International Hoof-Care Summit 2018

This blog was started one year ago with a post about the International Hoof-Care Summit that is held in Cincinnati, Ohio each year. Once again I just returned from that conference. It was another year of good lectures, conversations, and time spent in the trade show.

 

This year there were lectures on various research projects going on around the world dealing with topics such as development in foals, the effect of movement on the vascular supply in the foot, dealing with a negative palmar angle, and the effect of impact vibrations on the hoof. Some of the research presented is still at a stage of being interesting but does not yet have a practical application. Other presentations presented new ideas and ways of looking at or treating an issue, while some confirmed with research what I have already thought for some time.  

 

I was also excited that there was finally a lecture on business practices. Here in the United States, most farriers make the mistake of forgetting that they are running (or should be running) a business. As with any small business, there is far more to do and think about than simply the job that the customers see. There are also far more costs associated with running a business than many think about. As the owner of a small business, I am eager to see others in this industry getting on the same page and starting to think about these things.

 

The trade show was composed of several interesting vendors and products this year. One of the highlights was also the three associations that were present, the American Farriers Association (AFA), the American Association of Professional Farriers (AAPF) and the Artist Blacksmith Association of North America (ABANA). I am currently a member of both the AFA and AAPF so stopping by their booths involves paying renewal dues and finding out about any new programs and benefits. This year at the AAPF booth, I picked up the testing packet for their foundation credential which you can read more about here. I had the opportunity to meet the president of ABANA and become a member of their organization as well. Be looking for our online store to launch soon with new ornamental ironwork.

 

As always, Dixie’s Farrier Service is committed to education so that we can provide the best care possible for your horse, and it is events like the International Hoof-Care Summit that make that commitment possible.

2017 Year in Review

2017 was a big year for Dixie’s Farrier Service. In January, work began on a new shop and Kia Apple joined the company as the social media and marketing manager. In August, I changed my schedule so that more time could be devoted to Dixie’s. We went from being open one full day a week plus evenings to being open four full days each week.

As with any business, there are many aspects that are unseen. During the past year, policies and procedures have been written, the website has been redone, our social media presence has vastly improved, this blog was started, a new accounting system has been implemented and we are currently working on a CRM. We were also happy to be able to be a sponsor for the Indiana Ranch Horse Association and a business member of the Indiana Eventing Association.

As for the part everyone sees, I was under horses approximately six hundred times this year with trims accounting for just over 60% of those horses.

On a more personal side, 2017 has been a great year as well with the purchase of a new house, a major schedule change, and deepening and growing relationships.

Looking into 2018, I am excited to see where the Lord will take us and what He has planned.

Winter Hoof Care

As the weather gets cooler and we start thinking about getting our barns and homes ready for winter, we generally have our list of things to do for winterizing. For me, winterizing around the barn has meant getting out heated buckets, installing trough heaters, making sure blankets are ready if needed, draining hoses, and various other chores to get the barn and horses ready for winter. But what about our horses’ hoof care, is there something special we should we do during winter?

There are many myths and wives tales surrounding hoof care in the winter months so we must first know what is truth versus myth and then consider what issues we might face. Contrary to popular belief, horses do need hoof care in the winter months. Many believe that hoof growth slows during the winter months, there is some evidence to suggest this is possible but it does not slow to the point of the horse not needing care. With the mix of ice and the hard, frozen ground in the Indiana winter, many horses will still need protection or additional traction. For a horse that is barefoot, continuing to maintain a consistent trimming schedule is all that is really needed.

For horses that still need the protection or traction that shoes offer during the winter, there are a few things we can do to make the season safer and easier. If a horse has shoes on, or even some horses that are barefoot, snow packing into their feet and forming ice balls can be a problem. These balls of ice extend beyond the bottom of the foot to make walking difficult and slipping very likely. Each time a horse is brought in, the ice must be picked out of the hoof, which can be difficult and time consuming. In order to combat the this problem, we suggest using a snow pad under the shoe which will keep the snow from building up in the hoof.

Traction is the other major concern during the winter. There are several options that we have depending on the type of terrain the horse is working on. Drill-tek, brorium, ice nails, and studs can all be used. We suggest small studs as they provide a good amount of traction on ice but do not hinder the horse’s movement on other terrain and are more forgiving on the horse’s joints than Drill-tek.

