Road to The Journeyman Part 1

Last month I finally began the process of getting my CJF. The test for the Journeyman is comprised of three parts, each scored to an exacting standard. A written test, a forging component where I build a fullered barshoe to fit a pattern in 35 minutes, and a shoeing portion in which I will shoe a horse with a full set of handmades in 2 hours or less.

Each candidate for certification comes to the test in a different way and timing. For me, it has been a long time in coming. I had meant to take this test shortly after passing my Certified exam in 2010 however I allowed myself to get busy and not take it. While certifications are not required here in the US, they are a great way of testing knowledge and proving skill. Here at Dixie’s we have been and always will be committed to continuing education and the best quality work we can provide. By getting my CJF, it will be one more way to test my skill but will also be the gateway to higher certifications and more opportunities for learning and teaching.

When I took my Certified exam several years ago I started by taking the written test which meant I then had a two year timeline to complete the other two parts of the test (shoe display and shoeing the front of a horse). This time I decided to start by going to a certification prep clinic in Tennessee so I could see what I needed to work on and to hone my skills. The clinic was two days of hands on learning both at the anvil and under the horse.

I have been building and applying handmade shoes my entire career so that part is nothing new. The larger challenge for me will be refining a few techniques to be more efficient and getting over the issue of being timed. For whatever reason, like many, I struggle with being put on the clock during a test and either end up rushing and making mistakes/breaking tools or my perfectionist side comes out and I spend too much time trying to make everything perfect. While I did pick up some good tricks, the most helpful part of the clinic was found in the instructors helping me to slow down and in giving me the confidence that I can pass the test.

Moving forward I will be continuing to practice timing myself building shoes and hopefully making a couple practice runs on horses. There will also be a fair amount of reading and studying as the written test is fairly comprehensive. I am planning to take at least the written test, if not the whole thing before the end of June with a goal of having my CJF by the end of the year.

Shape of the Horse’s Foot

Last week we posted a photo to our Facebook page asking owners if they could identify which shoe goes on which foot (right front, left hind, etc). For some, this was a guessing game; however, if we consider the anatomy and conformation of most horses it is rather easy to tell the shoes apart.

First, let’s look at the form and function of the feet divided into pairs. The front feet take more of the weight, due to the head and neck extending past them. Whereas the hind limbs are responsible for the propulsion of the horse.

Front Foot
Hind Foot

While there are variations, generally speaking the front feet will have a fairly round shape whereas the hinds will have more of a spade shape with a pointed toe and well defined quarters.

As we begin to then look at right versus left, we will find that the vast majority of feet are not symmetrical. The majority of horses will bear more weight on the medial (the side of the body towards the midline of the body) wall of the hoof and so that wall becomes straighter than the lateral (the side of the body away from the middle) side when viewed from the front. The medial side will also have less length to its circumference than the lateral side when measured from the center of the toe to the heel. We can see this even when we look at the coffin bone which gives the hoof its shape. Generally the hoof wall will also be thicker on the lateral side than the medial side as well.

Of course not every horse has read the textbook so there are some exceptions to these points, but it is a good starting place. Next time you pick up your horses feet be sure to notice the difference in shape from front to back and left to right. As for telling shoes apart, if you can’t tell left and right from the shape you can notice the mark that farriers put on the lateral side of the shoe.

Hoof Care While Showing – Owners

This is the second in a two part series on hoof care for shows. Last month, we talked to show organizers about arena surfaces and hiring a show farrier. For this month’s blog, we will be discussing hoof care as it relates to showing for owners.

As you begin to schedule shows and clinics to be attended, hoof care should also be planned. There are a couple reasons for this. First, by sharing your show schedule, your horse’s hoof care can be scheduled around the show season to keep their feet in optimum condition. Second, due to different surfaces at each show, shoe selection is critical for optimum performance as well as soundness.

