4 Ways to Improve Your Relationship with Your Farrier

4 Ways to Improve Your Relationship with Your Farrier

Hi, my name is Marie and I have operated a growing horse boarding barn for over 15 years.  We started out with just two horses and now regularly are full at 18!  I've renovated barns, replaced fencing and cleared acres of brush.  It's a lot of work but most days we feel like we are "living the dream".  I had a revelation the other day after my farrier left the property and I wanted to share it.

"I’ve found the perfect relationship!  Every woman’s ideal. How about every 5 to 6 weeks spending an hour or two with a man who listens intently? He asks good questions. He works with his hands, does manly things with fire, iron and hammers and comes up with some invaluable advice if I ask for it!"

I’m talking about the regular sessions I have with my farrier  Every time I see his truck and trailer pull in my heart is warmed.  He has been coming to my barn every 5-6 weeks for 15 years. He has watched me start college, move away, leave on trips to Europe, sail parts of South Asia, graduate college, get married, expand my small boarding business to an explosive one, birth 3 babies in 4 years….you know, grow from a girl to a woman.  It is a unique perspective a farrier has: checking in almost monthly for an hour or more. Some people pay good money for a therapist; I pay that same amount for an hour or two of undivided attention AND get my horse shod.  So in the spirit of tuning in to what might make my farrier's job a little easier and show my appreciation for their time and efforts, I came up with these tips:

1.  Listening Should be a Two Way Street

Now granted, I have three young kids and I just cry more easily these days, but I broke down the other day when, after spending several hours with my farrier, I finally decided to ask him how HE was doing.  Well, not so hot, to say the least...he had a bunch of really heavy things on his heart...all the while the other boarders and I were just a talkin’, not taking a minute to share in and bear the burdens of the man who is ALWAYS there for us (physically showing up every time, as well as always lending an ear).  To say the least, I was frustrated at my selfishness. So like a crazy woman, I called him that day and started blubbering out incoherent things about how sorry I was for not asking about him and how he was doing and how amazing of a man he was, scars and all, and how glad I was that he was in my life.  WHEW!  I hung up the phone feeling like a big ol’ goofball.  But I'm pretty sure he knows me well enough to get it and he felt loved and appreciated by the end.  

I'm not saying he's perfect, but I am amazed at how he continues forward through all life’s roadblocks.  Like a bulldozer where you’d have to press a decelerator to slow him down, he just keeps on, even when he doesn't feel well or is carrying heavy burdens.  And this is a job where one’s physical health is a PRIMARY factor in whether or not you make a living. There is no “sick day” pay.  You don’t work, you don’t get paid. And for 50 years I wonder how many times he’s rescheduled? I think once in the 15 years of me knowing him.  That’s 10 horses a day...for 50 years...that’s 2,600 horses and potentially 2,600 human interactions per year...Maybe 130,000 hooves trimmed and shod in his lifetime (these numbers do not include continuing education and weekend farrier competitions or judging, of course).

I almost didn’t take the time that day to learn about how my farrier was really feeling.  He currently has COPD, arthritis, back pain, hand pain, I’m sure some compressed discs and then on top of the that just a common cold that would take a normal human out!  Yet he showed up, didn’t complain, did his work and asked me how my day was going. That’s an impressive work ethic we don’t see as much today. 

I guess the message here is for all of us to take a moment to enjoy this time with our farrier instead of thinking of it as an interruption and imposition in our daily schedule.  It’s a rare time in our typically busy routine that requires us to slow down and spend some one on one time with our horse and our farrier.  Instead of being in a rush to finish up and move on, stop and appreciate the opportunity to show your farrier some caring.  Ask about their life, bring him/her some lunch, a treat, or a favorite drink - a small token goes a long way.

2.  Communicate and Learn How to Assist Better

Recently I realized just how much we owners dump on our farriers.  Besides our horses sometimes literally trying to dump on them, we have bratty horses that are tugging and continually yanking them around and acting out.  When Sawyer begins his work at my barn he kindly asks about my life and how things are going and then my yapping begins. Meanwhile, my horse may drop his head and off-weight his foot or try to pick at his backside (because “my horse never bites”) or show up with muddy hooves that takes extra time to clean off.  The list goes on and on. And for the most part my farrier humbly and kindly just does his work and deals with it while I chatter on about whatever drama has my attention at the moment.  

One of the biggest parts of communication is listening and observing. Pay attention to your horse and how it is impacting your farrier trying to complete his work. Ask if there is a better place to stand or how you can be helpful in some other way.  Half the time that’s just getting the heck out of the way!

This occupation, the health care of horses' hooves, is a job unlike most others.  It’s very physically demanding and working under a 1000 lb animal has all sorts of risks.  On top of all that it also requires one on one time with horse owners with nothing but time to talk while their horse's feet are cleaned, trimmed and cared for.

Personally, I salute all the farriers out there.  Without them our horses would have tender feet and our hearts would be heavier.

3.  Show up on Time 

Time is money and your delays impact everyone else waiting in line.  Do your farrier a favor and show up on time for your appointment!   Have your horse up and ready to go.  Driving from location to location is tough when estimating appointment times, so be patient with late arrivals and try to set your day up to flex around your farrier's arrival.  Remember that every minute wasted just pushes everyone else to further delays, so don't wait till he's done to cue up your horse, be there and ready.

Generally, be considerate.  Read the room! Sometimes farriers have time to chat and other times they don’t; I think just trying to be respectful to their skills and their scheduling difficulties would be a nice vacation for them. 

Not having to hear, "you were due an hour ago and now no one is here to hold."

4.  Reviews & Referrals

We all know that if you are hard at work with the horses, you can't also be canvassing for more business.  So, if you are happy with your horse's trim or shoeing, take a moment to write your farrier a positive review on GoHorse or any other review sites.  These reviews are priceless and can help back up their assurances as they talk to potential customers.  And of course refer them often.  Especially if you know people that are within their current geographic route.  The more barns they can serve in a day, with less driving, the better their income.  It's a win win.  They get more business and you have a farrier with a route near you more often.

Conclusion

My farrier has the unique ability to see - beyond what is on the outside, beyond what I tell him, beyond what I want him to see, sometimes. His assessments of the people he interacts with are surprising and shockingly accurate. I mean, I guess when you interact with more than 200 clients each month, maybe you gain some valuable insights on human nature along with our horses.  If there were a human psychology degree earned through experience he would be a PHD by now for sure.