by F. Thomas Breningstall
|Published in the Jan - Feb 2002 Issue of Anvil Magazine
Most of us farriers, in order to make a living, work on some horses that are under our standard of abilities. We know we have the qualifications and reputation to do the top horses in our chosen field of horseshoeing, but then again there is that "less-important" horse, so to speak, that always seems to be around.
Most equestrian centers that have top horses also have lesser horses that need trimming or "sometime" shoeing. Some of these lesser horses are older ones that are turned out as companions to the top horses. Some have had injuries or illness that has put them out of work. Sometimes these companion horses are not ill enough to be put down but aren't healthy enough to work, either. No matter-the feet of a companion horse grow just as fast as the top horses' feet. That hoof growth is about a year from coronary band to the ground, with or without shoes.
The point is that if you trim four to six companion horses in an hour, you are more likely to make the same or more money than you would if you had shod one horse in that same hour. If you count in the cost of fuel for your forge, the cost of shoes and nails, and the wear and tear on your equipment and your body, these "lesser" horses then don't look so bad, after all.
I haven't taken on new customers as a general practice in a long time. Some of the barns and trainers take on new horses as others leave, but the number of horses stays about the same. I recall when I began as a horseshoer back in the `70s I took all the horses I could get-even the one-horse accounts that no other farrier would take. I felt that to obtain the education I needed, to be a good farrier and to learn as much as I could, I needed to get under as many horses as people would let me. I still do some of those one- horse accounts from the old days, just out of loyalty. But most of those one-horse accounts have grown into five, ten or more horse accounts. And I'm shoeing for the second and third generation of horse owners in the same family, all because I went out and did the one-horse accounts. As my customers buy additional horses and have foals every year, the number of horses in my practice just keeps growing. I take care of many older horses, because I have a soft spot in my heart for them. And they have made me money over the years as they have gotten older. The only problem is that I have also gotten older! Some of these older horses can't pick up their feet very high anymore, and it's getting more difficult for this old farrier to get down as far as I once could. But we do what we need to do and we get the job done.
The point I'm making is there are horses out there that need care and no matter what your skill level, the most important part of your work is the horse-from that eight- year old world champion to the 30-year old brood mare. The care each horse gets should be the best hoof care you are able to give. It is the horse's hoof care needs that count and not the farrier's "over-qualifications."