To be able to understand why scheduling ahead is important, we need to remember some basic anatomy and function of the horse’s foot. As the hoof grows, it does not simply grow in length but rather it also distorts, growing forward. As the hoof distorts, the force on the parts of the hoof itself changes as does the strain on each ligament and tendon. In order for the horse to perform comfortably and at his best, we need to keep undesirable stress and forces to a minimum. By keeping the horse on an appropriate schedule, no more than 5 weeks in most cases, and trimming or shoeing at an appropriate time in relation to an upcoming show or clinic, we are able to help the horse perform at their best while minimizing the risk of injury.

Knowing what type of footing you will be competing on, and letting your farrier know, is extremely important to be able to help your horse perform at its best. You might have to do a little research on their website or make a call. With the modern surfaces that are present at many showgrounds now, that will also change what shoe we select based on where the horse is going. The synthetic surfaces we are seeing in many dressage and jumping arenas are extremely sticky, and if we don´t change the shoes to something with less traction, the horse is at risk for suspensory issues due to the foot not being able to slide as it contacts the ground thus taking a tremendous amount of shock.  

Whether you will be showing, going to clinics, or heading out on the trails, if you are traveling with your horse to an event that is important to you, talk to your farrier well ahead of time. By setting appointments in advance you will be sure that you and your horse are ready to go, at least as far as hoof care. If you are at a show and loose a shoe or have an issue, stop by and see the show farrier, they will get you taken care of. If your farrier is at a show you are competing in, stop by and say hi, hopefully we will even get to watch you compete.

Hoof Care While Showing – Show Organizers

This blog post and the next will focus on hoof care as it relates to showing horses. Today, we will be addressing show organizers and next month we will focus on horse owners. For show organizers, two important considerations to keep in mind while planning are the arenas being utilized and the on-site farrier. Both of these, the type and maintenance of the arena and the competency and readiness of the farrier, can have a major impact on the satisfaction and turn out of show attendees.

Arena

The arena composition will depend on the competition. The arena will have a direct impact on each horse and rider. Maintenance of the footing should keep the entire surface consistent for each competitor throughout the entire show. One thing to be noted is that the newer synthetic footings are extremely hard on horses. It tends to be rather “sticky” causing an increase in shock to the leg.

On-site Show Farrier

The type of show will determine whether or not a farrier on hand is wise or even necessary. For example, three day eventing should always have a farrier on-site due to the high risk of a lost shoe and the possibility of a premature end of the competition if the rider is not able to locate a farrier in time, decreasing their chances of returning the following year. By providing an on-site farrier, show organizers can assure that riders will not have the added stress of trying to find a farrier.

On-call Show Farrier

Some disciplines have a low incidence of pulled shoes and thus may not need a farrier on-site for the entire show. As a show organizer, having an agreement with a local farrier to be “on-call” can be great help to your attendees so they will not have to make calls to find someone available. We receive multiple calls a year from showgrounds hours away with someone needing a shoe back on to continue showing. Unfortunately, many time it does not work out for that rider to find a farrier close enough.

Selecting a Show Farrier

There are three main options when choosing a farrier for a show. A younger, less experienced farrier may be cheaper and have greater availability, but may not have the skill or inventory required to deal with every case that may be presented at the show. Using a local farrier that specializes in the discipline is a great option, but it is necessary to book them out several months in advance due to most farriers booking clients several weeks out. There are also farriers that specialize in working at shows. Regardless of the farrier selected, riders are bringing horses, each with a different regular farrier, and the show farrier must be able to work with each horse and style presented. It is also vital to station the farrier in an area that is safe and easily accessible.

Giving Back

At Dixie’s Farrier Service, we are committed to living out our core values. In doing so, we are driven to give back to our community, both the horse world as well as the general community.

In the horse community, we are happy to offer multiple free education events each year. We have presented at various regional and international conferences, and this past December, we gave a demonstration for a pony club. We sponsor and volunteer for various organizations such as the Indiana Eventing Association. In addition, we take care of the hoof care needs for a couple therapeutic riding centers at a reduced cost.

We don’t just help the equine community however, we also give back to the community as a whole. This year we have donated several items to various benefit auctions and tried to raise awareness for days such as National Human Trafficking Day and National Adoption Day. We have purchased and collected items for Outreach Inc and will be donating to them in a couple weeks – contact us if you would also like to donate.  

