A horseshoer working on a horse

Cowboy Code #5 - Be Tough But be Fair

The fifth element of the cowboy code is "Be Tough But Be Fair." Being tough but fair means you uphold standards without bias. This encompasses how you interact with clients, apprentices, partners, other farriers, family members, horses, and everyone else in your life.

To successfully be tough but fair, you have to live by a defined and articulated set of standards. Our students arrive hungry for guidelines on how much hoof to take off, how much sole to remove, how to shape shoes, run a business, etc. However, they rarely have standards or guidelines in their personal life. We teach them to use the cowboy code.

Being tough but fair means you always speak up when you need to. If you do nothing in the face of injustice, you have picked the side of the oppressor. That’s not being tough or fair. It’s being weak and showing a lack of character.

Unfortunately, most farriers will witness animal abuse at least once in their careers. When you do nothing, that means that you've picked the side of the abuser. By ignoring the abuse, you endorse the behavior.

Be Tough But Fair With Your Apprentices

Set high standards of excellence, and enforce them in your business. If you have people working out of your truck, delegate authority but enforce your standards. Either support the people in your truck 100% or get new people. Never let someone ride along with you who you won't stand beside if something goes wrong.

Give everyone in your truck a chance to excel at their job. Provide them with opportunities, resources, and guidance. Being tough and fair means that you reward success and discipline failure.

Be quick to reprimand but use it as a teaching moment, but praise and reward just as quickly. Be consistent with everyone who works for you and around you. Do not accept less than your standards of excellence from anyone in your truck.

Be Tough But Fair With Your Clients

If you have students in your truck and a client tells you they don’t want anybody but you touching their horse, it’s time to get tough. The client is attempting to take control of your business by dictating how you run things.

You can’t walk into a dentist's office and demand the dentist do 100% of the work. Dental assistants take X-rays, hygenist clean the teeth, and office assistants handle the paperwork. The dentist is an authority to other people and only steps in when their unique skill set is needed. This is never open for discussion, and that's how it should be in your truck too.

If you have students shoeing alongside you, they should be trained and have the skills to do their job. When you allow a client to dictate your business, you're telling the folks that work for you that you don't trust them, and you don't support them, and that’s not fair to the people who ride with you.

Treat Everyone the Same, Even Yourself

Treat everyone you come across the same (unless they mistreat you and you need to politely but firmly let them know their behavior is unacceptable). Never argue in public. Be calm and professional but remain tough when you need to.

When you get into a shouting match with someone, people walking by don't know who's who. You both look crazy, and you don’t want to develop the reputation as a crazy yelling farrier.

This is easier said than done but treat yourself with the same standards and respect that you treat others. Avoid procrastination, work hard to get better every day, and take a ton of pride in your business.

Set working hours for yourself and stick to them, so your family knows when you will be home. You have to be unwavering in establishing a boundary between your work and your family.

Never pick work over family. That’s the quickest way to wake up one morning without a family. There will be times when you have to step out for an emergency, but if you don’t set clear boundaries from the beginning, you’ll constantly get pulled away.

The topics discussed in this post are critical for a healthy and happy life, but they won't just happen for you. You have to tough and be fair in building your practice and your life. If you do it right, you'll also build a reputation as someone who folks look up to, and that's an incredible thing for your business. Apply Now