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How Do I Choose A Farrier?

Choosing a farrier for your horse(s) may be the most important thing you ever do. Face it: your horse sees more of your farrier (one hopes) than he does of your veterinarian, and your farrier has more to do with your horse’s day to day comfort and soundness than anyone except you. So, obviously, you want to go about this carefully, right?

Look for the Letters: Certification is a Good Thing. While there are many excellent farriers who are not certified, you can be sure that a farrier who has taken tests and passed a performance evaluation takes his craft seriously and is interested in staying up to date. CJF (Certified Journeyman Farrier), awarded by the American Farriers Association, is the highest certification recognized internationally that is given in the U.S. There are other certifications available as well. If your farrier doesn’t have some sort of certification – s/he may be fine. Or s/he may not. Visit the American Farriers Association website for connections to certified farriers in your area. Almost every farrier who is certified will display his certification publicly and proudly. Look for it!
...Isn’t Everything. Cheapest is not best in the farrier world. While farriery charges vary quite a bit according to location, a little comparison shopping should tell you what the usual and normal charges for good work in your area are. Don't get caught in the trap of penny-wise, pound-foolish! A bad shoeing or trimming job can cost you weeks of training, hours upon hours of riding, and even big vet bills. A farrier who spends money on new equipment, continuing education, a computer, and a cell phone will not be the cheapest – but s/he may be a really good investment.
The Telephone is Your Friend. Your farrier should use it, early and often. A farrier who doesn’t return calls, or doesn’t call you when he’s late or can’t be there, isn’t much use to you when your horse is overdue for shoeing and you’ve taken the afternoon off work and you wait around for three hours and finally leave and you call him and then he doesn’t call back for five days and....... A farrier who doesn’t act like he wants your business doesn’t want your business. You don’t want him.
What’s My Line?  Your farrier should be familiar with the shoeing requirements and rules for your sport. That doesn’t mean s/he needs to be an expert in the sport personally – just have a good familiarity with the needs of horses who do the work your horse does. So ask – Do you do sliding plates? Do you drill and tap for cross country studs? Are you familiar with shoeing gaited horses? If the farrier on the phone doesn’t understand your sport, ask for a reference to someone who does. This goes double for any therapeutic shoeing your horse needs. Don’t wait until your appointment for shoeing to find out that your new farrier doesn’t know how to apply an eggbar correctly.
Lend Me Your Ear.  Both on the phone in the initial consultation, and in person at the first shoeing appointment, your prospective farrier should listen to what you have to say about your horse, ask questions as follow-up, and then listen to the answers. A farrier who comes to your barn, grunts twice, and puts on hearing protectors immediately probably isn’t going to help you much when you need something special. A farrier who spends 15 minutes on the phone telling you how wonderful he is probably won’t listen to anyone.
Ask Around. Your best source for information on farriers, whether you are new to the area or just ready for a change, is your veterinarian, followed closely by people in your sport who are consistently competitive, with sound horses – whether you plan to compete or not. Most people just love to be asked for advice. Ask a lot of them. If one or two names crop up again and again, that’s a good sign. Call that farrier. If s/he can’t do your horses, ask for a direct referral from that farrier to one s/he would recommend.
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