For 2019, we already have several things planned, including a food drive for a local food pantry. Will you join us in making this coming year even better by giving to others? You are free to join us in the various ways we will volunteer and give this year, or you can step out on your own to help those around you.

Ideas include:

  • Volunteering for a local non-profit
  • Donating money or items from your decluttering to a non-profit
  • Being hospitable, spend time with someone that is alone or invite someone to your house to share a meal that may not be able to return the favor

What is Good Work?

We all want our horse’s hooves taken good care of, but what makes it a good job? While the question of exactly what is correct for each horse is far too complex to answer in a blog, I will try to give a general overview of things to look for. For this example I will use the case of a horse with shoes but the principles are the same for a trimmed foot.

Finish

We will begin at the end of the job rather than the beginning since that is what most horse owners see. Nails should be placed ⅓ to ⅔ of the way up the hoof wall. Clinches should be small, square, smooth, and set into the hoof wall. There should not be rasp marks in the hoof wall, rather the wall should be smooth.

Shoe fit

If shoes are used they should be fit to the hoof, not the hoof fit to the shoe. There should be some shoe hanging out from the foot but not an excessive amount. Preferably shoes will be hot fit to the horse rather than being set cold.

Trim

The foot should be smooth and level with no rough spots or divots from the rasp or nippers. The angle of the hoof should match the pastern. It should be noted here that there is no one angle for any breed or type of horse, just because an angle looks low or high compared to another horse does not mean it is wrong. Each horse and each foot is unique. There should not be too much foot to take off, if more than ⅜ of an inch needs to be taken off of the foot then the horse should be on a shorter schedule. Trimming is not about taking length from the foot, but rather about managing distortion and imbalance.

We must remember that there are exceptions to what has been written here. While every horse should receive excellent hoof care, the quality of the work will suffer when the horse is on too long of a schedule, is ill-behaved, or is in poor conditions during shoeing (i.e. mud). The best hoof care plan of all is to hire the best farrier that you can and keep the horses on a good schedule (4-6 weeks).  

Hoof Care in the Winter

As the weather is cooling off and shows and trail rides are winding down for the year, we have to consider what care is needed for horses’ hooves. For most horses, hoof care during the fall and winter will look about the same as it does the rest of the year, but for others, it will be very different. So how do you know what your horse needs? First, as always, make sure you have a knowledgeable hoof-care professional that you trust. Some of the considerations that have to be taken into account for this seasons are scheduling, traction, snow, workload, and nutrition.

It is a commonly held belief that horses don’t need to be on the same schedule during the winter as during the warmer months due to hooves not growing as quickly. This is only partially true, and in many cases not true at all. It has been shown that in extreme cold, hoof growth does slow (however most of these studies were done in sheep). Here in Indiana we do not typically see the extreme cold (though we can) that leads to slower growth.

For traction considerations it depends on if you will riding in the snow or taking the winter off. If you are riding then it may be helpful, and safer, to have studs put in the shoes to give better grip on ice. Even if you are not riding, what kind of surface is your horse on through the winter? Trying to negotiate icy pastures can lead to pulled or sore tendons, ligaments, or muscles. Adding traction to a horse that already has to have shoes is a good way to help prevent these issues and give him more confidence moving around in the field.

Generally snow does not cause an issue for horses that are able to go barefoot, however for a horse with shoes on, the snow and ice can pack into hooves making it difficult to walk safely on hard ground. By using snow pads we can prevent snowballs from forming, thus making the horse safer and less prone to injury as well as saving you from having to pick snow out of their hooves.

Nutrition is another determining factor in hoof growth. For a horse whose diet is steady throughout the year, hoof growth most likely will not slow down during the winter. Horses that have a very different diet in the winter, hoof growth could possibly slow down.  

For horses that are not working during the winter and have solid hoof wall and thick soles they will most likely be fine barefoot during the winter. For those with lesser quality feet or that will still be working hard they may still need shoes to protect their feet or add traction. Workload is also a major determining factor in hoof growth, those that go from lots of work in the summer to very little during the winter may be able to go a week longer than normal and still maintain a healthy foot. Discuss with your farrier what will be appropriate based on what your horse will be doing.

