Welcome to our monthly feature, “Ask a Farrier,” a Q and A with farrier Karen McMann. Karen has been a full-time farrier for 17 years. She graduated in 2002 from the Canadian School of Horseshoeing, where she studied under Pat Cullen. She serves on the Advisory Board of Equi-Health Canada and Equi-First Aid USA as a Farrier/Hoof Health Support specialist. She lives and works outside of Okotoks, Alberta.
This month’s question is:
How Do I Help My Horse Stay Safer on Ice?
You must be in Alberta right now. It’s literally one big skating rink, making it almost impossible for anybody to do anything safely. I fear a broken hip every day just sliding the short walk from my house to the barn to feed.
Ice Safety for Your Horse’s Feet
Borium welded on to the heels and toes of shoes works great for winter trail riding through the mountains and for working ranch horses. In case you’re not familiar, borium is tungsten carbide embedded in (usually) steel rods. Farriers weld it onto shoes and the bits of tungsten carbide create a rough texture that grips on slippery surfaces. Borium is actually a brand name. Your farrier might use a different tungsten carbide product but the effect should be the same.
Ice nails are another easy fix. They look just like regular shoe nails, with bits of borium on the head of the nails. I wouldn’t recommend them for barrel racers or ropers. They have too much grip and you risk pulling tendons when the horse turns sharply.
Ice Safety on Your Farm
There are lots of things you can do around the barn to make things safer. Chip away the ice from around waterers and pathways. Harrow icy patches when the weather melts the top inch or so. Put extra gravel, sand or kitty litter down over the iciest spots. I would not recommend salt. Salt will draw more moisture out of your horses’ feet, plus, they’ll eat it.
Remember, too, that if you let them pick their own path and speed, horses are pretty resourceful creatures, barefoot or wearing shoes. Last week, I watched one of my clients’ horses sit and slide down the hill to the barn. I was told a few of them do it. So clever.
Ice safety is a big concern. Talk to your farrier. They will know what the best option for your herd is. Good luck and stay safe everyone.
If you have a question you’d like to ask a farrier (about horseshoeing, farriery, hoof and horse health, blacksmith tools, working as a farrier, etc.), leave it in the comments below. Every month, we’ll pick one question to answer in our feature.
feature image: Anders Printz