Before the snow starts to fly, take the time to talk to your farrier about options that are right for your horse during the winter months.

PATH Intl. Conference 2017

One of the core values of Dixie’s Farrier Service is education, both that of ourselves and our clients. At the beginning of November, Cody attended the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) International Conference in San Antonio, Texas to give a lecture on hoof care for working horses at a PATH barn. The lecture covered basic anatomy to scheduling to traction concerns, as well as common hoof issues and much more. As with much of life, the education that we need most when it comes to hoof care is simply knowing what questions to ask.

We need to constantly be asking what would be best for the horse in the given environment and work. There is not a one-size fits all approach to hoof care, even though some would have you believe that there is. We need to ask ourselves what we can do to help the horse have a better hoof capsule, as well as how we can help the horse perform the work we are asking them to do. Do they need shoes? Do they need more or less traction? Along with knowing what questions to ask, we also need a basic understanding of anatomy and some of the common problems associated with hoof care, such as how to recognize and treat thrush.

Next time your farrier is at the barn make sure to ask any questions you think of, we are here to teach. Also, if you have a group, such as 4-H or Pony Club, or even a group of friends that would like a demonstration or presentation on hoof care, please contact us.

When To Use Shoes

When considering whether or not to shoe a horse there are several factors to take into consideration. Three reasons that we should consider the use of shoes are –

  • if wear exceeds growth
  • if a change is needed to enhance the foot in regard to the horse’s job, such as changing traction
  • if the foot needs to be protected or otherwise enhanced due to an injury or defect

Horses’ hooves are constantly growing and while there are studies suggesting growth rates, each horse does grow at their own rate. Nutrition, exercise, age, and genetics all play a role in determining the rate and quality of hoof growth. As a horse moves across a surface, the foot is also worn down. Obviously some surfaces, such as stone or concrete, will wear the hoof down faster than others such as dirt or grass. If the hoof is wearing as quickly or quicker than it is growing then a change is needed. Either the surface the horse is on must change or the foot must be protected from wear somehow. Any standard shoe will typically provide the protection from excess wear that is needed.

Horses that are performing various jobs may need an increase, or in some cases a decrease, in traction. A trail horse may need shoes not only to protect their hooves from rock but also need added traction to safely negotiate some paths. A reining horse on the other hand needs a decrease in traction on the hind shoes in order to perform a sliding stop. Eventers need differing amounts of traction depending on what they are doing and the surface they are working on. In dressage, a shoe with very little traction is useful whereas on the cross-country course, the horse needs increased traction.

When a horse’s foot has been compromised, be it an abscess or a crack or laminitis or even a broken coffin bone, there are times we need to use a shoe to help protect and heal a hoof or help a tendon or joint above the foot.

If the horse does not meet one of these criteria, shoes are most likely not needed and the horse should simply be trimmed on a regular schedule. Once we have determined if a horse needs shoes then we need to consider what shoes to use.

Shoe selection is a broad topic and there is no one clear answer in all cases. Selecting an appropriate shoe or forging one from an appropriate size of bar stock is as much an art as it is a science. While there are many options available in machine made, or “keg” shoes, it is difficult, if not impossible, for a farrier to carry every shoe that could possibly be needed. This makes it extremely worthwhile to have the skill to forge a shoe so that each horse can have exactly what they need rather than compromising and only being able to use what is on the truck.

9 Years

Last month Dixie’s was celebrating our 9th anniversary, we have been both looking back over the years and towards the future of the company. Looking back, we are certainly not where we planned on being when first starting 9 years ago. Much like the rest of life, the company has had many twists and turns in the road. The original idea was to have a large multi-farrier practice by this point, but Dixie’s ended up being put on the back burner as far as growth so that Cody could focus on teaching and training for Agape Therapeutic Riding Resources. Even in the beginning, the company experienced challenges, like there were several other farriers that started in the same area at the same time. This made building the business slower than originally thought. Just like all parts of life, starting a business requires much patience and persistence.

In running a farrier company, there are many aspects to consider other than simply the skill in trimming and shoeing horses. For instance, this blog was started on a Monday morning which generally speaking is my office and shop time. I send out appointment reminders for the week, pay any bills that are due, order supplies that are needed, restock the trailer, build shoes, and take care of all the other paperwork that needs done, such as writing this blog or filling out reports. The paperwork side of things is certainly not the most fun part of this, but needs to be done. I mentioned this blog was started on a Monday, it is now being finished on Tuesday afternoon in-between appointments. One of the many areas where patience and persistence are needed, it would be far too easy to ignore this till next Monday, especially since writing does not come easily.

