How do you tell good farrier work from bad?

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How do you tell good farrier work from bad?

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    05-08-2012, 12:32 PM
How do you tell good farrier work from bad?

As the old saying goes, "if the shoe fits, wear it!".

A few work examples from yesterday for educational purposes.

Novice level hunters in training. Shod in front, bare on the hinds.

Environment matters! These horses are pastured in an environment that includes steep hills and grass. Work is accomplished in a large, deep sand, outdoor arena.

Owner concern is pulled shoes, so.... we fit them with reasonable medial lateral support but tight through the heels. It's called an 'A' fit per AFA standards. Not ideal for the horse (minimal caudal support), but keeps the owners content.

There is sometimes a delicate balance between meeting the needs of the owner and addressing the needs of the horse.

Does your farrier consider environment and performance expectations when shoeing your horse? Does he talk to you about these things or does he just nail a set on without discussing how the horse will be used or the environment of that use.

What is "enough" caudal support? When is it support versus leverage? Why does it matter and can you tell the difference?

Does the shoe fit the toe or does your farrier shape the toe to fit the shoe? Can you tell the difference?

If leaving a horse barefoot, did your farrier dress the hoof to address any distortion? Did he create a small radius at the distal edge of the wall to avoid chipping and breaking or did he leave it flat with sharp edges that are easily chipped? Did he "dub" the wall in an effort to replicate a "mustang roll" and how much distal wall support was compromised because of that? Is it necessary?

Second horse...

How do we fit them "tight" to avoid a pulled shoe without compromising medial/lateral support? Does your farrier "box and safe" the shoes before nailing them on? Are the clips burned into the wall or just hammered flat against the wall? Why does it matter?

Are the nail clinches set flush into the wall or just bent over? Are the clinches roughly squarish or are they excessively long? Did your farrier thin the clinch metal before bending the nail over? Why does it matter?

Where are the errors in the work shown above? Does your farrier openly critique his own work?

I see a lot of really good work in the field and on the internet. I also see a lot of ham-fisted junk that is alarming in every aspect and particularly because the owners do not recognize how bad it is.

If I rated farrier work on a scale of 1 to 10, with a ten representing the best I've seen by world class farriers, the work I've shared in this thread would rank around a 4. My absolute competitive best might rank a 6 on that same scale.

So what does "world class" look like? Here's a clinical example of work done by Billy Crothers of England. Not his best work (clinic, not competitive) but demonstrates what an 8 might look like on that same 1-10 scale. I cannot match this level of quality on my best day. Probably never will.

How does your farrier rank?

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    05-08-2012, 01:55 PM
Having it put to me like this, I feel like I know nothing of hooves/shoes/good/bad/etc. :/ will there be a portion where you come back and point out what you see that causes you to rank the work as a 4 and then an 8 for the last example?
    05-09-2012, 12:41 AM
Originally Posted by crimsonsky    
having it put to me like this, I feel like I know nothing of hooves/shoes/good/bad/etc. :/
That was kinda the point. To get folks thinking about hooves/shoes/good/bad/etc. It is the contention of many farriers that horse owners, in broad generalities, do not know enough about what a horses bare/shod foot should look like to determine good from bad.

In my view, that's OUR (farriers) fault. We need to do more to raise owner awareness AND raise the bar on farriery quality within the trade. Some of what passes for "everyday shoeing" is alarming. We need to be harder on ourselves. Much, much, much harder!

will there be a portion where you come back and point out what you see that causes you to rank the work as a 4 and then an 8 for the last example?
Sure, we can discuss some of that now if you'd like.

I might have been a bit hard on myself with a grade of 4 out of 10. It might be a 5.

The point is, when I compare my own work to a LOT of farriers locally and around the country, I can without undue conceit say that I believe it ranks considerably better than "average".

That is NOT a good thing!

When I compare my work to top competitors, clinicians and teachers, I see a lot of areas for improvement and recognize just how much better it could be.

So, if my own work ranks better than "average" but still falls far short of "great", then what does that say about the state of farriery in North America?! It says what a lot of horse owners already know... things need to improve in big ways.

The only thing that will ever dramatically change that situation is if horse owners get a clue regarding correct hoofcare and demand quality from their practitioners.

Knowledge is important to effecting that change. Owners need to be able to recognize good from bad. For the most part, many can not.

Fees play into this too. Farriery education/training and proper tools/equipment/inventory plus business overhead is expensive! Still, many owners put the farriers price at the top of their criteria list. That means many practicing farriers cannot afford to invest in continuing education, formal training or even proper tools/equipment.

