Have you ever experienced someone taking offense at being told how they were supposed to do something? I have witnessed it a lot, and it can especially true with farriers. I’ve heard people complain about how a horse owner insisted on a certain way to shoe the horse, or a horse trainer who thinks he can shoe is going to tell you how to do it.
Of course, I’ve had it happen to me, but what I’ve decided is that even if working together is complicated, it’s worth it. I’ve found that if you want to succeed, it takes a team. From the vet and the farrier, to the owner and trainer, each one has an important job to do. I believe that trying to be open-minded and maintaining good lines of communication is key, always keeping in mind that “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.”
As an equine professional, having a horse at its’ very best is the number one goal for our team. Horses can’t speak English, and I feel we should be listening for every opportunity for them to tell us there’s a problem. Of course, no one likes being told how to do their job, but it’s important to keep the common goal in view.
Each member of the team has an important role. A veterinarian can contribute a lot to your team, but the only problem is that they only get to see the horse when there is an issue or if maintenance is due.
Your farrier should ideally see your horses 9-10 times a year. They might be able to notice if anything is out of the ordinary and be able to recognize some early warning signs. Some of these would include if a horse is sore here or there, doesn’t want to stand normally, or if there is a foot or leg problem. When I’m problem solving a horse’s issue, I find it very helpful to be able to work together with the owner and vet toward a solution.
The owner, trainer, or groom gets to see that horse every day, and in some cases, all day every day! There is a lot of value in the day-to-day view. They know what kind of day the horse has been having, if the horse been eating and drinking normally. They are familiar with inconsistencies in performance, or if the horse spends its’ days crabby and performing poorly. Even if the owner or trainer is unfamiliar with the technicalities of veterinary care or hoof care, they can recognize red flags and it can really save the horse by relaying the information.
Each part of the team brings a different perspective, making the big picture clearer. As the owner or trainer consults with the equine professional, time is saved and the problem is more easily pin-pointed.
Recently I was reminded of the value of working together as team to meet the common goal of keeping a horse at peak performance. Last week, I noticed that my heel horse, Spider, wasn’t working as well as he usually does. He was running down the arena in his right lead, not wanting to stop like he usually would. After working with him for a bit, it didn’t get much better. I checked out the shoeing and decided there wasn’t anything I could do. I noticed he was pretty tight on the hind end, and remembered that he was more difficult to shoe than usual last time.
I knew something was wrong. One of my favorite sayings is that “Good horses don’t stop working well for no reason.” So I called my vet and explained what was going on. He checked Spider out and decided that his hocks were sore and injected them.
This week he is a totally different horse; he feels good, works well, and as a result, I’m roping better. I can’t help but wonder how many times in life I have made my horses work through issues, assuming they were being bad, when actually it was a cry for help that something was wrong. Or how many opportunities I have missed where I could have won more if my horse was at 100%? I’m sure those stats would be depressing. But instead of focusing on that, I’m trying to be a better horseman by listening to my horse in the future.
God Bless America.
Hoof Care Specialist & AFA Certified Journeyman Farrier