My “Frankly Speaking” column in the July/August 2018 issue of American Farriers Journal featured the results of a survey dealing with what farriers wished they had been able to learn more about while attending farrier school. The article summarizes the educational ideas they felt would have better prepared them for careers as farriers.
If you haven’t read the “What I Wish They’d Taught In Farrier School” column, click here. The data describes specific ideas farriers felt would have enhanced their careers, along with a few practical ideas to help make footwork more efficient.
Below, you’ll find more detailed comments regards to a school “wish list” in from a few farriers who took the time to answer the survey.
What I Wished I’d Been Taught At Farrier School
Horseshoeing school is only the beginning of your footcare education When I received my private pilot’s license my instructor told me, “your pilot license is a license to learn.” So should your career be in shoeing horses. Graduating from school is only the beginning of your education.
Here’s what I missed learning about in farrier school:
- Business management
- Business insurance
- Liability insurance
- Money management
- Business taxes
—Tad Keegan, Sedalia, Colo.
One of the things that would have been beneficial is learning how to take care of your body. It’s a difficult career path and we briefly covered body posture while working. Learning about exercise and other ways to keep yourself in top shape for the job that we do would have been valuable to the future farriers of the world.
—Clay Kobza, Maywood Neb.
There are many things I should have been taught in farrier school. The willingness and motivation to continually improve one’s communication skills with customers, veterinarians, and other hoof and horse care professionals should have been taught, emphasized and directly connected to our fledgling professional farrier business.
Farriers, for the most part, are poor communicators, especially when confronted by other horse professionals. Poor communication can mean talking too much, not talking enough, not talking concisely, staying on point or simply not being effective enough. The ability to communicate one’s professional opinion logically, methodically and convincingly so others can understand your point of view directly affects your businesses bottom line.
Farrier schools do an ineffective job of teaching this, if they teach it at all.
—Clarence Crumpton, Jr., Thornburg, Va.
I wish I had learned more about business and money management in school along with how to find someone appropriate to apprentice with. When I went to school, we learned to how to make shoes, how to shoe a horse and were then out on our own.
—Matt Hillegas, Hanover, Pa.
More on how to run a profitable business should be taught. Such as how being punctual, returning phone calls and not over booking can help your business.
Don’t be afraid to charge enough to earn a living. If a horse owner takes time off work to meet you to hold the horse they will pay a fair price not to be stood up.
— Robert Plant, Walworth, NY
Farriers need to be taught much more on “horse psychology.”
— Boris Riaschenko, Ussurisk, Krai, Russia
The only thing I wish I had done differently would have been to upgrade my tools from the basic to higher quality farrier tools right from the beginning.
Other than that, school was a great experience and they also introduced me to a great farrier that has taught me more while driving down the road or eating lunch than you could learn from attending 10 schools.
—Kelly Holt, Mabank Texas
I wish there had been a greater emphasis on apprenticeships and how they can benefit you much more than simply graduating and trying to build a clientele from scratch.
—Chris Diehl. Spring Grove, Pa.
There’s no magic bullet, as it’s all about good fundamental practical trimming and shoeing. Being able to forge to make shoes and modifications that apply to the horse’s needs. Know your anatomy and how it works.
— Mark O’Brien, Indianapolis, Ind.
The main topic that wasn’t discussed was business management, but luckily, I had a business management background prior to becoming a farrier. Knowing how to shoe horses is only a part of running a farrier business.
From what I’ve noticed, the most talked about topics in some of the farrier forums online deal with billing, pricing, scheduling, money management and customer service, yet it seems no one is teaching new farriers much about these topics.
—Thomas Rock Okatie, S.C.
I wish I would have learned a lot more about the right way to manage my income as a farrier. The knowledge behind how to successfully run your business is every bit as important as learning how to correctly trim and shoe horses.
— Patrick Ards, Grande Prairie, Alberta Canada
I hear more complaints horse owners and trainers about a lack of farrier professionalism than the quality of their hoof-care work. Social intelligence training needs to happen in horseshoeing school and it would be good for the industry as a whole.
Social intelligence is discussed in most sales training. We must always remember we are sales people as well!