Boundaries as an Entrepreneur

As we look back on the anniversary of the founding of Dixie’s Farrier Service, the past 10 years have gone by extremely fast. With that in mind, it is easy to get swept up in the daily routine of running a business, which is why setting boundaries is vital.  

For many of us, boundaries can be difficult. As entrepreneurs or small business owners (or really anyone), it can be tempting to pour everything we have into our company to make it work, especially in the beginning. We are tempted to work long hours for little pay and sacrifice much in order to succeed.

In thinking about what boundaries to set we must keep in mind not just the number of hours we work each week, which is a very important boundary to set, but also where and when we work. It is crucial to draw a line between time for work and time for home. Below are a few suggestions for setting boundaries.

  • If possible, set hours for work and stick to them. Don’t answer calls, respond to emails, or work on projects outside of work hours.
  • Set aside work time for paperwork. As a farrier, it is tempting to schedule all of our business hours for shoeing horses, however there is much more that needs to be done for the business as well.
  • Set aside not only time, but also a place. Resist the urge to work at the dining room table, leave work at work and don’t bring it into the home. This includes if you use a home office, leave work in that one dedicated space.
  • Resist the temptation to let company finances and personal finances blur. Keep separate accounts and make sure the company pays you a regular wage.  
  • When you are outside of work hours, don’t let work bleed into family life. Focus on the part of life you are in and be fully present with those around you.

Hopefully some of these tips help as you navigate the tricky waters of running a small business.

Expanding the Company Considerations

Over the past couple of months, the dream of a multi-farrier practice has started looking more like a reality with the schedule full several weeks out and days pushing the maximum of what I can do on my own. It has come into our consideration of hiring help, however; this isn’t a simple or quick decision to make. What does it look like to hire employees as a small business owner? What considerations are there?

Job description, pay, insurance, who to hire, how much help will they be, will the company continue to grow, can the company financially support another person, is it time to expand, taxes, benefits, qualifications for applicant. These are just a few of the many considerations that we face.

Some thoughts and tips for any small business owner looking to expand (or not).

  • Make sure your company has the proper legal structure well before you plan to hire.
  • Talk to your CPA about considerations they would advise.
  • Speak with other successful businessmen, such as the mentors at score.org, about advice they have.
  • Find and secure Workman’s Comp insurance before you need to hire.
  • Know and write down the mission and vision of your company.
  • Make sure you have established the core values of your company and work hard to establish the kind of culture you want your company to have with each employee.
  • Know what the expectations for the position are and more importantly, write them down. Yes, write an actual job description.
  • Write a policy and procedure manual. (Yep, they are boring, and as a small business owner that is probably one of the things you wanted to get away from, but they are important)

We will see what the future holds for Dixie’s, but we have seen some great things over the past year and look forward to serving our clients well in the future.

When To Say No…

As farriers, we have a difficult and dangerous job – on a good day. Ideally, horses will be trained to stand for the farrier and vet and won’t cause any issues. Unfortunately, we see horses all the time that do not stand or show behaviors that are less than ideal. At best, this can lead to us being sore or having minor injuries. While we are happy to work with horses whose behavior is less than ideal, as long as owners are willing to work to correct the behavior, there comes a point when working on a horse is simply not worth the risk. There are also times that it is best to not work for a particular client. So how as farriers should we decide when to not work on a horse or with a client? While that answer will vary widely with each farrier, these are some general thoughts I would suggest.

First, when to walk away from a horse. If a horse is simply too dangerous to work on, it is time to walk away. When a horse blows up each time the farrier picks up a foot or is aggressive to the farrier (i.e. purposely kicking out) then it is time for something to change. Preferably the owner/trainer is able to step in and make the horse safe. While not always the best option, having a veterinarian come to sedate the horse is a possibility. Hopefully one of these options is available and works, if not, it may be time to walk away. Working on one particularly dangerous horse is not worth risking the farrier’s health and career. It may also be in the best interest of the farrier to not work on a particular horse when it becomes an ethical issue. While it doesn’t happen very often, there are times a farrier is asked to trim or shoe in a particular way that would be harmful to the horse; if the owner/trainer refuses to let the farrier do what he or she knows is right for the horse then it is probably time to walk away.

