In The Saddle: Why no horse, no foot is sound advice

Anita Marsh
Anita Marsh

Last week it was time to dig deep into my pockets for shoe shopping time but nothing as remotely girly like a day at Meadowhall and lunch. No, shoe shopping for my horse April!

The lucky mare gets a new pair every six weeks, specially fitted for her feet and designed to help her take the pressure off her ligaments a little when she is out playing in the field.

The average horse needs a new pair of shoes fitted every six-eight weeks and also have their feet trimmed at the same time.

Hooves are pretty much like our nails and hair, in that they keep growing and require a cut.

Like our hair and nails, they also grow faster in the summer, and you can also spend a bomb on products too if you’re not careful.

The average costs for new shoes can range between £60-85 per set.

Unlike taking your child to Clarks, when you have a horse, your farrier comes out to you.

They are specialists in equine hoof care - trimming horses’ feet, balancing hooves and place-fitting the horse shoes on them.

They combine blacksmith skills with veterinary skills really, in that they are specially trained in the anatomy and physiology of the lower limb in order that they correctly care for a horse’s feet.

I might have mentioned before the old saying which goes something like ‘no foot, no horse’ and it’s very true.

Whilst horses are hugely powerful and strong animals, I find them also incredibly fragile.

One wrong nail hammered in the wrong place by a farrier can send a horse lame - so they really have to know their stuff.

It’s more than a job, it’s a skilled art. I take my hat off to them. It’s certainly not something I’d have the courage to do, day in day out.

Historically the profession can be traced back hundreds of years, where clearly they were in huge demand back when horses were our main form of transport, with blacksmiths far and wide across the country.

In fact you can see an old blacksmith’s museum in Owston Ferry.

It’s left just as if the blacksmith has gone out to lunch. Nothing has been touched in many years. It’s definitely well worth a visit, even if you’re not into horses.

A good farrier is still in demand today and, once an equestrian has found one, we tend to hang onto them.

In this country we have a register for them and it illegal for anyone who is not qualified and registered to practice.

This is not always the case elsewhere. In America, for example, they don’t have a single register so the qualifications can vary.

I’m lucky in that April has good strong hooves and so she rarely has a problem.

As long I pick her feet out twice a day to remove the mud and debris (and occasionally in the summer add a lick of hoof oil to moisturise them) we seem to do OK.

As for products, well I’ve got a cupboard full for April’s feet.

If only I spent as much on my own nail care as I do on my horse, I’m sure I’d be the most glamorous woman on the Isle - or at least my toes would be!