A farrier abiding by the cowboy code while working on a horse

Cowboy Code #10 - Know Where to Draw the Line

You have to set healthy boundaries with your clients, their horses, your friends, and family members. If you don’t, you’ll quickly find yourself in quicksand. Don’t wait until you are angry and upset to draw the line. Once you get mad, you've damaged your personal and professional reputations.

All functioning business relationships have boundaries in place. Start by making a list of all the conflicts you've had in your life and your business. Then reflect on the lines you could have drawn to avoid these conflicts. Not all conflicts are avoidable, but the more you can weed out, the easier your life will be.

An Example of Drawing the Line

A line we teach our students to draw is with poorly behaved horses. Each student will develop their tolerance for the behavior of horses that they take on. However, anytime a horse kicks with the intent to hurt the farrier (not just trying to get their foot back), the job is done, and it’s not open for discussion.

When you draw a line, it has to be firm. Allowing certain people or certain circumstances to cross your line will eventually leave you angry with yourself or with a horse.

It won't do you any good to set boundaries if you don't hold yourself accountable for keeping them. The more disciplined you are with this, the more your boundaries will become a regular part of your daily life. You’ll wake up one day and realize you have very few conflicts to deal with.

Do No Harm

This is a line that every farrier has to draw, and no farrier should ever cross. It applies not only in your work but in your interaction with the horses and clients as well. Inflicting pain on a horse is unacceptable. Don’t try something you aren’t experienced in just because your client wants it done on their horse.

You are the professional. They are not. Don’t be rude, but never let a client push you to perform work that you don’t think is in the horse's best interest. When it goes wrong, the blame will undoubtedly land on your shoulders.

You may experience working with a veterinarian on a specialty shoeing case at some point in your career. Lean on your experience and education, don’t just blindly do what they tell you to do. If you know that their request has the potential to harm the horse, speak up. You never have to follow anyone’s instructions that you think are morally wrong.

Never get the clients or veterinarian staff involved if you find yourself in this situation. Have a meeting with the veterinarian and discuss your concerns. If you can't agree on a proper treatment plan, tell your client you are not comfortable with the style of shoeing without badmouthing the veterinarian.

Draw Lines For Your Behavior

Be mindful of your vocabulary and behavior while shoeing around minors and setting standards for your client interactions. Keep it professional, leave politics and religion out of the conversation.

If you want to fill your client book with high-quality horses and good clients, you can’t stoop to the level of gossip and complaining. Don’t get involved in your local industry gossip around trainers, horse owners, vets, and other farriers. Those conversations should not be part of your workday.

Don’t ruin your energy and body just to make a buck. Know how many horses you can handle in a day, and don't overbook yourself. Know your family's needs. You may need to draw a line around the days or hours that you work. This can be hard, especially initially, but you may find yourself with no family left if you fail to set that boundary.

Take Care of Your Business and Personal Life

Draw the line with yourself when it comes to your business operations. Keep up with your billing, pay your taxes, and take care of your body. Commit to finding balance not just on the horse's foot but in your life as well. It looks different for different people, but it feels the same across the board for everyone.

If you're happy, your friends and family are happy, and your business is doing well, you’re in balance. When one feels like it's starting to slip, it's time to recheck those lines and put things back in balance.

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