In working with horses, I am reminded there is much more than simply the hoof care. The past two months have felt like a rollercoaster in many areas of life, however that is something that can not be brought to the barn when I come to trim or shoe. As I was discussing with a client today, horses pick up very quickly if we are nervous, afraid, stressed, mad, calm, relaxed, etc… It would be tempting, at least for me, to think that anything bothering me outside of work, I could simply stuff down and forget about till the work day is over. Unfortunately, (or fortunately) while that might work to hide an issue with other people, it does not work that way with horses. They see right through all of it. Of course people try to deal with life struggles differently. There are those that will turn to alcohol or another substance to get rid of thoughts, feelings, or physical discomfort. There are others that try to stuff things down and pretend their problems don’t exist. Some become addicted to work or to a hobby so that it consumes their thoughts. And of course there are many other ways that people cope.

For me, I am grateful for a job that requires that I deal with everything everyday. I also know that I can’t deal with everything in life on my own, and if you are honest neither can you. What I know is that Christ deals with everything for me. It is because of what He has done and continues to do in my life that I am able to do anything at all, including work with horses.

As I look back, Dixie’s was founded partly because of my enjoyment of anatomy and horses but it was also founded to help spread the hope that I have found, even if I don’t come anywhere near to that goal as I would like. Looking at where the company is now, I am excited with all that is going on. We have added a fantastic new team member this year, opened the schedule for more appointment times, and have lots of plans for the future. Looking ahead, I am eager  to see where God takes this company next. Look out for next month’s post as we will be back to looking at another aspect of hoof care.

Here is a preview of one of our many products that will launch soon!

Hold Your Horses…

As a farrier I am constantly putting my safety in someone else’s hands. Whoever is holding the lead rope of the horse I am working on can significantly affect how a horse stands for me. Unfortunately, horses do not come with owner’s manuals and far too often it is assumed that everyone knows exactly how to hold a horse in a way that will keep themself, the farrier, and the horse safe. While the majority of the horses I work on at this point in my career have little trouble standing well on their own, there will always be a few that need the extra help of an experienced handler.

So how should horses be handled for the farrier? First, it starts well before any appointment. A horse should be properly trained to stand still while having their feet handled before the farrier ever arrives. During the appointment however there are several things you can do to make everyone happier and safer.

  • During fly season, be sure to spray your horse down with a good fly repellent so that he is not annoyed and not trying to get rid of flies while needing to stand still on three legs. A fan pointed at the horse can also help with flies.
  • Feeding other horses while the farrier is working can be distracting and potentially dangerous. Try to schedule so that horses are not being worked on during feed time.
  • Hold your horse in a safe environment. Keep the space that your farrier will be working in free from objects and clutter so that neither you, your horse, or the farrier will get hurt.
  • To stay safe and out of the way, stand to the side of your horse’s head, not directly in front of them.
  • While holding the lead rope, remember that horses are flight animals. If held too tightly, they will want to get away. Hold the lead rope so there is not constant pressure on the horse.
  • When the farrier is working on a front foot, stand on the opposite side of the horse. This will allow the farrier to pull the horse’s leg forward to dress flares or to finish the foot. It will keep you safe too by keeping you out of the way if the horse were to strike out.
  • While your farrier is working on a hind leg, stand on the same side of the horse as your farrier. This way, if the horse were to move quickly, he will swing away from the farrier rather than into him or her.
  • Don’t allow the horse to nuzzle or lip a farrier’s back. Even a good horse that won’t typically bite may. Especially during the summer, farriers tend to taste like a giant salt block.
  • Be sure to appropriately correct or discipline your horse if needed. However, do warn your farrier beforehand.
  • Above all relax. Horses feed off of the energy of the people around them. If the handler is uptight then the horse will be too.

Lost Shoes

Hind shoe stepped on by opposite hind.

The last two weeks of July I saw more lost shoes than I have ever seen in my entire career in the same amount of time, outside of working an eventing horse trials. I put back on four shoes for my own clients and seven for other farriers in the span of only one week. Lost shoes are despised by horse owners and farriers alike, so what are some of the reasons for lost shoes, and how can we prevent them?

Shoe nearly off from stomping flies.