— Fred Solinger, Braham, Minn.
I wish I would have learned about the connection between the Golden mean and hooves. That has made a world of difference in my ability to properly shape hooves with the trim, which would in turn have improved my ability to shape shoes. And correctly fit the two together at an efficient speed to improve productivity.
— Kyle Deaver, Wittman, Ariz.
What I see coming from farrier schools and apprenticeships is the lack of information on balance, leveling the hoof and learning the ABCs of shoeing. I have been shoeing for 34 years and was in the last farrier class at Oregon State University, but I did not receive enough training for balancing and leveling the hoof. I had to learn it from clinics and studying various equine movements.
— Robert Bonine, Lapine, Ore.
The biggest thing that I’ve run into in the field that I wish I’d had more education on was applying the more specialized shoes that we learned to make. Though we thoroughly learned the theory and I can confidently forge a slider or a bar shoe, a few extra weeks of school to learn how to apply the shoes that we made would have been fantastic. By riding around with a much more experienced farrier, I’ve learned the physical application of some of these shoes to go with the theory.
Other than that, horseshoeing is something that you must go out and do to gain much of the knowledge.
— Petra Van De Hey, Fiddletown, Calif.
This is my second career, as I retired from the Pennsylvania State Police after 25 years of service. I graduated from farrier school in February of 2012.
I enjoy a thriving farrier business and attribute that, in part, to the school’s very comprehensive training program.
One of the most important lessons taught, was that it was only the beginning of my hoof-care education. They emphasized that I would be embarking on a lifetime journey of continuing education and learning from other farriers.
—Scott Hunter. Carlisle, Pa.
The most important missed topic was how to modify my tools to accommodate my height, gender and ability. No one taught that at school.
My husband’s uncle Paul spent 2 days in his shop with me while I was in farrier school. He modified my farrier tools and showed me how high my anvil should be to avoid stress injuries. He showed me how to hold the tools correctly, so the tools do the work.
He was very patient, watched me work and corrected my stance, position and had me change how I was holding the tools. Sometimes, he would shorten a handle, plane it so it was thinner or tape it so had a better grip. He showed me how to care for and store tools.
It was so much easier to practice at school after that weekend.
—Cheryl Swayne, Meriden, Kan.
My husband, Stewart, passed away after 51 years of shoeing. The old timers are starting to pass on and horseshoeing as they knew it is also passing. Not as many farriers clip shoes anymore, and that is sad. My husband’s horses always wore custom-made shoes and it showed in their performance and with very few veterinarian interventions.
My husband felt that the shoeing schools today do not give their students enough hands-on experience. When he went to horseshoeing school, they brought in herds of horses — including some that had never been touched, which was a real education.
— Barbara Strauss, Woodbourne, N.Y.
I got to shoe lots of horses and learned the basics of equine footcare at farrier school, However, I wished that on the business side, there had been a class to deal with the people who own horses. I find the horses themselves are the easiest part to deal with.
— Heidi S. Larrabee, Palmer, Alaska
I wish I had learned more about client communication and biomechanics.
—Gertjan Korsman, Ochten, Netherlands
What I would have liked to have learned is how to shoe a horse. The school I attended was not the problem, as I have made a living for the last 48 years shoeing horses. But the best schools out there, and there are some very good ones, can only get you off to a good start.
Instead of just concentrating on the feet, shoeing horses takes years to learn and you will not live long enough to learn it all on your own.
Continuing education, reading and studying books about shoeing, riding, conformation, associating with experienced shoers and apprenticing are critical. There is a lot of misinformation out there, so critical thinking is essential.
—Jim Sproles, Vaquero, Ariz.
The one thing I hear more than anything else about what is lacking in farrier schools is the lack of “business” classes. This includes learning about record keeping: mileage, receipts, the necessary information for taxes and knowing if you are running a business or playing with it at a hobby instead of having a real career.
I’m afraid too many shoers fail, because they don’t know how to manage their business. When small businesses fail, studies show that about 90% of the time it is due to mismanagement.
— John Russell, Sonoita, Ariz.
I honestly thought my horseshoeing school was pretty good, but wished I had better forging skills, which takes time. I wish I had learned how to fuller, but I learned about as much as you can in 8 weeks.
