Tips and Tricks

Shoeing for Longer – Safety Tips for Farriers by Carl O’Dwyer

Being a farrier is hard work and many farriers end their career earlier than planned due to injury or strain on the body.  So how do we keep working in the industry safely and for longer?

Carl O’Dwyer has been a farrier for over 60 years and still shoes around 12 horses per week from his farrier workshop in Victoria.  He has some great safety tips that he puts into practice in his working life which has led him to still be shoeing at the age of 79.

Carl’s Safety Tips for Farriers

  1. Creating an Ideal Shoeing Environment

It is important to create the right shoeing environment ensuring it is safe for the horse and safe for you as the farrier. They are large animals, so you need to make the horse feels comfortable when you are working on them.  Having a safe shoeing environment does mitigate (but not eliminate) the risk of serious injury.

In Carl’s workshop he has four shoeing bays, each 2 metres apart. This is important as it stops the horse moving its whole body 180 degrees and ensures they are facing the wall so he can work on them in a controlled environment.

The surface in the shoeing bay should be level and ideally be a concrete or ‘hot mix’ surface with rubber matting over the top. The rubber matting also gives the horse better grip and prevents the horse wearing a trimmed hoof down further if they were to paw their front feet on the hard concrete or bitumen/hotmix surface.

When the horse is in the shoeing bay, Carl always cross ties the horse using two leads, one on each side of the head.  This is to limit the horses’ movement of its head from getting it caught under a single tie.  Using cross ties will also minimize the likelihood of injury to the farrier.

Even quiet horses can injure the farrier if it is not correctly restrained.

Check out this video when Carl’s takes you through how to create an ideal shoeing environment.

  1. Hot shoeing for the first time:

When hot shoeing a horse for the first time, Carl prefers to ease horses into the process, so his tips are:

  • Either, tie the horse in a bay next to another horse that is being hot shod, so that the first time hot shod horse gets used to the smell, and does not get worked up by it, or
  • If you only have one horse to shoe that has not been hot shod, Carl always starts with the hind feet first, so that the smoke from the burning hoof does not raise straight into the horses nose/face, which can often cause them to tense up.
  • Finally, Carl likes to start with the hind feet on young horses because if they lose their concentration, the hind feet (being the hardest to shoe) are completed first.

Carl explains his tips when hot shoeing a horse for the first time in this short video.

  1. Using a Hoof Stand

Carl has been shoeing horses for over 60 years and is often asked how does his back still stand ups after all these years of work.  His answer – use an aid like a Hoof Stand, for example the HoofHelper, which takes pressure off his back and makes it more comfortable for the horse when being shod.

The HoofHelpers unique rubber cradle is more comfortable for the horse and also safer for the farrier. For example the rubber is more forgiving if the farriers hand gets caught between the Hoof and the rubber cradle. The farrier will still likely get an injury, however the rubber cradle may assist in reducing the severity of the injury.


  1. Shoeing Longevity tips for Farriers

Carl has been shoeing for over 60 years, so how has he done it?

These are Carl’s tips :

  1. If a horse is dangerous and has not been educated to stand and let the Farrier perform their task – do not shoe it. Tell the owner the horse needs educating before you will shoe it.  Often young farriers feel pressure to shoe horses that are dangerous, and on many occasions it has resulted in serious injury to the farrier. Farriers are Hoofcare professionals and not horse breakers.
  2. For safety and longevity, Farriers need to always assess their work place, and if there is a unreasonable risk due to the dangerous horse, decline to work on it and move to your next customer.

How many horses should you shoe in a day ?

Carl allows 1 hour to shoe a horse properly and so in an 8 hour day, you should not shoe more than 8 horses.  He books in horses on the hour.

Rushing to finish jobs is not good for the horse or your body.  Slow down and focus on the horse.

Click on the link to view Carls Tips on Shoeing for Longer.


Knowledge comes with experience over time so by following these safety tips could help you work in the farrier industry for longer.