So, back to the photo list.

Photo 1 shows a pair of shod front feet. Look at the left front, medial side. See that heel nail? See how low it is? Pathetic! That nail should exit the hoof about 1/8" higher.

If the horse were to pull a shoe, there would be some chance of that low nail tearing away hoof wall behind the clip. I remember trying to get a better nail but the problem was more basic than nailing. The issue was that I failed to use my pritchel to get a better angle on the nail hole in the shoe. I left the nail hole "pitch" too steep.

Nails have "pitch". Pitch is the angle of the hole in the shoe. That angle should match the angle of the hoof wall. If it doesn't, the farrier will have trouble getting properly placed nails. It seems there is "wiggle" room in that hole but once the head of the nail seats, the "wiggle room" disappears.

Shoe fit can also effect nail placement. So can the position of the nail hole in the shoe. If the nail hole is too close to the outer edge of the shoe, it is called "fine". If it is too close to the inner edge of the shoe, it is called "course". A "fine" nail hole can mean low, weakly secured nails. A "course" nail hole can mean a stuck horse! Nail hold placement (fine or course), nail hole pitch, quality of wall, previous holes in the wall and skill of the practitioner all contribute to good/bad nailing.

Nails should exit the wall about 1/3 the total wall height from the ground. They should form a relatively straight line that follows the angle of the coronary.

Clinches (the top of the nail that is bent over) should be small (preferably square), thin and embedded flush into the hoof wall. The clinches in the photos turned out better than fair but could still be better. The farrier should try to avoid "tearing" the nail "down" as he clinches. That's hard to do. As the nail is folded over to make the clinch, it usually tears down through the wall. Proper use of the clincher pliers avoids much of that. "Hammer" clinching also creates better clinches but a lot of horses object to this method.

Photo 2, showing the black leg/hoof, heel view.

I fit this horse tight because of environment. High likelihood of pulled shoes, but.... that heel is really too short. It completely covers the trimmed buttress of the heel but another 1/8" of length beyond the hoof wall/heel would have been better for the horse. Why do farriers "short" the heels? Because owners are more concerned about a horse pulling a shoe than they are about assuring the horse gets the caudal support it needs! We do this to keep you happy so we don't lose a customer. I've seen work that doesn't even cover the heel buttress. Sure recipe for bruising and potential abscess at the seat of corn on the horse. If you can't see metal sticking out beyond that heel, something is seriously wrong!

3rd photo. Hoof up on the stand.

This one gives you a good view of clip fit. I burn my clips into the wall, then relieve the burned area slightly with a hoof knife. The idea is a secure, flush fit clip without needing to smash the clip against the wall with a hammer. My fit is... average at best. Should have burned longer and/or cut a bit deeper. Why? Because a properly fit clip secures the shoe, minimizes shoe movement during nailing and acts to reduce medial/lateral flaring. A clip that is fit cold then hammered flush places too much pressure on the wall and can distort the hoof capsule. The widest part of the foot will actually migrate forward towards the clips over time. Whether toe clipped or quarter clipped, clips should be well fit but without excess pressure on the wall.

Photo 4. Barefoot hinds.

Nothing wrong there. It's just a trim.

Photo 5. Pair of front feet, black on the right, white on the left.

Center nail on the right foot is 1/16" too low. It'll work but could have been better. Good fit on the shoe, good support, good clips.

White hoof. This foot is a bit rough from old nail holes. It's getting a boxy look to it too. Time to stop clipping and fit bolder in the quarters. Nails are good, clips are fair, toe fit is mediocre. This horse needs more support at the quarters but will pull a shoe due environment/use. That concerns the owner so I do what I have to do to keep shoes on. Owner should be more concerned with contraction at the heels and be more aggressive in the use of bell boots.

6. Close up of black, right front.

See the "flat spot" at the toe? I got sloppy when I dressed the foot and should have cleaned that up with a buffer. Mechanical problem with buffer prevented that so I improvised with a sanding block. Wouldn't have needed either if I had been more careful with the rasp. Finish quality turned out poor. It's cosmetic but also effected toe fit.

7. White bare feet, hinds.

Right hind shows minor distortion at the toe. It's a coin toss whether I clean that up and risk compromising wall structural integrity. Decided to give it another cycle. Too much roll at the distal toe.

Now look at the last photo. Two feet done by world renowned farrier, Billy Crothers.

Billy shod these feet in two very different ways.

