Congratulations on deciding to start your own farrier business! Working for yourself will be the best, most exhausting and thrilling thing you may ever do! In the words of Kelly Kapoor…
There is a lot that you will learn in the first few years of your farrier business. So many of the environments we work in vary wildly depending on the day. People and horses coming and going. Different hooves, rehab cases, maintenance trims, tricky feet that you aren’t quite sure about. Over time, you will discover how you want to run your business instead of letting it run you.
If I could share with you some lessons that I have learned along the way, I would love to spare you some of the more tough moments that I had to endure.
Half of this business is communication. Tell your clients what you need to do in your workspace to do a good job. Tell your clients what problems you are seeing and propose solutions. If you schedule appointments, show up on time or let clients know when you’re running behind, and do a good job – congratulations, you are in the top percentage of farriers!
Interview Potential Clients
One of the best things I ever did was make a practice of sending potential clients just a few questions – location, breed/age of horses, last trim/shoeing date, preferred hoofcare cycle, and any behavioral issues I should be aware of. Nothing is worse than showing up to a new client and realizing it’s not what you expected, not what you scheduled time for, or even dangerous. Get a feel for your potential new client ahead of time.
*Behavorial issues are not necessarily a no go – you are seeing if the owner is honest and willing to help you out.
Ask Questions + Take Photos
When you meet a new client, ask questions and take some pre-trim/shoeing photos. You never know what important piece of information you may uncover to help you trim/shoe this horse well. And “original status” photos always come in handy. You can gauge the progress you are or are not making and share with the owner as well. I have never regretted taking a moment to snap a few photos.
Trust Your Gut
Horses are energy and so are we. If you tune in, you can tell when something has changed. If something feels off, trust your gut. Don’t play into the classic farrier stereotype of “get the job done at all costs.” No money is worth the potential risk to your body and career. This applies to people, too. Feel things out and make decisions accordingly. Develop your trust in the horses too – you are going to spend a lot of time with them! They have lots to teach you and you may only feel the beginnings of those lessons in your gut.
Understand The Horses
If you see horses as a paycheck, or feet ready to be shod, or robots that should obey, this may not be a fulfilling career for you. If you want to control and dominate horses, you will not be satisfied in this work. You will also eventually, and chronically, be injured. You will never ultimately “win” against a horse, no matter how big or strong you are, or how many drugs you sedate them with. The sooner you realize how to work smarter and not harder, the better off your business will be. The horses are your clients.
Understand the People
People are your clients, too. If you’re getting into this business to help horses and begrudgingly deal with the people, you probably won’t love it. The people are the caretakers, the advocates, the holders of unique knowledge, and ultimately the ones writing the check. They may even become your friends. You need to love the horses and their people, too.
Take Care of Your Body
This is something I heard all the time when I first started trimming and because I was young and idealistic, I just nodded my head but then went and gave myself tendonitis working on difficult horses in slippery conditions. You don’t realize the repetitive wear and tear on your body until you’re a few years in. Eventually the work takes a toll. Eat well, stretch, exercise, take time off, keep your tools sharp, don’t do too many horses in a day too many days in a row and most importantly….
Just Say No
You are your only advocate at work. No one else is going to look out for you or pay your hospital bill or know exactly what you need. Say no to dangerous horses. Say no to owners who don’t pay on time. Say no to anyone who tried to take advantage of your valuable time and expertise. Say no as often as you need to remain happy and strong in this business.
I am wishing you the absolute best! We need more good farriers. Welcome to the club.