BLACKSMITH & FARRIER: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
A blacksmith is a metal craftsman who works with iron and steel. In ages past, shoeing a horse required making tools and shoes from scratch. Thus blacksmiths, being metal working experts, took on the role of shoeing horses and often even veterinary care, in addition to fabricating a wide range of household items, farming implements and other tools. Today’s blacksmiths, unlike their predecessors, typically know little about and rarely, if ever, interact with horses. Meanwhile, factory-made farrier’s tools and readily available prefab shoes, also known as “keg” shoes, have enabled farriers to shoe horses with minimal blacksmithing skills.
A farrier is a metal worker who specializes in equine hoof and foot care, as well as in shoeing horses. The farrier’s skills include not only the ability to shape and fit horseshoes, but also the training to clean, trim, and shape a horse’s hooves and the knowledge to recognize and address equine foot and hoof issues.
Farriery, or the shoeing of horses with metal, is believed to have been originated by first century Romans strapping bronze soles on with leather — like sandals — in order to protect their valuable steeds’ hooves from the wear of traveling on the paved roads they constructed to connect their expanding empire. By 1000 A.D., nailing metal shoes to hooves had become mainstream practice throughout Europe to prevent soundness problems in both horses and oxen used in farming and transportation, as well as to help them gain a toehold on damp and slippery surfaces.
In the U.K., unlike in the U.S., the trade is regulated and all farriers must be registered to practice. According to the British government's official description, “A farrier is a skilled craftsperson with a sound knowledge of both theory and practice of the craft, capable of shoeing all types of equine feet, whether normal or defective, of making shoes to suit all types of work and working conditions, and of devising corrective measures to compensate for faulty limb action. Farriery is hard work and it is practiced on animals, some of which may be fractious. Shoes may be made from metal and from other modern materials such as plastics and resins.”
So a farrier should be trained not only in the blacksmithing skills required, but also educated in equine physiology, as well as in proper and compassionate care and handling of horses.
I build all shoes from scratch, never using factory-made “keg” shoes. I will work closely with you, your trainer and your veterinarian to design and craft custom shoes to improve your horse’s situation...