I’m now a vet student, so not earning a living as a farrier. I truly wish I’d attended farrier school years ago, but it is just going to be so I’m better with lameness as a vet, and hopefully less of a jerk to the farriers I work with.
— Jenny S. Hamilton, DVM candidate, Virginia Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine
In the 1990s, a farrier was someone who went to a barn, trimmed and shod a few horses, got paid and left. It was pretty simple, everybody did their job and that seemed to work.
Today there is not a month when there isn’t a new type of shoe, trim method or product on the market. All are widely promoted on the Internet and social media, indicating that this new product is the ultimate solution for dealing with the musculoskeletal system of the horse. All kinds of studies and research show this new method and/or product will bring about a revolution.
Let’s be realistic. The purpose remains the same, resulting in a properly trimmed or shod horse. It took farriers centuries to come to the most ideal hoof care. Everything was tried by the Celts, Romans, Germans and Chinese. They experimented with the heels, bars and supports. In terms of hoof protection, they tried sandals, shoes, closed horseshoes, etc.
Since the turn of this century, all tests that were carried out hundreds of years ago have been reviewed. (“He who does not know his history is doomed to repeat it,” George Santayana 1863-1952.) Where formerly the test rooms were the battlefields, farmlands and forests, they are now air-conditioned rooms with pressure carpets and cameras.
Don’t get me wrong, scientific research is certainly desirable and even necessary for our farriers. I regularly visit universities and take part in symposiums and lectures.
In the contemporary training of farriers, attention needs to be paid to this. Our farriers must be trained in a communicative, assertive and customer-oriented way to be able to argue why they use a certain method or product on a specific horse. More than ever before, they have to know the horse’s musculoskeletal system perfectly in order to be able to lead the client to a proper solution.
Product and method knowledge is indispensable today. Permanent training is the key to today’s forging business.
—Wim Gabriëls, Brussels, Belgium
The biggest thing for me is the concept of building a foot from the heels forward rather than form the toe rearward. I was never taught that ideally the heels should be at the widest point of the frog and instead emphasis was placed on nipping the toes shorter. In farrier school, I was taught to start the nipper runs at the toes while I now start at the heels.
This is not just a matter of personal preference for me, but has to do with the plane of the coffin bone. If we are taught to be toe-first thinkers, how are we ever able to properly trim a foundered horse or pony?
— Dean Moshier, Delaware Ohio
I don’t think any farrier school can prepare you enough for a career in farriery, which is the case for schools in almost any profession. The problem is that schools may be limited for the time needed to teach many extra topics. However, there are certain things a farrier school can teach a new farrier, so they are able to enter the field with enough information to be able to effectively start their career.
I’d like to see more farrier schools focus on other aspects of the business, such as teaching interpersonal communication skills, professionalism, client communications, business skills needed to run a successful farrier business, ways to continue your education, developing networking and mentoring relationships.
—Esco Buff, Webster, N.Y
As A Bonus, Here Are A Few Practical Footcare Tips…
I wish I’d heard about these tips in farrier school and learned them sooner.
When it’s hot and humid, carry a fan in your truck. Horses and farriers love it, while flies hate fans.
I wish I had worked with an older farrier for a while to learn about people, horses and business practices.
Start your retirement fund early and keep feeding it regularly.
Wear a glove on your off hand, as it will save you a few scars.
— Mark Eberts, Deputy, Ind.
Here are three helpful footcare tips that were never mentioned in farrier school:
- Take 30 seconds after nailing up to lead the horse in a figure 8 while observing its crossover pattern. The horse will tell you if it has confidence or not. Pay attention as a lack of confidence will show up as double stepping to the close nail side of the hoof capsule.
If this happens, pull that nail and medicate that open hole as soon as possible.
- If you have a hot hand while fore punching, bend 2 inches of the steel handle near the head at a 90-degree bend in the stamping tool arm. This will allow you to get away from the shoe’s heat, give you a better sight line into your shoe.
- Fine tune your tool head handle bend slightly, as a little less bend or a little bend up is even better.
— Roger Newman, Somerset, Wis.