The Savvy Station

How Often Should My Horse See The Farrier?

par Parelli Professionals sur Feb 21, 2024

How Often Should My Horse See The Farrier?

By Juli Piovesan, 4-Star Senior Instructor, HDS, & Parelli's Director of Education


Hoof care is an important part of maintaining a happy, healthy equine partner.  In general, industry experts recommend that horses are seen by a hoof care professional every 6-12 weeks.  

The Importance of Maintaining a Regular Farrier Schedule

You may have heard the saying, “No hoof, no horse.”  This certainly conveys the importance of horse owners prioritizing thorough hoof care to ensure the wellbeing of their equine partners.  Maintaining a regular schedule for hoof trimming and shoeing is important as the horse’s hoof is constantly growing, similar to a human’s fingernails.  

By nature, horses are designed to travel many miles a day in search of food, minerals, and water sources.  Of course, most modern day horses do not cover this amount of ground, either via turnout or exercise regime.  In addition, the types of climates and footing conditions horses are exposed to varies greatly, affecting the way horses' hooves are worn.  A consistent farrier schedule helps prevent potential physical complications from hooves that have grown too long or are unbalanced. 

No matter if your horse is shod or barefoot, your horse should still see the farrier often.  For horses wearing shoes, the longer the interval between visits, the higher the chance that your horse could lose a nail or throw a shoe.  In addition, there is no option for a horse’s hoof to naturally wear when he has horseshoes on, and his hooves will continue to grow in between farrier visits, leading to imbalances which could affect soundness if left for too long.

It is equally important for barefoot horses to receive consistent trimming and farrier visits.  Most modern day horses will not wear their hooves adequately to maintain optimum health and performance, so a hoof care professional will be able to not only trim but also balance your horse’s hooves for their comfort and longevity. 

Your horse’s specific trimming or shoeing needs will vary based on a number of factors including your horse’s age, diet, genetics, conformation, underlying health conditions and even the season of the year.  But no matter these variables, all horses benefit from consistent high quality hoof care.  

Caring For Your Horse's Hooves

While your horse will not be seen by a farrier every day, proper hoof care is a daily practice, especially for horses kept in stalls, pens, or on small acreage.  Visual inspection is a part of daily hoof care, including checking for any cracks or chips, evaluating your horse for unsoundness or soreness, and watching for growth of bacteria such as thrush.  Familiarize yourself with what a healthy hoof looks like and then study your own horse’s hooves to see what may be weak areas or areas for improvement.  Regular inspection and basic cleaning will go a long way in preventing serious hoof conditions. 

Preparing Your Horse for the Farrier 

So how can you best prepare your horse for his regular farrier visits as well as for his daily hoof care regime?  As Pat Parelli says, “Prior and Proper Preparation Prevents P-Poor Performance.”  What this means for hoof care is the more you do in preparation, the higher chances of a successful experience for you and your horse when a hoof care professional enters the equation.  Don’t leave it to chance.  As horse owners, it’s our responsibility to teach good barn manners and empower our horses to be willing, cooperative partners. 

Build Your Horses’ Confidence Having Their Legs and Hooves Handled

Start by focusing on building your horse’s confidence with you around their legs and hooves.  Here at Parelli Natural Horsemanship, we call this the Friendly Game, aka the Confidence Game, and it’s the first game we start playing with our horses to build trust and communication. Can you rub your horse all over with a Carrot Stick and does your horse stand still and remain calm?  Chances are if you can’t rub your horse’s legs safely with a tool that acts as an extension of your arm, he’s not ready for you to bend over and put yourself in a vulnerable position working with his hooves.  Focus on building trust and confidence when you’re around his legs first.

If your horse can stand calmly while you do this, attach your Savvy String to your Carrot Stick so that you can gently throw the string around his front and hind legs while you stand safely up near his head and neck. Don’t tie him up or hold him tight to get this done!  If your horse can stand still and calm through all of this, he’s telling you that he’s not defensive and is trusting of your good intentions. Please note that this does not mean you should never tie your horse, but rather you shouldn’t need to tie your horse to get the job done.

Once you can use your tools around your horse’s legs and he remains calm and confident, you can proceed to rubbing and massaging your horse’s legs.  The goal here is to make hoof and leg handling as pleasant as possible for your horse.  Start with a relaxed but firm rubbing motion on your horse’s shoulder and hindquarters, working your way down his leg using approach and retreat. Don’t just go straight for the lower leg! It startles horses and causes them to be defensive. Be friendly, and let your horse know it’s coming. You can solve a lot of leg and hoof handling problems just by playing the Friendly Game! 