Shoes come off for a variety of reasons, though a majority of the time it is due to the horse stepping on the edge of the shoe. When a shoe is stepped off, it is generally a hind foot stepping on a front shoe, and occasionally a front or hind stepping to the side on its pair. As a horse moves, the hind feet land in nearly the same place as the fronts were or for some horses even further forward. It only takes a small misstep from the horse to catch his shoe enough to pull it off. A misstep can be caused by rough terrain, slick or deep mud, or even a rider losing their balance. Shoes can also be stepped off more easily due to poor quality hoof wall, white line disease, poor nailing, the horse being overdue for a trim or fitting a shoe too full. Some shoes are also pulled easier, a horse wearing egg bar shoes for instance should not be turned out in a muddy field because they are likely to pull a shoe.  Because of a horse’s conformation, some are also more likely to overreach and pull off a shoe or injure themselves. They can also be pulled by a horse pawing at a wire fence, stomping flies or catching it on an object such as inside a trailer or stall. In the case of the two weeks recently, it was a combination of lots of rain that softened hooves and then dry spells with hard ground and bad flies.

Toe clip.

Horse owners can help prevent lost shoes as well, properly fitting bell boots are certainly a good solution for horses that tend to overreach, as well as a great preventive measure for horses with jobs like cross-country. Keeping horses on a regular schedule with a quality farrier will keep the horse’s hooves in better condition which will help to reduce the number of lost shoes. Regular maintenance around the farm can also help, sagging wire fences, bailing twine left in the field and excessive mud can all contribute to the issue of losing shoes.  Nutrition, which plays a major role in the health and quality of the hoof, also has an impact on the number of lost shoes. The healthier the hoof the more likely shoes are to stay on.

At Dixie’s Farrier Service we do our best to provide the highest quality work possible as well as caring for you and your horse. A farrier’s work should certainly not be judged based on how long the shoes stay on (a future post will be about how to tell the difference between quality work and work that is not). We stand behind our work and will get a lost shoe back on as quickly as possible. Anytime you have an issue with a lost shoe, contact your farrier as soon as possible so they can hopefully get out to you quickly.

 

 

IEA Horse Trials 2017

For the past several years I have had the pleasure of being the onsite farrier for the Indiana Eventing Association’s Horse Trials, Classic Training & Novice 3-Day Event and once again had the privilege this year. Thursday and Friday tend to be slow days of sitting around and reading interspersed with occasionally building a spare set of shoes or checking the shoes on a horse for a competitor. Saturday is completely different however. Saturday means lots of cross-country which equals lost shoes. While other farriers are in the 10-minute box and at steeplechase, I am still in the stable area fixing shoes that came off during cross-country or packing feet for horses that are sore. While the 14+ hour days can be long, I always enjoy the weekend.

As a farrier, one of the most challenging parts of working a show is being able to match another farrier’s work. While some shoe styles are more common than others, with close to 300 different horses at the show there are various shoes, styles of trimming, and quality of work. While it can be difficult to match everything the last farrier did, it is also one of the things I love about this job, getting to help each person and horse with what they need. At Dixie’s Farrier Service we are very committed to caring for our clients and their horses, one of the ways we did so this year was by providing free water and coffee for competitors as well as giving out educational posters about thrush and laminitis.

When to Schedule Your Next Appointment

“No hoof, no horse.” This familiar phrase is very true. In order for our horses to do well they must have healthy feet. No matter what your horse’s work is, from walking between food and water to competing at Rolex, they should have the best hoof care possible.

What schedule should my horse be on?

Traditionally there have been a number of different suggestions about how often a horse should be trimmed. At one time it was suggested that 8-12 weeks was sufficient, there are also those in one section of the industry that insist on a maximum of 4 weeks. As we think about scheduling horses to be trimmed or shod there are many factors to consider.  

The goal with setting a horse’s trim schedule is the same goal we have in the rest of hoof care, to give the horse the best foot possible while reducing lameness and providing the optimum traction for the horse’s daily life and job. If a horse is on a schedule that is too long then it doesn’t matter how nicely trimmed he is, his feet will still not be of a good quality because the amount of distortion and damage to the foot will have been too much. A horse that is being trimmed more often than necessary will likely have a much nicer foot than one that is on too long of a schedule, but it will not be an efficient use of the owner and farrier’s time.

