Q&A with Dominic Christensen, Certified Farrier

Dominic Christensen

When does one call a farrier?
One can call a farrier whenever they need or want their horses’ feet trimmed, shoes put on or taken off their horse, or if their horse needs some medical attention that isn’t severe enough to call a vet but still needs to be addressed. Most horse owners like to have their horses’ feet trimmed every 6-8 weeks.

How quickly does a horse’s hoof grow? And do all four hooves grow at the same rate?
A horse can fully regrow an entire hoof in 10-12 months depending on the horse. All horses are different, so it will vary; but, if you break it down, their hooves will grow roughly quarter to half-an-inch a month. Realistically, all four hooves should grow at the same rate, but again it’s going to depend on the horse. If that horse has previously had some kind of injury to one of his feet it could cause that hoof to grow back differently or take longer to grow back than the others.

If you are called out and you have never seen that horse before, do you have to establish a trust with the horse before you can get to work?
Yes, no matter what I’m about to work on – whether it’s a horse, pony, donkey or a mule – before I get started, I like to take a little walk around him and have a good look at him. You’ll be able to tell a lot about the animal by its behaviour. I also like to look at his legs and see if he has any scars or current injuries. If he does, he may not like you touching his legs, which could be a problem. After that, I pet the horse a bit and talk to him in a calm, low voice. If he seems calm, I’ll pick up his foot and start to work.

What if the horse won’t stand still for you?
If the horse isn’t standing still, I’ll set his foot down and give him a break. It could be that he’s just sore or in an uncomfortable position. If I think that’s what the problem is then when I pick his foot up again, I’ll try holding it in a different way or position to make it better for him. If the horse continues having issues standing still for me, I’ll do my best to wrestle with him to hold his foot up. There’s only going to be so much I can do. I’m not going to out-muscle a horse. So, at that point, it will be up to the owner of the horse what we do. I have access to a trimming chute/trimming stock at my grandpa’s farm, and I can suggest to the owner hauling his horse there where we will tie the horse’s leg up, and I can trim the horse that way.

Do you deal with abscesses as well?  What is your standard procedure for that?
Yes, I deal with abscesses. For anyone who doesn’t know what a hoof abscess is, it’s basically like a big pimple or a zit on the bottom side of the horse’s hoof. A hoof abscess, if left unnoticed or untreated, can make a horse lame. My standard procedure for dealing with an abscess is to cut as much of it out of the hoof as I can with my knife. After that I let the puss drain out and then soak it with a mixture of water and Epsom salt. After that, I will tell the owner to keep the horse in a nice dry place. The horse should heal within a few days.

Do all horses need to be shoed? Do shoes come in different sizes and shapes?
No, not all horses need shoes. Determining if your horse needs shoes or not just depends how often you use your horse and how hard you use your horse. If you’re constantly riding or driving your horse down a hard and rocky gravel road then I would suggest putting shoes on him because it will feel much better on his feet and prevent him from getting sore. Shoes come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. If a horse needs something that standard horseshoe companies don’t make, most farriers are able to forge a shoe to suit almost any horse’s need. There is a huge size variety in shoes to fit any horse. Most horse shoes are made of steel, but you can get them made of aluminum that guys like to use on race horses and Chuckwagon horses because they are significantly lighter. Additionally, there are shoes specifically made for mules which are a lot narrower than a horse’s foot would be.

Does the type of horse shoe depend on the type of ground the horse is on most?
To a degree, yes. For the most part, regular shoes will work for most terrains. There are a few exceptions that change that. The biggest exception around here is in the winter time because we get so much snow and ice. There are shoes specifically made for icy conditions that will give your horse better traction. You can also take regular shoes and get your farrier to forge borium onto them, and they will serve just as good as shoes designed for ice.

Does the weather influence the health of horses’ hooves?
Yes. A really dry weather can cause the horses’ hooves to dry out and potentially crack. And during a really wet weather hooves don’t wear down as fast as they normally would.

What do you bring with you when you go on a client call?
I have a toolbox that I fit all of my tools in, and I have a small stand for the horses’ feet that I use while working on them.

How hard is your job on you physically, and how do you protect yourself from a potential injury?
I’m fairly tall, so after being bent over holding a horse’s foot for so long, sometimes my back or my legs will get a little bit sore, but that’s about it. As far as protecting myself from potential injuries, the horse is, by far, the biggest hazard. So, I like to just be aware of what that horse is doing in case he decides he wants to kick at me or bite me.

What is “corrective or therapeutic shoeing” and do you offer that as well?
Corrective or therapeutic shoeing is basically when a horse requires shoes to help heal an injury in or around his hoof, or when he requires shoes to correct a certain type of foot disease. Yes, I offer this service.

Do you require a special area in which to work?
No, although if it is really cold or raining it is nice to have a barn or shop to work in.

Finally, when you are not working, what can you be found doing?
I also work full time for Cargill at the Rycroft elevator, so between my farrier work and that I’m pretty busy.

Contact:

Business: Dom’s Shoeing
Location: Rycroft
Phone: (780) 380-8091
E-mail: dominicchristensen01@gmail.com