When should we walk away from a client in general? If the farrier refuses to work on a particular horse, a client will generally choose to find a new farrier; however, that is not always the case. A farrier may choose not to service a client for reasons other than horse behavior as well. If a client habitually cancels appointments at the last minute or simply does not show up to several appointments, it may be time to ask them to find a new farrier. Also, if an owner does not pay for services provided, it may be time to ask them to find another farrier. There could be other reasons as well depending on the individual farrier and their policies. It may be wise to step back from particular clients for purely economic reasons, if a client is outside of the service area for a farrier, it may not be economically viable to continue going to that stop. On a more positive note, it is a wise idea to suggest an owner to find a new farrier if the hoof care needed is simply beyond our current capabilities, for instance, at Dixie’s we currently do not plate race horses or apply packages to gaited show horses as those are specialties best left to someone better trained in those areas.    

When choosing to no longer work for a client, there are certain things we as farriers should or should not do regardless of the reason. First, we should respectfully let them know. It is unwise to simply not show up or call. It is rude and it will leave a poor impression of you and your company. What should be done is a phone call with the owner explaining why you are unable to continue working either with them or with the particular horse. During that conversation or as a follow up after, assistance of some kind should be given with finding a new farrier even if it is simply a link to an association website. As much as possible we should leave the client in the most respectful and professional manner possible.

Our Marketing Director

Hey folks! Kia here. I thought I’d give Cody a break from procrastinating on blog posts and post one myself. Most clients don’t get to interact with me in-person unless I’m riding along with Cody during an appointment or event on the rare occasion. I work on the keyboard, staring at a screen, instead of beneath the horse, but just like Cody, I enjoy my job. Instead of forging metal and studying anatomy and physics, I have fun reaching patrons worldwide, problem-solving ways to improve the customer experience, and creating new material to publish. I am a storyteller.

I came to Dixie’s Farrier Service with very little knowledge of marketing and farriery. My experience only included promoting my own small business, being on various social media platforms, and having a couple different websites years ago. Cody approached me at the end of 2016 about the potential possibility of helping him, making no promises or guarantees, and the idea got pushed out of my mind by the busyness of life until he came back again at the beginning of 2017 with a job offer. I happily accepted the job as a social media manager and started my journey with DFS.

The first thing I did was learn about the company, their mission, vision, and goals and asked questions to clarify where they were currently and where they wanted to be. Next, I did a complete overhaul of all their social media accounts – cleaning up content (which I can advise to everyone reading this, scroll back through your accounts a few years and don’t be afraid to delete irrelevant posts or junk that is taking up space), updating information, and thinking of new ways to get the company out there and then started rewriting and redesigning their website. From there, I helped create a client packet, found sponsorships, started a newsletter, and most recently assisted getting the online shop set up. Cody and I manage the platforms together, but most of the time, Cody is the one who responds to messages and comments. However, if anyone needs to get a hold of me, they are free to email me (my email can be found on our website) or send a DM through one of our many platforms.

Here at DFS, we encourage continuing education. While Cody is off at a farrier workshop learning, I also find ways to educate myself further in both marketing and farriery, most often through webinars and books. Even this past winter while I was in college, I found an elective lecture to attend on Copyright. (Google is also a big help.)

I have loved seeing my ideas embraced and my work published and created. I can’t wait to see what the Lord has planned next for this company. In the future, I will write a blog post about tips on marketing your own business. If you have any marketing questions that want to be answered in that post, email me!

Q & A

How long have you been shoeing?

Dixie’s Farrier Service was started in September of 2008. I began pursuing shoeing late in 2006.

Why hot fit?

