Do you own a donkey or horse? Foot care for donkeys, ponies, and other hoofed animals is a vital part of the animal’s health. However, foot care can also get expensive fast. Farrier services for basic trimming can cost around $50 every two months for each horse you own, and if you shoe your horses and donkeys, it can cost around $200 every two months. The do-it-yourself type and most preppers probably wonder if it is better and cheaper to perform the services yourself. In honor of International Hoof Care Week and Hoof Care Month, we’re investigating the issue for you.
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Legal Issues and Certifications
In some countries, it is illegal to perform farrier services on your own animals. In the United States, there are no official certifications or regulations stating that you can’t shoe your own horse, but many associations in the United States offer voluntary certifications for farriers, including the Brotherhood of Working Farriers Association, American Farriers Association, and the Guild of Professional Farriers. Farriers with these certifications will offer the highest level of training and professionalism when shoeing your horse and taking care of its feet.
Does Your Horse Need Shoes?
One of the easiest ways you can save money on horse care is by allowing your horse or donkey to go barefoot. According to Fair Hill Forge, a professional farrier service, healthy horses and donkeys can go without shoes with no problem. Healthy feet have solid heels, a healthy sole cup, disease-free frogs, matched front and hind pairs, and a thick hoof wall with no flares.
However, if your horse walks in sand, runs on hard or rocky ground often, or lives on rocky terrain, it is better off with shoes. Horses with arthritis, sidebone, ringbone, navicular disease, small feet, and hoof cracks probably need shoes. If you are considering allowing your donkey, pony, or horse to go without shoes, consult with a professional farrier before pulling the nails.
If you do decide to go shoeless, your horses will need extra-special hoof care.
Hoof Care Anyone Can Do
Basic hoof care will improve the health of your horse’s feet and make the cost of farrier services go down. Every day, perform the following checklist on all of your hoofed friends:
- Give the horse plenty of exercise each day.
- Feed your horse with healthy hoof-strengthening foods and supplements
- Pick out any mud and debris from the bottom of the horse’s foot.
- Gently tap any raised clenches with a hammer or cover with an elastoplast.
- Check that the shoe is still secure.
- Look for cracks.
- Feed your horse a diet low in sugar and high in minerals like copper, zinc, sodium, calcium, and phosphorous. Watch for high levels of iron, which can be detrimental to a horse’s hoof health, according to Hoof Rehab.com.
Trimming Your Horse’s Hooves
You can learn to trim your own horse’s hooves in time. The best way to learn is by taking a basic farrier class offered by one of the aforementioned farrier associations. If you own healthy, flat-footed horses and do not tax their feet beyond the normal rate of growth, you can easily avoid farrier fees by learning to trim their hooves yourself. If you do plan to trim your horse’s hooves yourself, keep the following tips in mind offered by a professional farrier with over 25 years of experience:
- A hoof that hits flat against the ground or slightly heel first is best for the health of the horse’s feet.
- Trimming the frog may be detrimental to the horse’s foot health.
- Horses with thick soles and thick hoof walls are better suited to a barefoot lifestyle.
- Trim the hoof wall with equal depth from the live sole in the heel and toe quarters.
- Trim horse hooves about every 10-12 weeks.
Learn more about basic hoof trimming at the Utah State University Co-Op Extension Office.
DIY Horse Trimming and Shoeing: Should You Try It?
The prepper and DIY enthusiast wants to do as many of her own processes as possible, but when it comes to horses and other hoofed creatures, it takes a little more than simple determination to do the job right. You can learn to properly shoe and trim your horse’s feet, but for the sake of your horse’s health, you should not try it without proper training and certification.