The right foot presented fair to good hoof comformation. Billy trimmed to that comformation, put a slight rocker in the toe and clipped it to secure the shoe. His clip fit and position is absolutely perfect! The fit of the shoe around the toe is as good as anyone could get. His nail line is perfect height and does a good job of following the angle of the coronary. He has nicely boxed (beveled) the shoe to provide perfect support from the first nail to the heels yet still avoids the risk of a pulled shoe via quality fit boxing. His heel fit, from what I can see in the photo, is exceptional.

The left foot was the "low foot" on this horse. It was considerably longer (distortion) so Billy avoided a clip that would exaggerate that length. Instead, he rockered the toe of the shoe, then burned it in to get a perfect match between the hoof wall and the rockered shoe. He started by leaving a bit of extra wall at the toe to accommodate the anticipated burn. Notice how flat the dorsal wall is. It matches the flat dorsal aspect of the coronary! The distal wall shape, whether barefoot or shod, should generally follow and match the shape of the coronary band. This horse distorts (loads) due d/p imbalance so tends to flare at the toe quarters, stretching the width of the toe. Billy trimmed the foot to get as close as he could to matching the coronary then fit the shoe to that trimmed foot. The match isn't perfect but in time it would be as the shoeing will reshape the distal capsule to better match the coronary.

Billy kept the nails close (tight) and slightly forward. He wants to stabilize the forward aspect of the toe quarters to deter distortion in this area while allowing more movement at the heel quarters. His nail line is perfect in height and alignment. His clinches aren't perfect, but they're very good. He got rasp heavy on the left front foot, toe nail and rasped off most of the clinch. It'll hold but could have been better. Boxing on this foot is excellent with just the slightest bit of expansion at the caudal most heel aspect.

While subjective, I think the steel stock he selected for this foot is perfect in dimension. Heavy concave (good traction) to meet the performance expectations of the owner (western performance) and 3/8" x 3/4" steel to provide strong solar support on these somewhat smallish feet.

His finish is done via hand (no power buffer) and is very nice. Light dressing at the top 2/3 of the wall, heavier at the bottom 1/3. Well dressed without compromising wall integrity.

Both shoes, even though very different, address the particular mechanics of each foot in a manner that well balances this horse in the d/p plane and provides adequate support while minimizing the risk of a pulled shoe.

Oh.. these shoes were, of course, handmade from barstock and hot fit on the horse. You simply cannot get this kind of quality from a pre-manufactured keg shoe and would be very unlikely to get the same quality fit from cold shoeing. Those shoes look like the horse was born to wear them.

No power tools were used to produce those shoes or the finished work. It was all done with a hammer, an anvil, a forge and basic hand tools.

All in all, it's just beautiful workmanship and is a great example of why Billy is considered among the worlds best farriers.

    05-09-2012, 12:51 AM
I am not a farrier so I have no idea. All I know is I have had the same farrier for 2 decades and never had a lame horse. During that 20 years, I had a navicular horse that never took a lame step under his care. I also know he never advertised for business, in fact, he never takes on new clients as he is too busy with his regulars. I pay him to do his job and he does it well. That's why I have a farrier, to take care of my horse's hooves, and keep them sound and he's done that for many years.
    05-09-2012, 12:16 PM
I think i've finally found a farrier that knows what he's doing and I certainly don't mind paying the money for his expertise. My next appointment is monday so I will be asking a lot more questions based on what i've seen/read here and will take pictures for critique. Thanks mark!
    05-09-2012, 10:23 PM
Hi Mark,

Fancy seeing you here. :)~

I have so much to work towards.
    05-09-2012, 11:54 PM
Originally Posted by MPLdyCop    
Hi Mark,

Fancy seeing you here. :)~

I have so much to work towards.
Who the he!! Invited you?
    05-10-2012, 12:12 AM
Originally Posted by MPLdyCop    
Hi Mark,

Fancy seeing you here. :)~

I have so much to work towards.


Hey, hard work gets us all there but I think Billy's stuff might be out of reach for most of us. I'm pretty sure it is for me, as evidenced by the stuff I showed above.

Saw the WLD/Keratoma thread on horseshoes. I think Gabino might be right. Careful with that case. It could bite ya!

Good to see you here little lady.

    05-10-2012, 12:15 AM
Originally Posted by bntnail    
Who the he!! Invited you?
Hey Bent. Kimmy might bring a bit of class to the show!

If not, you can bet dollars to donut holes she'll bring guts!

    05-10-2012, 12:37 AM
Ha! I always try.

Mark, do you think my approach was good? Or your referring to it steadily getting worse if it is a Keratoma?
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