How Much Does It Cost to Shoe a Horse
Whenever someone new is thinking of getting into horses and the experienced horse owners are describing expenses, there are always three big ones that remain consistent: feed, vet, and farrier. No domestic situation is sufficient to wear a horse’s feet naturally like in the wild, and with the feet being absolutely vital to the health and soundness of the horse, hoof care must be prioritized.
Many horses can live their lives barefoot, without ever having to wear shoes, though they still require trims every 4-8 weeks. However, for those that can’t go barefoot, getting shoes can become a pricey necessity
How much can the horse owner expect to pay?
Farrier rates vary widely from state to state and region to region. In 2015, the average prices, based on a survey conducted by the American Farriers Journal, landed at $43 for a trim, and $130 to apply a full new set. Depending on your location, your level of equestrianism, and the length of your relationship with your farrier, you could pay anything from $30-$80 for a trim and $80-$200 for four shoes. Below are a few random samples of regional variation from 2017.
- Maryland near Baltimore: $50 trim, $120 front shoes, $180 for four new shoes.
- Southeast VA: $35 trim, $90 front shoes, $120 for four new shoes.
- West Texas: $40 trim, $80 for four new shoes.
- Fairfield county, CT: $80 trim, $160 front shoes
- Northeastern PA: $25 trim, $80 front shoes, $150 for four new shoes.
- Northern Utah: $55 trim, $135 for four new shoes.
Additional variation applies considering the type of work being done. Prices for one “sport horse” specific farrier were reported at $100 trim, $200 front shoes, $275 for four new shoes, and $300+ if specialty pads or shoeing were necessary.
Why so much?
These prices may seem exorbitant, especially since the cost of four horseshoes is only around $10-$20. However, farriers deal with a lot more overhead than many horse owners realize. In addition to their basic tools, including quality hoof pick, hoof knife, nippers, rasp, shoe puller, stand, and farrier’s apron, all of which deteriorate with use, they also need to purchase and maintain their vehicle rigs and buy forges and the propane to run them. To add to the difficulty, farriers can only really count on about twenty-five years of work before their bodies give out. They need to earn a living wage and put away for retirement all within that span.
One professional farrier estimated that all told, it cost him at least $114 to shoe a horse, and that is strictly costs for that animal, not including continued education, living rate, or retirement fund. One of the largest expenses for many farriers comes from gasoline and vehicle maintenance in a job that is highly mobile. A farrier is usually glad to land a job working on a full barn, or several clients in the same location, as that means his travel costs will be substantially lower. He may even offer a small discount for the convenience.
Is there any way to Keep Costs Lower?
As mentioned above, getting a group of horse owners to organize their farrier visits at a single location may result in a small discount. Part time farriers average lower rates than those that work full time as well; $35 lower for a full shoeing and $6 less for trimming according to 2016’s survey of farrier rates. Farriers at very high level barns are generally the best available, and come with a correspondingly high price tag.
If your horse is not competing at the very top of the game, you may be able to save costs by picking up a farrier who is newer to the trade or less specialized. Yet additionally, clients often find that if they’ve stayed with the same farrier for a number of years, he may leave their prices the same even if he’s had to increase his rates for incoming clients, so if your farrier is doing a good job, it’s best to stay put and not switch.
For horses that are not putting heavy stress on their hooves or that live and work on softer surfaces, shoes are likely not necessary at all, allowing you to remain within the prices for a trim. Shop around for different rates, sometimes a farrier who is only a trimmer can offer a more reasonable trim price than a someone who shoes horses and needs to cover the costs of all their necessary tools and machines.
Can’t I just do it myself?
If all you are doing is trimming and your horse has good, straight, feet, it may be possible for you to learn to take care of your own trims. You would need a minimum of a homeowner’s hoof pick, hoof knife (be aware there are right and left handed versions of these), pair of nippers, and rasp, though none of these need to be of the same level of quality as a professional farrier. However, considering how critical the hoof is to the horse, poor trims can have devastating results. If self-trimming is something you are considering, you should be sure to work with a farrier to learn the details of you own specific horse or horses and to trim under his guidance until you have gained some experience. Shoeing is best left to full professionals under all circumstances.
Farrier work is costly, particularly in the case of a horse needing shoes, but it cannot be ignored. As one of the vital concerns of horse ownership, it is necessary to budget carefully in order to be able to cover those costs. Yet the price of trimming and shoeing a horse is not particularly low either, and the chances are good that your farrier is actually under-valuing his services. How much do you pay at your barn for trimming and shoeing and how does it compare to the prices and averages listed above?