Six tips to become your farrier’s favourite client – Sponsored by Back on Track

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Six tips to become your farrier’s favourite client – Sponsored by Back on Track

I am fortunate enough to have the services of an excellent farrier in central Florida. He has a long list of clients, and I was only able to squeeze my little barn into his schedule because I know (was recommended by) a good farrier friend of his in Kentucky. Finding a good farrier can be a tough challenge, and the best ones are worth their weight in gold. The saying “no hoof, no horse,” is undoubtedly true.

One time after my farrier was done with my horses, I asked him what would make his job easier; what he wished his clients could do better. If you are lucky to get a good farrier, here’s what you can do to keep him (or her) happy:

1) Provide your farrier with a well-behaved horse.
All farriers want great manners from your horse. Please discipline your horse so your farrier doesn’t have to. Scott sees a large number of clients treat their sport horses as pets, or as their “stress therapy” after work. “If you want a pet to snuggle, go rescue a greyhound,” he said, pointing his empty water bottle in my direction. Some owners feed too many carrots and cookies to pacify the horse, instead of training it to stand still. The horse is training them to be a treat dispenser. “The horse fidgets and paws and Mommy gives him a treat. More owners need to use ‘the stick’ instead of ‘the carrot’ and their horses would be a lot better behaved,” according to Scott. This is not at all encouraging beating or violent overreaction.  Just a sharp, consistent correction when the horse’s behaviour deems it necessary. Working under a wiggly animal who won’t stand still makes the job take much longer, and is a safety risk for the farrier and horse.

Scott also wishes there was better handling in general, horses react to their handlers, and if the owner holding the shank is nervous and uptight, the horse will notice that. Good handling is patient, calm, and most of all it is about consistency. Work with your horse frequently so that he picks up his feet reliably and stands solidly.

2) Make sure the farrier has an appropriate area to work.
Farriers would like a dry, clean, safe work space, not standing in six inches of mud, or a cramped section of the aisle squeezed between wheelbarrows, pitchforks, and assorted barn items. “There are places I’ve had to move wheelbarrows full of muck, and organize the whole barn aisle,” says Scott. “How am I supposed to work safely in that? If the horse steps on the wheelbarrow and gets tangled up, they’ll say it’s my fault.”

A flat, clean-swept area is ideal, with several feet of clearance all around the horse.

Have your horse ready.
Your appointment is often scheduled weeks in advance, so have your horse ready when he shows up. “Don’t bring the horse dripping wet just from a bath. A wet horse is slippery, hard to hold onto, and increases the danger in an already risky job,” says Scott. Similarly, don’t wait to bring Dobbin in from the back 40 until you see the farrier’s truck parked in the driveway. The horse should already be inside, clean and dry. Some horses, especially young ones with excess energy, may benefit from a brief lunging or round pen session before the farrier works on him. A horse may stand better if it’s a little bit tired.  Again, have this done BEFORE your farrier shows up.

3) Be courteous while you supervise your horse.
When your farrier is working on the horse, stand near the horse’s head and do your best to help the horse stand still. Don’t use this time to groom or clip your horse. Scott says he’s had it happen several times, “The owner just starts brushing a muddy, hairy horse leaving all the scurfy dust to drop all over me.” Another couple of owners have tried to clip their horses, while he was under their horses.  Some simple consideration would go a long way.

While the farrier is working, please remain nearby. If the vet shows up, or your boyfriend calls, or whatever, try not to leave the horse unattended, especially if it’s an animal known to act up.

 

 

4) Respect your farrier’s time.
“Just one more horse,” is a common phrase heard by many farriers. “Just one more horse,” at every barn adds up to a lot of extra horses throughout the day, and makes it nearly impossible to stay on schedule. Why is your farrier running late?  “Just one more horse” is probably why. Please let your farrier know at least two days out if you need to add a horse to his list for the day, that will allow him to communicate with other clients and organize his day accordingly. If it is a last-minute addition, please ask nicely and remember that he may have to schedule an appointment at a later time. You are not The World’s Most Important Client, remember he has a lot of other owners that need his time as well. And maybe, just maybe, he’d like to get home in time for dinner with his wife or attend his kid’s soccer game. In an emergency, he will be there for you or do everything possible to help. But if it’s not an emergency, remember he has other obligations just like any hardworking human. Your farrier will also really appreciate it if you call to cancel your appointment well in advance…not as he is pulling up your driveway.

