American Farrier's Journal | 2009
A successful farrier builds and maintains strong and healthy relationships
with Veterinarians, trainers and other farriers.
Farriers have a tendency to live and work in a cave. "The going-it-alone"
mentality may cause you to forget the veterinarians, trainers, and other
farriers who help keep your business running smoothly. Not only should you
make it a point to strengthen these critical relationships, you should make it
a top priority.
Here's the bottom line: no matter how determined, hardworking, and talented
you may be, you simply can't be a successful farrier all by yourself. Never
forgetting that fact is critical to your success.
Here are some common mistakes that virtually guarantee you won't develop
healthy business relationship.
- Talking only about you. Do not dominate the conversations with
stories and comments about you and what you have done in life or in
the farrier profession. Avoid conversations about conflicts you have
had with other veterinarians, trainers or farriers.
- Revealing too much. Avoid personal stories or comments. No one
really wants to hear about your ex or your health troubles. These types
of personal problems do no enhance the business relationship. Stay
positive and upbeat, it's contagious. Other professionals gravitate
toward positive and happy people.
- Not listening. If you are dominating the conversation then you are
not listening. This is particularly important if the veterinarian or
trainer is attempting to discuss a problem or treatment options for a
particular horse. Resist the desire to jump into the middle of a
sentence with a quick fix or an acknowledgment of the problem
before the other professional finishes. Let the other person finish
speaking before you begin your comments.
- Working through a conversation. Everyone is busy and running a
little behind. But force yourself to stop whatever you are doing, make
eye contact and let the other person know that you are interested in
them and their opinions. Nothing says, "I don't care what you are
saying" more than turning your back on them and begin setting up or
dropping your head to continue the trim or shoeing.
- Not looking the best you can. Shoeing horses means that you are
never clean. As the saying goes, "You know you are a horseshoer
when you wash your hands before going to the bathroom." But that
does not give you an excuse to wear that favorite ball cap until it rots
off your head. Nor does it give you and excuse to wear wrinkled or
torn clothes that say you don't care about yourself so you probably
don't care about others. Have a change of clothes (or at least a clean
shirt) in your truck, you'll be surprise how often they come in handy.
- Trying to be cool or aloof. This kind of behavior screams insecurity.
Just be you, with small modifications as the situation dictates.
Remember how you felt when another professional dismissed you and
your opinions and make sure that you don't present that image to
- Be the other person. If you admire the veterinarian, trainer or farrier
and want them to be part of your professional circle then you must be
proud to be associated with them. Make sure that they are proud to be
associated with you as well.
- Communication. Always return every email, phone call and/or
correspondence as soon as humanly possible, even if you can't always
provide him or her with what they want. This means evenings and
days off. Once they know that you care about them, their business
and their problems you are on the way to establishing that
- Value-add. If you borrow a friend's car or truck it should be returned
cleaned with a full tank of gas, regardless of how dirty it was or how
empty the gas tank was when you borrowed it. Now the friend
benefits from the favor as well as you. Make sure that your
relationships with other farriers, veterinarians and trainers is not one
sided. Make sure they are getting as much out of the relationship as
you are. A strong business network is based on respect, trust and
value-add. Unfortunately, too many people forget this last step.
Gaining other's confidence and trust in you and your shoeing is key to
developing good business relationships. Confidence and trust comes for
more that just doing a good job mechanically on the horse's foot. You must
develop deeper relationships that tell the farrier, vet or trainer that you are
the person they can go to. These relationships always translate into a higher
Farrier /Farrier Relationships.
Mentors. Arguably, the greatest educational resource in our industry is
other farriers. Every farrier, regardless of his or her success, knows other
farriers who have obtained a higher status in some aspect of the
horseshoeing world. It may be in their shoeing for a specific discipline,
their financial success, their morality and ethics, their forge work and so
on, with an inexhaustible list. A successful farrier establishes
relationships with many mentors in an out of the horseshoeing world.
- Take charge of your own mentoring: seek out mentors, they won't
- Beware of choosing mentors only for the power they wield. It's
better to spend time with an individual contributor who possesses a
great deal of wisdom than a big name who does not have time to
truly work with you.
- Make sure that the mentor is looking to improve you and your skills
and not just looking for a subordinate that "worship" them or free
- Build you own mentoring network. When you attend clinics,
seminars or The International Hoof Care Summit do not spend all
your time visiting and talking with those farriers you know well.
For instance, The Summit is an opportunity to meet, literally,
hundreds of farriers from around the world. Introduce yourself,
hand out business cards and get as many business cards as you can.
Write on the back of card the farrier's "specialty", or other
information, so you can recall facts later.
- Treat your mentor relationship with care; don't abuse it by asking
for inappropriate favors or information, and don't take your mentor
for granted. Do not forget the occasional "thank you" or
acknowledgement of the assistance they are providing.
Associates. This is a relationship between two or more people in
which each one of you has an equal status and independence but there
is also an implicit or informal obligation to each other. Respect is at
the heart of building this type of relationships.
- Respect the right to differ. Avoid an attitude of "my way is the
right way, so therefore, all other ways are wrong". When
differences occur and they are viewed this way, a power struggle
ensues. A good business relationship can turn bad, quickly.
- Differing Values. This concept can be a little difficult. While other
people's values need to be respected, conflicting values can be so
different as to prevent this type of relationship from forming
without major conflicts. It is important that you identify your
values, and know what is acceptable in others before entering into
this business relationship.
- These relationships develop into deep personal relationships over
the years, so nurture them by maintaining contact.
