The Worshipful
Company of Farriers

Promoting the welfare of the horse since 1356

The Well Shod Horse

​​​​​​​A WELL SHOD HORSE ...
is the result of co-operation between the farrier, the owner ... and the horse.

The farrier brings to the job the skills and knowledge acquired through lengthy apprenticeship, intensive college training, and experience.
The horseowner can help the farrier make the best use of these skills by:

  • making regular appointments as necessary for foot trimming and shoeing;
  • giving adequate notice when additional farriery services are required;
  • making available a clean, well lit place, under cover if possible, with a firm, level surface to shoe on, or
  • always arriving in time for appointments at the forge;
  • at home, ensuring the horse is caught, settled and prepared with clean legs and feet, before the farrier arrives.
The horse will be better able to co-operate if used to handling, in order that it will stand quietly while the feet are picked up, trimmed and shod.  Proper feeding and regular foot care - picking out the feet, and oiling if necessary - help build strong horn, which makes good shoeing easier. 
With co-operation from farrier, owner, and horse alike, the best possible farriery service can be given in the interests of the horse - its comfort, well-being and usefulness over a long, active life.

Just as horses and ponies come in all shapes and sizes, so horseshoes and shoeing must vary according to the type of horse and the work it does. However, good farriery practice has some basic requirements:
  1. The horse must be able to move freely, naturally and comfortably when shod. Good shoeing takes into account the natural line of balance through the limb of the individual horse - each horse is different, and so is its way of moving.
  2. The hoof evolved to offer a tough, protective, 'non slip' base capable of absorbing concussion without the covering of a metal shoe. Whatever shoe is used, the farrier seeks to interfere minimally with the natural foot function and to prevent any alteration of the hoof pastern axis (HPA).
  3. As metal shoes prevent the feet wearing down, the farrier trims away excess horn to the correct level for weight distribution over the whole foot. The hoof wall should ideally be trimmed to the best natural shape - a straight line from coronary band to ground surface, not flaring out or cut back too far. The shoe, chosen as the correct weight and size for the individual horse and the work it is to do, should be fitted level, with good nail holes evenly spaced between the toe and the quarter. The shoe should be shaped to fit the foot accurately, and if a clip is fitted it should be a suitable size for the shoe and type of horse and bedded into the hoof wall.
  4. The shoe must be long enough to support the heel and ensure there is no loss of foot bearing surface.
  5. When the shoe is fitted, it should appear like an extension of the level, well prepared foot, with no gaps between them. The nails, driven into sound hoof wall, should emerge a third of the way up the foot, and should be turned down into strong clenches, then rasped smooth. The nails should fit the nail holes so that they are level with the surface of the shoe.

To sum up, the well shod horse has:
  • Shoes of correct weight and size, shaped to fit the foot;
  • Level feet, correct limb alignment for free movement;
  • No loss of foot bearing surface;
  • Clenches in a regular line, smooth and firm into the hoof wall;
  • And last but not least, an owner who realises that foot care is his or her day-to-day responsibility too.

For optimum grip and safety horses may be shod with anti-slip devices such as nails, pins and studs. Horses doing fast work on grass or soft going, for example hunters and polo ponies, are often best shod with fullered concave shoes, close fitting, of adequate length with sloped (pencil) heels.

Horses used in competition (eventers, endurance, driving etc) are usually shod with full or three quarter fullered concave (roadster) shoes.

Horses doing slower work may be shod using either fullered or plain stamped shoes, fitted full to the foot especially from the quarters to heel, with upright heels.

Horses of all ages and any discipline may be shod with composite, nail-less shoes and modern materials.

All working horses’ feet will need regular attention, usually every four to six weeks. Hoof growth will vary throughout the year. Shoes must be removed and the feet trimmed back as they grow, even if the shoes are not worn out.
Horses not in work, or in light work, may have their shoes removed and the feet trimmed accordingly. Farriers are trained to trim horses in work without shoes; the trim will vary depending on the type of horse and the work that it is doing. Regular hoof trimming enhances HPA and limb balance.

The Farriers (Registration) Acts of 1975 and 1977 require anyone shoeing horses to register each year with the Farriers Registration Council. This includes people who only shoe their own horses. The prime aim of this law is to safeguard the welfare of the horse.
Anyone wishing to register as a farrier should contact the Farriers Registration Council. Normally the registration application is made on completion of an apprenticeship with an Approved Training Farrier (ATF). The apprenticeship involves attending regular college courses over approximately four years.
Having passed the final examination held under the auspices of the Worshipful Company of Farriers, the successful candidate may then use the letters DipWCF after his or her name (Diploma of the Worshipful Company of Farriers). The equivalent before the 1975 Act was RSS (Registered Shoeing Smith).

The Worshipful Company of Farriers also conducts examinations for Farriers already qualified, registered and in practice as proof of their enhanced competence. These are searching examinations requiring a very high standard of specialist knowledge and practical skills. These post-Diploma examinations are the Associateship of the Worshipful Company of Farriers (AWCF), formerly AFCL Associateship of the Farriers Company of London, and the Fellowship of the Worshipful Company of Farriers (FWCF).

All Farriers' registrations must be renewed annually. Horseowners should make sure their farrier has a current registration card. The Farriers Registration Council publishes a full national list of all registered Farriers, which is regularly updated.
A Farrier should not be confused with a Blacksmith. A Farrier works with horses but needs training in blacksmithing to enable him to make shoes properly. A Blacksmith works with iron and may never have any contact with horses. A Blacksmith may have been trained in farriery and if so may shoe horses legally alongside his blacksmithing, providing he is a Registered Farrier.