A farrier displaying courage

Cowboy Code # 1 - Live With Courage

We are living in chaos today. Media outlets are broadcasting chaos, negativity, and fear every minute of every day. It’s easy to get caught up in what they show us and start living a miserable life. If you want to block out the negativity, you have to live and work by a code of conduct.

Codes of conduct aren't new. They are everywhere in the business world, and typically presented as a list of "Thou shalt not..." for fear of being fired. It’s different for farriers, we are self-employed, and we are out there interacting with our clients every day without a filter. Without a code or a filter, we don't always present the best representation of ourselves.

Introducing the Cowboy Code

The 10 Elements of the Cowboy Code

  1. Live each day with courage
  2. Take pride in your work
  3. Always finish what you start
  4. Do what has to be done
  5. Be tough but be fair
  6. Ride for the brand
  7. Talk less, say more
  8. Remember that some things are not for sale
  9. Know where to draw the line

Live Each Day With Courage

Courage involves deciding on a course of action where risk is involved. That risk can be being actual or imagined, but you feel there's a risk. Courage is a necessary force for ensuring the growth of your farrier practice.

There are six types of courage:

  1. Physical courage is what we see in our first responders and military members. They show bravery at the risk of bodily harm or death. Thankfully we don't usually have to show physical courage as farriers. Physical courage requires strength of body and character, resiliency, and awareness.
  2. Social courage involves a risk of social embarrassment, exclusion, unpopularity, or rejection. It requires honesty and leadership.
  3. Intellectual courage speaks of our willingness to engage with challenging ideas, question our own thinking. It requires risk and making mistakes. Good farriers use intellectual courage every day when they tell the truth to their clients.
  4. Moral courage involves doing the right thing, particularly when it risks the disapproval of your loved ones. It attempts to match your words and actions with your values and your ideals. If who you claim to be and see yourself as, does not match up with how you live your life, you’ll struggle to find moral courage.
  5. Emotional Courage is the courage to choose positive emotions at the risk of uncovering negative thoughts that throw you off track. It takes emotional courage to be truly happy in your business and your life.
  6. Spiritual Courage fortifies us when we're grappling with questions of faith, purpose, and meaning in our lives in either the religious or non-religious sense.

So What Does All This Mean for a Farrier?

It takes courage to be honest with ourselves and to our clients. It’s not necessary at all times, but it pushes us to grow instead of remaining stagnant. If you’re a new farrier, dare to be honest with your clients about your strengths and weaknesses. You're not going to be able to effectively manage a grade five acute foundered horse fresh out of farrier school. It’s your responsibility to let your clients know this.

Don't get yourself overloaded with horses or clients that you're not prepared to work on. It won't take the people around you very long to realize that you don't know what you’re doing. Start working with someone with more experience until you are ready to handle challenging cases on your own and have the courage to be honest about your skill level.

You also have to have the courage to be honest with your clients about their horse. If confirmation problems cause lost shoes, lameness, or abnormalities, you need to bring it up with your client. If their horse’s fencing, paddock areas, or horse husbandry are causing problems with their horse’s hooves, you have to have the courage to mention this as well.

Another area where you have to show courage is by advocating for your shoeing environment. If the area you're shoeing in will not allow you to do your best work, you need to have a conversation about fixing it.

Courage will show up in your practice when it’s time to fire a client. You must do this without anger or frustration. Don't be emotional. Explain to the client why you refuse to work on their horse or work in their facility. You can always fire a client or a horse for any reason. You need to be honest. When you fire a client, you have enough courage to stick to your cause.

Don't be a coward and refuse to show up or return a phone call, hoping the client just goes away. Ignoring the client only convinces the client that the problem is with you, or worse yet, all farriers, and we're not addressing the real issue.

When you're honest with a client, you're protecting your brothers and sisters in the shoeing world. It stops them from walking into a situation where the owner is not required to take responsibility for their horse, behavior, or facility. This happens when no one's ever explained the problem when they say they won’t be working for the client anymore.

Have the moral courage to be an upstanding citizen in your personal and professional life. If you drive from stable to stable to make a living as a farrier, why would you ever drink and drive? It makes no sense. If a client asks you to do something that you know is harmful to the horse, or is wrong for the horse, don't do it.

When Bob first started shoeing, one of his biggest clients (a Reining barn) brought him a horse that couldn’t work off its back end. The trainer wanted Bob to remove the front shoes and trim the hooves so short that he narrowly avoided drawing blood. This would make the horse sore in his front end and force him to work off the back end.

Bob refused and lost the account. It doesn't matter who you claim to be or how much integrity you say you have. Your words and actions define you to your clients.

As a successful farrier, you must have the emotional courage to resist being sucked in by negativity from any source. This includes clients, other farriers, loved ones, TV, and radio. If you have a bad first client of the morning, you have to have the emotional courage to let it go instead of carrying anger with you for the rest of the day.

Losing a big client can cause anxiety, and when a client is rude to you, it creates problems. You can't control those people. The only control you have is over how you react to their behavior. A negative response promotes anger, frustration, and overall unhappiness with your shoeing practice, life, and family.

A positive attitude leaves a good impression on your clients and the horses. It takes a lot of courage to be happy no matter what, especially when the world keeps shoving negativity in your face every hour of every day. You can do it. Live each day with courage. Apply Now