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Q: My farrier says she quicked my horse. What does this mean?

A: Quicking is when the horseshoe nail is driven into the sensitive laminae of the foot. The horse is said to have been quicked. That is the shortest possible way to answer "What does it mean when a horse is quicked?" Your question infers more than that brief answer. Does it mean that my farrier doesn't know what she is doing? Does it mean there will be things for me to do as a result of the quicking?

It means these things and more. First of all, let me say that your farrier appears to be honest and professional because she informed you of the incident. Every farrier quicks a horse from time to time and it is very unprofessional not to tell the client because of the dangers of infection, tetanus, etc. The correct and professional thing to do is to remove the nail and leave it out. The nail hole should be treated with iodine. The horse owner or trainer should be informed that the horse is quicked and be advised to be sure the horse is up to date on his tetanus shots. Chances are nothing will come of the incident if it is dealt with in this manner.

Even if a quicked horse is treated in the above manner, it will occasionally come up sore. If this happens, soak the foot in hot water and Epsom salts daily and consult with your veterinarian about recommended treatment and/or pain killers.

Quicking a horse can be the result of many factors.

It could be the farrier's fault because she does not yet have the skills to accurately drive nails. A farrier can also be careless due to being in too big a hurry or not paying full attention to the job at hand.

It could be the horse's fault because he has walls that are so thin that it is virtually impossible to drive even the finest nail without quicking him. Nails should not be driven into these walls. You might consider glue-on shoes as a temporary solution until you can improve hoof wall quality and thickness. Hoof walls appearing to be perfectly normal may have an extra hard spot that would deflect the nail in the wrong direction. The horse might also be at fault by jerking his foot just as the hammer strikes the nail, causing the nail to be directed in rather than out. Hence the importance of a horse being properly trained to accept shoeing.

If the nail manufacturer fails to bevel the nail point on the correct side of the shank of the nail, the nail will turn in instead of out. If the shank of the nail is weakened through the manufacturing process, it can split while it is being driven and is liable to go in any direction. So farriers need to check nails over very carefully with their eyes and their fingers. Also along these lines, we are often told not to put the horseshoe nails in our mouths, that it is a dangerous practice. Many of us do it anyway and I have often detected a bad nail by the feel of it between my lips and have discarded it, thus preventing another horse from being quicked.

After an experience of being severely quicked, a horse may be resistant to being shod again on that foot. It behooves the horse owner to work with this horse extensively after the foot is healed and is no longer painful. Get yourself a tack hammer. Pick your horse's feet up and gently tap the shoe and the nail heads daily until the horse accepts it. Be sure and hold the horse's foot in the same manner as the farrier would when shoeing. The horse knows the difference and will not make the association otherwise.

To summarize, no one wants to experience quicking. Not the owner; not the horse; not the farrier. It is not the end of the world and it is going to happen occasionally. Accept it and determine the cause so you can take a proper course of action and lessen the chances of it happening again.


Geronimo Bayard
The American Blacksmith
Oakland, Oregon

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This entire web site is copyright protected.  1996-2001 Geronimo & Mary Bayard,  2001-2008 Mary Fitzpatrick
All rights reserved. Contact Mary for reproduction information & permission.