All of these tasks or games prove to your horse that he can trust you and your tools and that you are not going to harm him in these parts of his body. If your horse needs more than one session to feel comfortable with this, take as much time as he needs. Doing this will ensure that he is ready to learn to pick his feet up in preparation for hoof care and for seeing the farrier. 

Teach Your Horse to Pick Up His Feet for You

Did you know that you can teach your horse to pick up his hoof and offer it to you to hold? Most often horse owners just grab at a horse’s leg and pull until the horse reluctantly lifts his hoof.  Rather than just pulling at your horse like a predator, teach your horse to lift his hoof up for you when you ask.  Do this by squeezing the chestnut located above his knee on the front legs and by squeezing the cap of the hock on his hind legs. Remember, your horse must be confident with you rubbing and touching his legs all over — first with a tool (with you standing out of the kick zone) and then with your hands!

When you ask your horse to lift his leg for you, apply the Four Phases of Pressure when you squeeze. By squeezing the chestnut and the cap of the hock, your horse will shift his weight over and pick up the foot for you. If you were to squeeze any farther down the leg (like the tendons), then your horse would naturally want to lean onto the leg and make it harder to pick up.

The entire time you are teaching your horse to pick up his feet, invest a lot of time just rubbing the legs. Each time you pick up a foot, spend some time massaging it all over on the hoof, fetlock, and cannon bone. Make hoof care feel good!

Start with the left front leg first because this is the leg that the majority of horses are most confident with. Stand with your feet parallel to your horse, facing toward his hind end.

Run your fingers lightly from his withers down his shoulder to his leg and then around to the chestnut to let your horse know you are friendly, then begin to squeeze. Start with just a gentle squeeze, and get increasingly firmer (4 Phases) until you feel your horse start to shift his weight off that leg.  Release and rub immediately when you start to feel this so that your horse knows that he did the right thing.  Horses learn when we release pressure.

With a little repetition, it will take barely a squeeze on the chestnut and your horse will politely lift his hoof for you. When he does lift his hoof for you, don’t hold it for too long the first time, and put it down gently.  You can slowly build the length of time you teach him to stand with his leg up.  Teach him to do the same with his right front, standing on his right side.

Now, teach your horse to lift his left hind hoof from the left side. For the hind leg, stand close to the left hind, your shoulder touching his thigh. Run your fingers from the top of your horse’s hindquarters down past his tail to the point of the hock, and then squeeze the cap of the hock (not the chestnut) of the left hind leg. Again, once he tries to pick it up, immediately release your pressure.  Once this is going well, you can ask him to hold it up for longer periods of time.  Then teach him to do the same with his right hind, standing on his right side.  Don’t be surprised if it takes longer on one side then another.  Continue to repeat and release on the slightest try until your horse understands. 


Success Tips

Once your horse accepts you rubbing his legs and will pick up his hooves for you, you have permission to continue on and actually clean out his hooves with a hoof pick. Any time your horse gets anxious, go back to massaging or even set the hoof back down; do whatever it takes to reassure your horse that he is okay.  This is retreating and it builds confidence.  Then you can reapproach your task.

The closer your body is to your horse’s body, the less likely you are to get hurt if he should kick. The farther away you are, the easier it is for a kick to hit you with full force.

Remember to start with the Friendly Game and the Carrot Stick first, especially if there are any doubts of a horse kicking or being unsure of having his legs handled.

Be slow and clear with your phases so that your horse does not become frightened that a predator is just trying to grab hold of his legs.

Preparing your horse for the farrier by teaching your horse to calmly and confidently accept you handling his legs is just one of the many important skills you will learn in the Parelli Levels Program.  Remember, if your horse is going to see a farrier every 6-12 weeks for the rest of his life, this is a very important skill to develop.  

One of the guiding principles in Parelli Natural Horsemanship is to take the time it takes so that it takes less time.  In other words, invest time in teaching your horse what he needs to know to stand calmly and confidently, picking his hooves up for you and having his legs and hooves handled for long enough that a farrier or trimmer can do their job well.  Stay patient and retreat if needed.  The Parelli Levels Program is your guide to developing a confident partner in preparation for a lifetime of positive experiences with you and your farrier.

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