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.