Competition. This is a relationship that can get negative and non-
productive if not handled in a professional manner.
- Respect. Anyone that is making a living shoeing horses deserves
your respect. Do not talk down your competition to other farriers,
customers, vets, trainers or anyone. There is room enough out there
for lots of different shoeing styles.
- Refuse to evaluate your competition's work. When customers ask
you to evaluate another farrier's shoeing or trim just tell them that
you don't evaluate competitor's work. If you would like you to
shoe or trim their horse then they can evaluate the differences.
- You can make a competitor an associate by going that extra mile
and make them a friend. Reach your hand out, smile and be polite
every time you see them and you can thaw an icy relationship.
The horse trainer is responsible for training
and conditioning the horse, the equipment used, the stabling environment,
feeding and turnout. The trainer can also act as an agent and interact with
other professionals who work with the horse.
Working with trainers requires a professional farrier with communication
skills. The trainers see and work with the horse, and sometimes the horse
owner, on a daily basis. We, the farrier, see the horse every six to eight
weeks. A good farrier will rely upon the trainer to give detailed history
about movement or lameness issues that can benefit the farrier in decided
how to set up the foot and type of shoeing.
- Communicate. Make the effort to check in with the trainer in your
barns and ask if there is anything that you need to be aware of for
the shoeing and/or trimming of he horses you are scheduled to work
on that day. Be sure to stop by at the end of the day with any
information about any horse under the trainers care. I prefer to
write a note on half page stationary with my name and contact
- Listen to the trainer. Let the trainer air any issues they may have
about the horses you are going to be working on without
interrupting, becoming defensive or argumentative. Everyone
should be working in the interest of the horse and owner.
- Be proactive. Discuss shoeing changes and recommendations to
the trainer before there is a problem. Include them in the decision
making so they can deal with the owner over the long term.
- Acknowledgement. Be sure to acknowledge the accomplishments
of the horse while it is under the trainer. Everyone likes to know
that others think they are doing a good job. Bring a nice bottle of
wine or something to say thank-you to the trainer for working with
you and being the liaison between you and the owner, particularly
with a difficult owner.
In spite of your best efforts conflicts between farriers and trainers are
common and very quickly boil down to a power struggle, with the horse
owner caught in the middle. It is up to us, the farriers, to make this
relationship work. If everything fails then it is best to leave the account
before your reputation takes a hit.
My experiences have been that aggressive trainers are either insecure and/or
have an abrasive personality. There are some things that you should do
when dealing with this type of trainer.
- First and foremost don't take their behavior personally. Most of
them behave in a difficult manner habitually and their attitude is not
directed specifically towards you alone, they treat everyone poorly.
If their tone and actions are beyond your ability or desire to cope,
then politely tell them that you require a professional working
relationship with trainers so that the horse can benefit from
everyone's expertise. Tell them that they have obviously lost their
confidence in your abilities and therefore a new farrier might be a
better solution for the owner and horse.
- Don't try to fight with them. Fighting with them may only
complicate matters further and can pave the way for a bigger
argument. Allow them to run out of steam. If you argue with stupid
people those folks passing by cannot tell which one is which.
- Don't try to win the argument: Do not approach the argument
with the mindset of winning it and proving the other person wrong.
You may prove them wrong but that is unlikely to change their
future behavior. Instead of trying to win the argument, try to work
towards a reasonable solution, which will be in the best interests of
everyone concerned. Remember your goal is simply to assertively
express your own opinion, not try and win a battle of right and
- Leave professionally. When you have had enough you must
remain composed and professional. Do not bad mouth the trainer
to the owner. Just tell them that the relationship with the trainer is
not working out and that, in the interest of their horse, you would
advise they find another farrier, or perhaps the farrier that the
trainer recommends. Be calm, professional and polite. Let them
know that they are free to call you if they need your services again.
For many farriers the
vet/farrier relationship is a sign of success. Most new farriers proudly
relive that first veterinarian recommendation as a rite of passage.
In almost all state the Veterinarian Medical Practice Acts are pretty
specific. If a Veterinarian is involved, he/she is in charge. If you are
given a "shoeing prescription" your options are to follow it or don't
shoe the horse.
To maintain a relationship with a veterinarian you must be proactive
and prepared to make the relationship work. It's really up to you.
- The farrier and the veterinarian are both attempting to do
the same thing, make a living in the horse world. We are
not adversaries so don't start a power struggle.
- Never question or argue with the vet in front of anyone!
If you disagree with the vet's finding then make an
appointment to speak with the vet. Be prepared to state
your case with specific information. Always return phone
calls and/or emails immediately.
- Acknowledge any referrals that the vet makes. Send a
card that thanks them for their confidence in your
business. Everyone likes to know that they are
- Farriers see the horse every six to eight weeks. The
veterinarian my only see the horse once every two or
three years. Don't hold the veterinarian's feet to the fire
if he makes a decision based upon very poor history from
- Keep the veterinarian in the loop. Once you have a
working relationship with a vet you will be able to
modify his shoeing recommendations as things change
with the horse. Send a short letter on your business
stationary stating the name of the horse, owner, address
and any other information required to identify that
animal. In as few words as possible explain the changes
you have made and why. The vet may not see this horse
for another year and this will keep them informed of the
Business relationships are not stuffy, dry second cousins to our personal
relationships. Business relationships are personal. They require us to be
genuine and understand those that we deal with on a daily basis. Just
remember that this relationship building boils down to the fact the it is you
they buy, not your shoeing.