Keep in mind a good farrier is probably a busy one. If he’s skilled, well-educated, and proficient, he’s likely in very high demand. Making a new appointment could take days or weeks, or may require trailering your horse to a more convenient location if you must have him shod in a limited time frame. As Scott pointed out, “If you call a new farrier and his day is ‘wide open’ for the next week…maybe he’s not busy for a reason, y’know?”

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5) Your farrier is a professional, respect him for his knowledge.
While Scott loves to educate his clients, and will take PLENTY of time out of his day to talk about the whats and whys of horse feet, he finds it difficult to deal with some “read it on the internet” owners. Armed with an internet factoid and having watched a YouTube video, this owner now knows all about horse shoeing and proceeds to tell the farrier how to do his job. Scott says a lot of people ask him a question or want his opinion on a particular problem, but when they don’t like his answer, they keep asking others (friends on Facebook, the neighbour, five different vets…) until they get the answer they wanted to hear. Your farrier specializes in horses’ feet, if you don’t respect his recommendation, why are you using him? You use your farrier because you trust and value his expertise, so if he encourages you to manage your horse a particular way, that’s probably a good idea.

For example: Scott sees a lot of horses with weak, soft feet here in tropical Florida. He recommends to an owner,”Please don’t turn him out in that swampy back field this summer. Find a drier paddock, and keep him in a dry stall half the day with shavings to help his feet dry out.  They are wet and soft, and you’ll be losing a lot of shoes.” The owner does not heed that advice, turns the horse back out in the swamp, resulting in pulled shoes, lost half a foot, and now the horse needs expensive glue-ons. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

There has been a recent trend of “natural hoofcare” and many owners want their horses to perform barefoot. Nothing wrong with this, so long as the horse is sound, comfortable, and the feet can withstand the work. However, if the horse’s feet are wearing excessively, or he is sore on common footing for your discipline, your farrier may recommend shoes. He’s not doing this to make more money, or because he thinks barefoot is a silly idea. He’s looking out for your horse’s best interests and trying to help the horse perform better.

6) Educate yourself
Scott blames a lot of his clients’ shortcomings on a lack of education. “They just don’t know any better,” he says. They are unaware of a problem, or don’t think to look at their horses’ feet and notice details. Proper management can take more effort, more time, and, sometimes, more money. A lot of owners are “part time horse people,” and they don’t look at their horse as a high performance athlete. The owners get lazy, they don’t stay on top of minor issues. “Would you drive forever if your Check Oil light was on in your truck? No, you’d fix it. So why do you think you can ride forever on your horse with a problem,” asks Scott.

Horses need proper work, conditioning, good nutrition, good health care, and good hoof care. All those things have to work in harmony for the horse to perform at his best. It’s easy to blame the farrier, or look for a cure in a feed supplement, but sometimes it comes down to more work and better management to help your equine partner. A true horse person understands the value and needs of their horse…as Scott bluntly put it, “They take care of sh*t.” They don’t wait until there’s a big problem before solving the small issue.”

For owners who seek knowledge, ask your farrier questions! If he’s like Scott, he’ll be happy to discuss his job and how he works hard to make every foot its best; why there’s an extra nail here, or why we’re going to leave that wall alone there.

If your farrier isn’t available, there is good information on the internet.  There are many excellent articles available  to search on The American Farriers Journal.  (see Scott’s articles there)  The American Association of Professional Farriers is another great resource.

 

Make your life easier –  find the best farrier you can and be the best client you can be! 

Follow these six tips to become your farrier’s favourite client

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