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September 07, 2008 | | Comments 1

Shoeing Horses with Portor Green – World Class Farrier

Written by: Chenay Jordan

Over the years, I have learned that probably the single most important person to have in your Rolodex of horse people is your farrier.

I have also learned that the single most important aspect of owning horses is to be highly educated about horse shoeing.

Unfortunately, learning this has taken my horse and me on both a physically and emotionally painful journey.

I believe now that if horse owners are educated and proactive with their farrier it is possible that lameness and emotional strife will have a hard time finding them.

The story about Snickers and me is long to tell but I can tell you that poor horse shoeing led not only to the end of our show career, but to surgery and in general a “broken” horse.

***

Being so invested in this topic, years later I was lucky enough to meet and become acquainted with Portor Green.

Born in 1969, Portor Green is the sixth generation farrier in his family. His father, Lee Green, is a world-renown Ferrier and has traveled as far away as Morocco and Japan sharing his expertise and perspective with the world.

Not surprisingly, Portor says he learned about horse shoeing through “default.”

“I didn’t set out to shoe horses,” he says.

In 1984, at the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, Portor had the daunting task of shoeing for many Equestrian teams as a mere 16-year-old.

“At the time, I didn’t realize what an honor it was,” Portor said.

Now a nine-time World Champion Farrier, Portor sat down with me and shared his thoughts on the science of horse shoeing and why it is so important for horse owners to have a good relationship with their farrier.

What is to follow is a guide to help horse owners become acquainted with the basics of horse shoeing, educated on the different techniques, the science behind it all, and how to effectively communicate with their farriers.

SHOEING BASICS

“The foundation to all good horse shoeing is the trim,” said Portor, “it can really be summed up in one word: balance.”

Portor emphasized that, “each hoof needs to be shod according to the entire limb and the entire package also needs to be considered.”

Generally speaking, horse owners should put their horses on a six week shoeing schedule.

But there are some variations to this, determined by the horse’s “job.”

“A lot of performance horses,” said Portor, “are shod every four weeks to maintain the optimum length of the hoof.” It has less to do with “shoe wear,” he says, and more to do with “maintaining optimum performance.”

Race horses are generally shod every 21 days for the same reason.

BRIEF SCIENCE OF SHOEING

The science of shoeing is paradoxically simple and complex. Portor says the simplicity is: “Nailing a shoe into a horse’s hoof,” but the complexity is: “considering the whole package.”

Since the hoof is attached to the rest of the body (and supports it) the anatomy of a horse is crucial when it comes to shoeing.

For example, if a horse has chronic problems like laminitis or navicular, a farrier may need to look on the inside of a horse (radiographs) in order to determine the best course of action. Therefore, knowledge about a horse’s anatomy is crucial.

SHOEING FOR DIFFERENT DISCIPLINES

As mentioned before, the “job” of the horse is a big determining factor and with over 3,000 styles, sizes, materials, and brands of shoes available, a horse owner needs to be aware of the shoeing materials/techniques that are being used on their horse and if they are suitable for the discipline.

All-Around/Show Horses

Portor says these horses will benefit from common steel shoes. Steel shoes are durable and provide horses with a great deal of traction.

Reiners

Reining horses are usually shod with aluminum shoes on the front feet and sliding plates (made from steel) on the hind. A lighter material, aluminum allows horses to move more quickly and easily across the ground. Sliding plates are designed for a lack of traction so the horse can literally slide.

Racing

Race horses are also commonly shod with “toe-grab” aluminum on their front. Toe-grabs provide the horse with “forward bite” allowing them to cover ground faster.

Cutting/Gymkhana/Trail

Horses used for these purposes will benefit from rimmed shoes, which are very aggressive in the traction they provide and allow the horse to “get into” the ground.

Pulling Horses

Cart and/or carriage horses, Portor says, benefit from “heel calks and a toe grab… its like wearing cleats… allows them to get into the ground and pull their bodies forward.”

If your horse is frequently on pavement Portor recommends a rubber shoe. These shoes help with lessening impact/concussion and provide traction. They also last the normal six week shoeing period.

Brood Mares/Foals/Pasture Pets

Portor says that for horses that are not being utilized on a regular basis, barefoot shoeing is acceptable IF “the horse’s hooves can handle it. There are some horses that just have really sensitive hooves and even if they aren’t being used still require shoes.” Talk with your farrier to see if barefoot shoeing is an option for your horse.

SHOEING FOR DIFFERENT BREEDS

Even though there are some very distinct techniques that are used for specific breeds, Portor stresses that the discipline is more important than the breed when it comes to shoeing.

However, there are some generalities that he shared.

Stock Horses

Quarter Horses, Paints, and Appaloosas are generally shod with a lack of excess toe and a steel shoe.

Arabians

Popular for this breed are toe-weighted shoes in order to manipulate their movement and gait.

Walking/Gaited Horses

A great deal of toe-length is common to leave on Walking horses like Tennessee Walkers and Saddlebreds. Toe-weighted shoes and weighted pads are also commonly used to manipulate gait.

Gentle Giants

Large breeds like Clydesdales Portor says benefit from a flat, steel shoe. As a bonus, he says, these horses are also incredibly sound and easy to work with.

THE RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR FARRIER

Portor (and I) cannot stress enough how crucial it is to have a good relationship with your farrier.

The key question to ask is: Does your farrier put in the time and effort to ensure your horse stays sound?

Here are some guidelines on how to make sure your farrier is right for you.

Education

Unlike veterinarians, farriers are not required to attend school. However, Portor says if they attend one of the numerous Farrier schools available around the United States, their knowledge about horse anatomy is vastly improved which is important because “even though they are dealing with the bottom of the foot, everything else is connected. So what is done or not done can affect many other areas of the horse.”

Farriers may also learn by apprenticeships. If your farrier learned this way make sure the master Farrier is well-represented and established in the community.

Farriers should also attend a number of clinics throughout the year (Portor recommends at least twice.) Clinics are beneficial for farriers because they get into “specifics about either disciplines or limitations/problems in the horse.” This proves that your farrier is being continually educated about new techniques to benefit your horse.

Relationship with clients

Portor is adamant about one thing and one thing only (as am I) when it comes to a farrier and their relationship with their clients.

A good farrier is somebody that is willing to listen to the horse owner’s needs and concerns and if needed willing to work with a veterinarian to determine the best course of action.

Portor emphasizes: “If a farrier is not willing to discuss techniques, options, the horse’s history, concerns, work with a vet [if needed], drop them immediately.”

***

As for Snickers and me: it has been 10 years since his first lameness issues and to this day it is an ongoing battle.

To every horse owner out there: Educate yourself on horse shoeing and find yourself a good farrier from the beginning. You never know the heartache you could be saving yourself in the future.

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  1. Personally, the one most important things that should be the focus of your farrier is the health/wellbeing of the horse.
    Owners/trainers often are goal oriented and can be asking an animal to do something it either is not designed to do (due to conformation) or is not capable of handling at it’s current state of development (ie: either because the hoof is remodeling/healing or the horse is not conditioned for it).
    A farrier that is only shoeing a horse to get it to the next level, or into a show, or whatever…..when it can be detrimental to the horses health or even the safety of the rider….this should be addressed.

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