© Baron Tayler
Published in ANVIL Magazine, May 1990
You all don't know how lucky you are to be reading articles in a fine web site like the one you're looking at right now. Most of the farrier and blacksmith magazines treat you like your shoe size is your IQ. You know the ones I mean. They have headlines screaming from the slick four-color cover, like, "Elvis Appeared in My Barn and Shod My Appaloosa With Eggbut Bar Shoes," or, "Shirley McLaine Tells All: I Was A Shetland Pony In A Former Life!" Come on, do we really look that stupid? Give us some credit.
But this web site has your best interests at heart, and the site manager has been pleading with me for years to reveal my secret to making big profits in the shoeing biz. I've held out, 'cause as soon as I reveal it, it won't be a secret anymore. But what the heck. I've made my money, I'm comfortable, and so I've decided out of the goodness of my heart to tell you "THE SECRET."
Put yourself in this picture: It's 98 degrees in the shade, humidity at 80%, the air conditioning in your 1977 pickup doesn't work and it wouldn't make a difference if it did, because the passenger side window is missing. The odometer's just rolled over 300,000 miles, fourth gear is fixing to give up the ghost, muffler is shot, and the steering has two turns of play in it. The only thing that works correctly in your truck are the GE tools in your farrier box. Thank goodness for that.
You've just driven up to a large stable where you're going to meet a new customer. After unloading all the equipment for the fifth time today, you take a breather and wonder what in the world ever made you decide to become a farrier. Why not something simple like a mercenary? Then your new customer drives up in a spanking, brand-new-top-of-the-line Mercedes, and parks it next to your truck. The Mercedes hub caps cost more than you'll make all month. Even the dust around the stable doesn't dare settle on this machine.
While you're still calculating how many decades it would take you to save up for one of these babies, out steps your new customer, looking totally refreshed from her air-conditioned, 24-speaker stereo system ride. Everything this woman is wearing is custom made. The trunk automatically opens, and she reaches in to pull out a brand new saddle, the likes of which you've only read about in those fancy riding magazines. To top it all off, when she unlocks her stable locker and opens it, there's enough merchandise in there to stock a moderate size tack shop.
While you're still in a daze, you and the customer mosey out to the pasture and get her horse. It's nothing great to look at, even sort of plain. And as the two of you walk back to the stable, the more this woman talks, the more you come to the realization that your three-year-old daughter has a greater knowledge of horses than your new customer.
Mentally, this is the breaking point for you. You're asking yourself, "Why is it that I'm working my butt off seven days a week and barely meeting expenses, and this know-nothing has it all?"
If this situation sounds familiar to you, don't feel alone. It's happened to us all, time and again. And about 18 years ago, after it had happened to me once too often, I decided that if our wonderful government could rationalize a "progressive" tax system, (i.e.: Those who make more pay more), I could rationalize a "progressive" pricing system. And that's when I developed the system called "THE SECRET."
Here's how it works. But before I actually tell you the nuts and bolts, it's important for you to understand that you must be very professional and serious when dealing with the customer. I don't mean morbid or unfriendly, just professional, and above all, the impression must be that you have the horse's interests at heart above all else. If the customer gets wind that you're putting on an act, the manure's gonna hit the fan!
Anyway, back to how THE SECRET works. Let's pick up with your new customer right where we left off. You're back at the stable now, and you're doing the pre-shoeing inspection. The customer leads the horse away from you, towards you, across and back. Now is when we start using THE SECRET. After the customer has stopped leading the horse, walk about 2O feet to the side, squat down on the balls of your feet like you're checking the pastern hoof wall angles, and stay there about a minute. During this minute, keep looking at the horse, and saying to yourself, "Uh-huh, uh-huh,...." It's very important that you say these "uh-huhs" just loud enough for the owner to hear. And then, just as you start to rise, say to yourself, at the same volume, "Hmmmmmmmmmm." This Hmmmmmmmmmm must be said in a very serious tone, with a slight look of concern on your face. It may help for you to practice this maneuver in front of a mirror a few times before actually using it, as it's crucial for the seriousness of the Hmmmmmm to come across to the customer.
If this last move is executed correctly, the customer will immediately ask you what's wrong. Make eye contact (with the customer, not the horse) and say "Oh, it's probably nothing," with a look that betrays some concern. (Bringing your eyebrows together a bit will help.) Walk around to the other side of the horse, crouch down for about five seconds, and again say "Hmmm" as you rise. This time the customer will ask you again if anything's wrong, but there will be some concern in his or her voice.
Don't look at the customer! Keep your eyes riveted on the horse, like you're really looking for something. Walk over to the horse, and start running your hands slowly over its body. While you are doing this, ask the customer, "Have you noticed your horse bobbing his head more than usual lately?" Now, this is one of the dumbest questions in the world, ranking up there with "Do chicken have teeth?" But the customer, now in the frame of mind that there must be something wrong with the horse (from the subtle hints you've been dropping) will think for a moment and almost always answer, "You know, come to think of it he has been bobbing his head lately. Why do you ask?" DO NOT ANSWER! Keep feeling the horse, and say, "Has his trot been a bit rough recently?" Once again, but faster this time, the customer usually answers, "Yeah, it has been, like he's a little off. What's the matter? Is something wrong?"
The temptation here is to jump the gun and rush your presentation, but don't do it. You're about to dangle the hook. Once again, without answering the question, back up from the horse and crouch down. It helps to do something showing concern, like rubbing your chin thoughtfully. Then say slowly, "Well, I'm not sure.... But, what the heck, it might be." Usually at this point the customer will say, "Might be what? What?" (You must be careful to judge each customer separately as to their reactions. Although you want the customer to take the hook, you don't want to panic him or her!)
OK fellow farriers, now you present them with the hook! Slowly walk to the front of the horse, and gently place your hand between its ears. Pinch the skin a little, and generally act like you're making some sort of determination from the action you are performing. Then say, "Yup, that's what it is. A headache." (You have now presented the hook.)
The customer will probably look a little puzzled for a second, and say, "A headache? Do horses get headaches?" You immediately answer (while keeping your hand between the horse's ears), "Sure they do. They're under a lot of stress you know. Maybe one of the other horses is bothering him. Here, feel for yourself." Take your hand away, and let the customer place his hand between the ears. Just as the customer's hand reaches the skin, say, "Feel how tight the skin is? When a horse gets nervous, the skin between the ears gets tight and gives him a headache!"
THIS IS THE MOMENT OF TRUTH! If the customer says, "Gee, you know you're right. I never noticed it before," the hook has been swallowed, line and sinker too! This customer wouldn't know the difference between shoeing stocks and IBM stock. You may now charge the customer by your "progressive" pricing system. (On the other hand, if the customer disagrees with you or voices serious doubts, go ahead and stick to your regular prices. The only damage you've incurred is the three or four minutes it took to enact "THE SECRET.")
I'm telling you, folks, if it's profits you want, "THE SECRET" works. Next time you see some person with more money than brains, and Lord knows there're plenty of them who own horses, (thank goodness for that!), try it out. You won't be disappointed. If it's good enough for the government, it should be good enough for you. Matter of fact, I'd even call it a patriotic duty.
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