Starting Up

Getting Started in Hoof Care | 2011

Dear Dan,

I will attempt to answer your specific questions first and then I'll share with you my experiences and observations.

"What can one expect for start up costs?" I assume that you already own a vehicle to use for shoeing. Tools and supplies will cost a minimum of $1,500 to approximately $3,000. The difference will be in the size and type of anvil and forge and the amount of supplies (shoes, nails, pads, etc.) that you carry, and to some extent the type of hand tools you like.

"What can one expect for first year earnings?" This is a very difficult question to answer. There are many, many unknowns. For instance:

  • How well are you going to do in school? At graduation you can only be as good as the school you select. Choose a school based upon curriculum, not just the closest school.
  • Will you be able to apprentice with a Journeyman farrier after graduation?
  • What is your skill level in handling horses?
  • How adept are you at the forge?
  • How many horses are in your area?
  • How many farriers are in your area?
  • What is the going rate for shoeing and trimming?
  • How motivated are you..every day?
  • How long will winter last, and how severe? Five months of snow will definitely reduce your income.

In Minnesota, expect $15,000 to $24,000 gross receipts if you hustle, more in the west.

"How long might it take to build up adequate clientele to 'live on'." Again, Dan, you are asking a question that is difficult to answer. How much money do you require to 'live on'? How many bills do you presently have to pay? Does your wife work? Are you able to work part-time while you build your business? And then there are the questions already stated in the above paragraph that apply to this question as well. For a farrier to shoe five horses per day, five days per week, with the clientele locked into an eight week schedule, you will need a minimum of 200 horses. Add trims and those clients that shoe sporadically and you'll need around 250 horses that you take care of on a regular basis. Normally this takes one to two years.

"How does one choose a good location for his business? I am willing to relocate" The US Census Bureau claims that the vast majority of horses in the United States are within 200 miles of the coast. This does not say that you cannot make a living elsewhere. For this, you will have to do your own market research. Select areas that you and your family would like to live and let your fingers do the walking. Call the Chamber of Commerce and ask them to copy the phone numbers for veterinarians, feed stores, stables, etc. Call them and ask about the need for farriers, the amount of horses and the prices charged for work. Call the AFA chapter for that State and have them get you in touch with working farriers in the area you would like to relocate. Remember not all farriers will give you information that is accurate. Fear of competition can influence their comments.

"Once established, what is a realistic expectation for net (after tax, after expense) income?" Your overhead will run from 35% to 50% depending upon many factors. Your net income, of course, will depend upon your gross income. Again the answers to the questions in the above paragraphs will determine income.

I would suggest that you contact farrier schools and ask them for a list of recent graduates. Call those students and ask them your questions. I've included a list of approximately 75 names, addresses and phone numbers from Pacific Coast Horseshoeing School. These folk's have recently or are currently going through the process and they have nothing to gain or lose by their answers.

Being successfully self-employed as a farrier requires a particular mentality that not everyone possess. There is nothing wrong if this profession is not for you (albeit, there may be if this profession is for you). You need to be a risk taker with a strong sense of self-worth. You need to have passion and determination for your business. The lure of this profession is the ability to control your own destiny, which is also its pitfall. There are absolutely, positively, no guarantees of any kind, without exception. Besides your own skill level and the area in which you decide to develop your business, injury or illness can end or damage your ability to earn an income. The weather and the local economy can impact you as a farrier.

Dan, becoming a self-employed farrier is like when you learned to ride a bike. The first few times you fell, hurt yourself and became discouraged at your slow progress. You felt like you would never be able to master this task. But with persistence and determination, you became competent. But, to make a living at it, you would have to have a passion for riding bikes. You would have to work at riding that bike daily and enjoy the challenge. Those of us that teach horseshoeing can give you the ability to master the task but we cannot give you the passion to enjoy the challenge and become successful. That must come from within.

I know that you are trying to make this an intellectual decision. You are trying to 'get all your ducks in a row' prior to taking this enormous step. But, if we listened only to our intellect, we would never truly love, we would never have a deep friendship, we would never go into business for ourselves, because we would be scared of failure or cynical about success. Sometimes you have to jump off cliffs and build your wings on the way down.

I wish you the best of luck.

Yours for better education,

Bob Smith, owner/instructor
Pacific Coast Horseshoeing School