The United Kingdom Horse Shoers Association

The voice of the farrier.

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Regulation of Bare Foot Trimming.

by Peter Baker AWCF, elected farrier member of FRC, for FRC meeting October 2006.

This report was requested by Farriers Registration Council on the 14th June 2006. I had proposed at the meeting that the farrier members of Council prepare a report but this did not seem to be taken up and it was left to me. I have compiled the report utilising the expertise of the UKHSU, the independent national farriers association and its associates.

In broad terms this report is constructed in accordance with the conclusions drawn at FRC on the 14th June 2006.

Introduction

Horses hooves are fitted with shoes to prevent them wearing down. Excessive wear results in discomfort and lameness. Shoes are usually only necessary for horses which work on roads. Hard roads have an abrasive effect upon the softer horn of which the hoof is composed. Young horses, horses kept for breeding and retired horses usually do not wear shoes unless they have particular problems. Horses which are worked only lightly or worked off roads also often are unshod. Farriers are very competent in trimming [something they undertake on every horse they work with, trimming when shoeing] and when maintaining unshod feet. Trimming is an integral part of a farriers work and is also fairly profitable compared with shoeing as it is relatively quick and easy to do. Hoof trimmers are a fairly new development. They are a small and very disparate collection of people with limited training and limited skills. It remains to be seen whether they will develop into a sustainable profession, this seems doubtful; as compared with farriers they have a very limited capability, being essentially farriers who can't shoe horses.

Hoof trimmers at present seem to prey upon the less knowledgeable horse owners by promoting the idea that horses do not need shoes and that farriers are taking them for a ride. Trimmers seem to charge more than farriers and they have a widespread reputation for making horses lame by their actions. There have been several prosecutions for cruelty involving hoof trimmers.

Categories of hoof trimming

Three divisions of the subject have been proposed.

Division 1. MINIMAL MAINTAINANCE regards the simple and superficial removal of rough and overgrown edges of the hoof, which was agreed at council as not needing regulation.

Division 2. COMPLEX SITUATIONS regards the trimming of animal's feet which due to disease or neglect have left the hoof capsule traumatised and the animal suffering distress. It is suggested following the recent judges decision that this type of condition now falls within the remit of the veterinary surgeons control and any remedial trimming by virtue of this recent CASE LAW should be viewed in the light of it being an act of permitted veterinary surgery. Abuses of the care of an animal suffering in this way are well covered by the new animal welfare acts both English and Scottish are regulated and prosecuted by animal welfare agencies other than the FRC.

Division 3. BARE FOOT MAINTAINANCE, We now need to consider the middle ground - this is a some what grey area.

3 (a). Animals that are worked bare foot. These it is felt self regulate their feet, no matter what any foot trimmer does; the natural wear of equine feet will to a large extent regulate its own hoof wear to meet its own environmental and physiological needs. This type of animal falls within the definition of division one, (minimal maintenance), thus it would be difficult to justify formal regulation.

3 (b). Stud Farms. Young Stock and Breeding Equines.

Animals whose bodies are still developing and not fully mature, [the way these feet are trimmed has a physiological effect], and mature breeding stock which due to the passage of time have become damaged. These types of equines fall with in the valuable / commercial area; as such it would be difficult to see how any commercial breeder would employ an itinerant foot trimmer, if it was to happen without doubt supervision would be effected by a veterinary practitioner [Division Two] as is now the case internationally with stud work, additional regulation would then seem unnecessary and as was suggested at council may even create a niche demand.

Conclusion.

Hoof trimmers may well be manifestations of a fad which is unlikely to persist.

The role of owners has not been considered so far. Most horse owners are sensible people who know whether their horses are comfortable or not and who will have shoes fitted when it is to the benefit of their horses but who are not likely to have horses shod unnecessarily.

The future may well involve horses no longer being shod with steel shoes and nails, and it seems inevitable that eventually glued on synthetic shoes will take over - this will present a new set of problems when it comes to regulation. However at present these methods are expensive and not robust enough for everyday use.

It has been suggested that hoof trimmers should be properly trained in order to prevent unnecessary suffering to horses. However as they all seem to have different philosophies and methods it would be difficult to set up a training programme that would accommodate all of them.

Would it be possible to separate farriery qualifications into two stages?
an initial qualification for trimming and a further qualification for shoeing?

In any group of horses there are likely to be some who need trimming and some who need shoeing at some stage of their lives. The knowledge and skills required are much the same. Any trimmer will encounter problems where horses are footsore and need shoes. It would not we suggest be a good idea to produce trimmers who cannot shoe.

It has been suggested that there is a need for research to demonstrate whether it is practical to work horses without shoes. It is unlikely that any scientific evidence would sway the barefoot enthusiasts. Furthermore there are welfare implications in these experiments if horses are going to be worked to the point of lameness. It is self evident that when horse’s hooves wear down excessively the horse will become footsore, this is the whole rationale behind shoeing which has been practised for 2000 years for
this exact reason.

A practical approach might be to create the position of a Farrier Assistant, something which many farriers have suggested, whereby an assistant would be able to carry out hoof maintenance and shoeing preparation. Either the Act could be AMMENDED to allow assistants to perform certain acts of farriery, which is suggest to be not necessary, risky and probably not a good idea, or assistants could stop short of undertaking UK defined “Acts of Farriery” [Farriers Registration Bills 1975 / 77], their duties carried out under the supervision of a qualified Farrier.

The problem is that what is an act of farriery is unclear. The FRC at present take a very inflexible interpretation of the law. It might be better to take a more lenient interpretation so that removing of shoes, preliminary trimming, shoe manufacture, shoe preparation and initial fitting can be accepted as not being acts of farriery, in accord with what is suggested was within the word and spirit of the registration bills. [Any action similar to this should include caution as it may well have / will have an effect on the need for and even reduce the gross costs of apprentice training, good or bad??. [Explanation requires a separate paper]].

[A thought. Very careful consideration of this matter needs to be given, due to the EU non-uniformity of what is an act of farriery. The UK is ruled by EU law, and in several areas of the EU [arid areas, areas of preponderance of barefoot use], when foot trimming is the greater part of the act of hoof maintenance / farriery carried out on equine hooves. This could complicate the EU directives regarding the 2year / 6 year rules of entry onto our register].

It is hard to make any sensible case for and it may even be dangerous to institute any formal statutory control of foot trimmers within UK farrier / veterinary legislation.


UKHSU July 2006