There are many qualities of a good farrier, but these four may be the most important.
Farriery is a powerful art. A good farrier can fix a lame horse with just a slight change in its shoeing angle or make the difference between a horse that is putting in average performances and brilliant ones. And, unless you have the most accident prone equine in the world, your horse spends far more time with your farrier than he does with his vet, meaning that your horse's farrier probably has a greater impact on his everyday health and happiness than anyone but you.
Because farriers play such a vital role and have such a big impact on your horse, it is extra important that you choose a good one. Here are four things that your farrier should have.
Certification is a positive sign because it shows that a farrier takes his or her craft seriously. Certified farriers have taken tests and passed a performance evaluation, and after all of that work it's a pretty good bet that they are interested in staying up-to-date with the latest techniques.
That is not to say that farriers without certification can't be good. Uncertified farriers can be very good, or even great. The problem is they can also be terrible. With a certified farrier you know a little more of what you're getting.
Familiarity with your sport.
There are numerous equestrian discipline and sports, and it's important that your farrier understands what your sport asks of your horse when it comes to performance. This doesn't mean that he needs to compete in the sport himself, but he needs to understand what your horse requires in order to do his job to the best of his ability.
Reiners, gaited horses, and cross-country horses all require different shoeing to perform at their best. Your farrier needs to understand these distinctions.
A farrier can be ultra-talented when it comes to balancing a horse's foot, but it does little good if he never shows up to do the job. Your farrier should communicate with you about what time he can come work on your horse, and keep you informed if he's running late or can't make it. He should also communicate well when it comes to discussing your horse's performance.
While you should always acknowledge that the farrier is the shoeing expert, a good farrier will listen to what the rider and trainer are seeing and feeling before making an informed shoeing decision.
Since your farrier spends more time with your horse than almost anyone but you and your trainer, he can have a big effect on your horse's behavior. If your horse is a perpetual angel this doesn't pose much of a problem, but with a sensitive or nervous horse, you can run into problems if your farrier isn't willing to take his time.
Bad habits or fears are learned quickly, and once learned they can be difficult to overcome. Because of this, it is important that your farrier have patience.
Nobody likes to get a shoeing bill in the mail, but a farrier with these four qualities is worth every penny.