There are several reasons for fitting shoes hot. First, it gives us a more exact fit than cold shoeing. In addition, hot fitting will kill the bacteria and fungi that are on the bottom of the horse’s foot, as well as seal the horn tubules which is extremely important in wet climates like Indiana. Clips should also be fit hot as it is difficult to get a good clip fit cold. There are also benefits to hot fitting from a farrier’s perspective, shaping shoes hot is easier on our hands and arms and quieter than cold shoeing, thus saving our hearing.

Why handmades?

There are many good machine made shoes on the market now and I do use some of them; however, there are several benefits to using or being able to use handmades. We can build a shoe that is the best for the individual horse instead of compromising or relying on a manufacturer to make what the individual horse needs. In addition by keeping a small inventory of shoes and making the rest, I am able to keep inventory in the trailer to a minimum while still being able to have the shoe that is right for each horse, this means that overhead costs are kept low and we are able to pass that savings on to the costumer.

How long do you plan to do this?

The idea right now is to continue working as a farrier until I retire. We will see what God has in store for me as He has changed my plans many times before, but the goal is for Dixie’s to become a multi-farrier practice and to still be operating even after I retire.

How often should I schedule?

Each horse should be evaluated by the farrier to determine the best schedule for that horse but in general I have found that anything beyond 6 weeks you start to just attempt to do damage control. 5 weeks seems to be about right for most horses. Check out our previous post on scheduling here.

What is your favorite kind of horse to shoe?

The ones that stand still. No really, I enjoy working with most breeds and disciplines, I started this company with the idea that every horse, no matter if it is a top competitor at the Kentucky 3 day or a backyard companion, needs and deserves the same quality care. With that said, I especially love the challenge of eventers and jumpers. Keeping their feet together while under hard work combined with having to shoe to meet the needs of various arena footings and events can be difficult but rewarding.  

Doesn’t your back hurt?

Not typically. If I have a horse that pulls and tugs a lot or if I try to do too much in one day then yes, my body, including my back, will be pretty tired and sore but generally I don’t have any trouble. For me it is more my wrists and hands that have a harder time. Check out the earlier post on staying comfortable here.

Spring

Much to the dismay and frustration of my wonderful marketing director, Kia, I am just sitting down to write this blog on the 30th of April, its due date. It is currently sunny and 60 degrees with a high today of 70. Perfect weather. Definitely not the kind of day to sit in an office. I don’t think there are bad days to be a farrier. There are frustrations of course, every job is going to have its downsides, like paperwork, but the combination of science and art coupled with being outside working with horses in a different place everyday makes this job well worth it.

Monday mornings are set aside for office work. Appointment reminders are sent out, bills are paid, supplies ordered, bookkeeping done, shoes are built for the week ahead, the trailer is cleaned out if it wasn’t on Friday, and shoeing starts at noon. On this particular Monday I have already been out to get a shoe put back on a horse that lost it over the weekend and now I am sitting on the tailgate of the truck enjoying the sun while getting my office work done. Soon I will be on my way to the next stop where I have a new horse to see. Days like this are some of my favorite, a mix of business work, specialty shoeing, simple trims, miles behind the wheel of the truck, and a beautiful day.

In 2006, it was the combination of horses, anatomy, physics, working in a different place everyday and a healthy dose of being pushed by the farrier at one of the two barns I was managing that got me interested in this trade.

Now that the sun is setting, I am finishing up this blog then heading to the shop to build shoes trying to get ready for a forging contest this weekend. Again, there may be difficult parts to the job or parts I am not as good at, like writing, or speaking, or getting my blog turned in on time, however it is definitely worth the hard parts to get to do this job. Hopefully you also already have a job you enjoy, and if you are considering becoming a farrier ask to get in the truck with someone for a few days, it is well worth learning what this trade is all about.

Small Business Budgeting

Running a small business is a lot like riding horses. Simple, but not easy.

Ok so actually the major concept of each of those is simple but when you look at the details neither is simple or easy. One part of running a small business that eludes many, including farriers, is budgeting. Talking to other small business owners and especially farriers over the past 10 years I have been surprised at how many do not know how much they actually make. Many I talk to seem to think they make what they charge which is not true. So how do we figure out a budget for a small business? Including what to charge for each service or product offered, how much we plan to spend on supplies and overhead and how much we pay ourselves and employees.