In order to know what the ideal hoof care cycle is for your horse there are several factors that should be considered by the farrier and owner. Below are just a few of the considerations we should keep in mind.

  • If at the end of a hoof care cycle your horse’s feet look too long, especially from the top, he could probably benefit from a shorter schedule. When maintained properly a horse’s feet should look in decent shape when they are due to be taken care of.
  • If the horse is shod and the clinches are popping up or the shoes are loose at the end of a cycle on a regular basis then he could probably benefit from a shorter cycle.
  • If a horse’s feet show a lot of distortion and separation at the whiteline each time they are trimmed they could probably benefit from a shorter hoof care cycle in order to better manage the distortion.

When in doubt about when your horse should be trimmed ask your farrier to show you what they see and explain the reasons they think the horse should be on the schedule that has been set.

How do I get on the correct schedule with my farrier?

Most farriers that are good at what they do are also rather busy, this can make it very difficult to get on schedule on short notice. By scheduling appointments well in advance, we are able to maintain a proper schedule for the horse easier. When your farrier is finished working on your horse, ask them at that time about setting the next appointment if possible. This will insure that you get the time slot that works best for you and your horse.

At Dixie’s Farrier Service we have several options when it comes to scheduling. We prefer to set the next schedule at least when we are still at the barn so that appointments are able to be made that will most benefit the horse. We are also happy to schedule multiple appointments at one time so that you know your horse is on the schedule even out to a year in advance. We also offer other conveniences such as digital calendar invitations so that it is insured we are all on the same page for the appointment. Communication options also vary from phone calls, to scheduling in person, to text messages, and even private messages through social media.

Next time you see your farrier ask them what the best schedule for your horse would be, and ask them to show you why that is. If your horse is not on the farrier’s schedule, call, text, or click to get an appointment made now.

International Hoof-Care Summit 2017

As I sit and look through my notes and pictures taken at the International Hoof-Care Summit (IHCS), it strikes me that there was not a day, and most likely an hour, that went by during the four day conference that didn’t have some great element to it. From getting to connect with old friends to making new acquaintances to getting to talk with some of the most brilliant vets and farriers in the world, the entire conference was fantastic.

The first day of the conference started with a dissection and anatomy warmup by Mitch Taylor, owner of the Kentucky Horseshoeing School. With the brilliant Dr. Jenny Hagen, they presented on the fetlock joint and how we as farriers can affect it. After several other good lectures, I spent the evening eating supper with “Frodo”, a good friend from school, as well as catching up with Chris and Kelly and Cody Gregory, owners of Heartland Horseshoeing School where “Frodo” and I graduated from.

The evening session, what made the conference for me, was an hour and a half of rotating between tables with top farriers, equine models, and various topics. The first round I listened to Peter Day, farrier at the Royal Veterinary College, talk about low or crushed heels, a problem I deal a lot with in Indiana. Next, Australian farrier and researcher Brian Hampson discussed his research with feral and wild horses and different trim styles that are based on the feral horse’s foot. The third round, an amazing opportunity and what made the entire trip for me, was the chance to talk with English farrier Simon Curtis, a legend in the farrier industry. His table was empty, so I got to sit down with Simon one-on-one and discuss the development of the horse’s foot from birth to one year.

The second and third days had several great and interesting talks, including lectures from Brian Hampson and Simon Curtis. Another fascinating presentation came from Dr. Jenny Hagen. The researcher from Leipzig University in Germany presented on high-speed fluoroscopy kinematography. If you follow Dixie’s Farrier Service on Facebook, you may have seen the video of what looks like a radiograph in motion.

Sometime in the midst of the conference, I sat down for breakfast at the hotel and ended up in a discussion with another Indiana farrier who I hadn’t met before. It was nice to meet someone new from the area and be able to share about the different things we were learning.

I browsed new products and tools at the trade show, as well as talked to owners and representatives of various companies. Of course you can’t walk through the trade show without buying something, so I did come back with several new tools, books, and anatomy models.

By the end of the IHCS, everyone was tired and sore from sitting so much, but excited to get back home and work on some horses. I look forward to this conference every year for the great lectures, reuniting with friends, and the excitement it puts into a profession that I enjoy. The only downside to coming back from the IHCS is that I now have to schedule extra time with each client from all of the sharing I will be doing, which usually happens anyway, as education is an essential part of what Dixie’s Farrier Service is about.