I just think it would be better for everyone of us, humans and horses too, if I bring in a farrier with Tennessee Walking Horse experience. He's done fine with our other horses but we've got three Quarter Horses and a Quarter Horse-Moran cross, and he knows how to shoe them for trail. Now you know what I'm thinking. What do YOU think? Steve

Hi Steve! Thanks for the kind words - they're appreciated. ;-)

I'm going to have to side with your wife on this question. If you have a regular farrier who is kind, reliable, and has succesfully kept all of your trail horses sound (which he seems to have done) and has enough savvy to put shoes on your horses only at those times of year when they actually NEED shoes (which he also seems to have done), you're very lucky. In your position, I wouldn't hesitate to ask him to do the new horse, too.

Your Tennessee Walking Horse is a trail horse by training and (I'm sure) by temperament. There shouldn't be anything strange or weird or different about his hooves or his angles - or his shoes, in season - that would cause a problem for your farrier. It sounds to me as if your farrier is very good at keeping sound horses sound. This means that even if all of your horses had wonderful feet and great hoof quality from the get-go, the man has done an excellent job of maintaining their feet with the right balance and angles to KEEP them sound. I'm not sure what more you could ask, really.

Forget the "leg-flipping" action you may have seen from other TWHs in the show ring - that's nothing to do with YOUR horse. Yours is lucky - he was brought up to be a horse and has been trained and used for trail riding, not in the show ring. The trimming he's going to need, and the shoes he MAY (or may not) need on occasion, shouldn't be any different from the trimming and the shoes that you have on your other horses.

Don't worry about your horse losing his smooth gaits. He won't, because those gaits are REAL gaits, natural and bred into him. They aren't produced by his shoes. A natural-gaited TWH will give you that same swinging, gliding, comfortable ground-covering walk whether he's barefoot or wearing a plain keg shoe.

Your farrier should trim your TWH in exactly the same way he trims your other horses - properly, according to the individual horse's foot balance, hoof wall angles, pastern angles, and, of course, the horse's movement. You want a comfortable ride and a happy horse. Your farrier will want to trim your horse in a way that will let him - that INDIVIDUAL horse - move his best, stay balance and level, and remain sound. In other words, what he'll want to do for your new horse is exactly what he wants to do - and does - for your other horses.

I'll let you in on a big secret. When you're doing real riding (trails, foxhunting, cross-country, dressage, anything that requires trimming and shoeing for SOUNDNESS and MOVEMENT rather than for show-ring fad and fashion) and when you're working with a good farrier, there is no such thing as a "Quarter Horse trim" or a "TWH trim" or a "QH-Morgan trim." There's just the right trim, the right angles, and the right toe length for each foot of each individual horse - and that's exactly what you WANT a good farrier to provide. It takes experience and good judgement and an accurate eye to trim a horse so that it gets the good support and the good bone alignment that will let it go down those trails all day and come back sound and happy and ready to do it again the next day. It sounds to me as if your current farrier has all of those qualities, and I think you should add your new horse to his list and stop worrying. Meanwhile, you have my congratulations on your acquisition of a wonderful "back-saver" horse AND on your good farrier. I hope that you and your wife will enjoy many more years of trail-riding.


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