First we have to understand that there are different categories and different ways at looking at costs. We can look at fixed costs vs variable costs, or job costs vs overhead. At Dixie’s we look at our budget both ways depending on what information we need. For the purpose of this blog we will look today at job costs vs overhead.

For many people when they look at what it costs to shoe a horse they only think of job costs. How much do the shoes and nails cost, the actual supplies they see being used up in the process. There is however far more to it. Let’s look at the cost of shoeing one horse for eventing.

 

We will look at some of the obvious categories first then we will look at the hidden costs.

These are the costs most people see.

Job supplies:

4 Shoes

Nails

Propane to heat the shoes

Salary for the 1-2 hours it takes to shoe the horse.

Fuel to get to the barn

 

So what is there that we are not seeing?

Overhead costs:

Cell phone

Liability insurance

Health insurance

Workman’s comp

Truck purchase/replacement

Truck maintenance

Trailer/truck body purchase/replacement

Trailer/truck body maintenance

Plates for truck and trailer

Fees for accepting credit cards

Business registration fees

Marketing costs (includes but not limited to: business cards, website)

Continuing education

Tools

Accounting

Business taxes

Office supplies

Staff salary for drive time, ordering supplies, office work etc..

This is of course just the major categories each could be broken down further. If you run a small business I would highly suggest looking at your budget and making sure that you are accounting for everything that you need to, Score.org can be a great resource. If you don’t run a business this may give you a small glimpse into what we do as small business owners.

Staying Comfortable

There are many different aspects of this trade that we have to work on as farriers. Business skills including accounting, marketing, communication, customer service, inventory management, etc. Anatomy and pathology, forging skills, trimming techniques, nailing, finishing, and horsemanship.

 

Each farrier has a different set of skills and level of skill in each of these areas yet we should all be striving to improve in each area. Something that is often overlooked in the area of horsemanship is keeping the horse comfortable. A person may be extremely skilled in handling and riding horses but if we put the horse in an awkward or uncomfortable position when we are under them we will not have nearly the same success. On the other hand a horse that is generally difficult to work on can become much more cooperative if we are able to keep the comfortable. A major part of being able to keep a horse comfortable is being able to get into some awkward positions ourselves.

 

As farriers if we are uncomfortable then we will most likely make the horse uncomfortable as well. There are 4 things we should consider when trying to keep ourselves and the horse comfortable: technique, strength, flexibility, and workload.

 

First, we need to think about our technique and form while under horses. This is broken into two parts, how we keep the horse positioned so it is comfortable as well as our form so that we stay comfortable and avoid injury. We should think about the individual horse’s range of motion and and comfort level. This will typically mean keeping the front leg under the horse rather than off to the side and keeping the hind limb straight back and as low as possible, especially on horses dealing with arthritis or other range of motion issues. For our own form we need to remember to squat down bending at our hips and knees while keeping a flat back and engaging core muscles.

 

The strength needed for staying comfortable as a farrier does not mean we need to be big or workout like a bodybuilder, really those of us that are on the smaller side tend to have an advantage under the average horse. Rather, as farriers we need to be focused on toning the muscle we have.

 

A major part of strength and staying comfortable that we often overlook is flexibility. By taking the time to stretch on a regular basis and stay as flexible as possible we will be able to stay more comfortable in the awkward positions required to get under horses but we will also increase the efficiency of our muscles giving us more strength for the same muscle mass.

 

Our daily workload is the final piece of the puzzle in staying comfortable. While it is possible to work on a lot of horses in a day, it is best to set a reasonable limit and then stick to it. With the limit I have set for myself I know that I can do the same quality work on the last horse of the day as I did on the first. There are days that it takes all day and there are days I might reach the same limit by 2:00 in the afternoon. On the days that everything goes quickly it might be tempting to get under more horses simply because there is time left in the day but by staying true to the limit set I can take the time instead and do something else which brings its own benefits.

 

As for workout plans and staying in shape for farriers there are several systems already out there that will work well. P90X is one that will incorporate everything that is needed just don’t skip the yoga day.