If you’re anything like me, you find farriery a bit of a mystery. After years of horse ownership, I can give an antibiotic injection prescribed by my veterinarian without flinching, I can spot a slipped stifle at 100 paces, and I can hitch up my trailer all by myself–yet when my farrier puts that last hoof down and begins to pack his gear away, I confess that I have a tendency to write out the check meekly without really being sure that the job he’s just done on my horse is everything it ought to be.

Why is it so difficult for owners to communicate with farriers? Part of the problem, I suspect, is that shoeing is an intimidating art, and we often feel we don’t know enough about it to ask an intelligent question. Rather than look stupid, we keep our mouths shut, and so we don’t learn anything new. And part of it is that the average farrier (and forgive me for evoking a stereotype here) is a man (or woman) of few words, not particularly given to volunteering information about the job that’s being done with hoof knife and rasp. "Don’t ask; don’t tell" is a syndrome which has left many an owner uninformed, and many a farrier unsure of whether he has a satisfied client or not.

Still, for the benefit of our horses, we owners really ought to be knowledgeable enough to spot a good shoeing job when we see it, as well as be able to identify problems before they become crises. In order to do that, we need to learn from the source–the person whom we’ve charged with the responsibility of our horse’s hoof health. We ought to be able to speak frankly with our farriers–who are, after all, performing a service for us and our horses. Here, then, are some tips for forging (sorry) a productive information exchange with your farrier.