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Several years ago, Nathan Stephens realized his business suffered from inefficiency. The Richmond, Ky., farrier works on young horses, mares and stallions on Thoroughbred farms around Lexington. After some analysis, he found lack of organization in his shoeing rig as one factor slowing down his days.

Stephens’ rig at the time was a ½-ton pickup with a modified cap on the bed. He realized that this set-up needed replacement.

“Everything became a catchall in the bed,” he recalls. “It was an absolute mess — I couldn’t find things when I needed them. I have a hard time staying organized, so I had to find a solution that would force me to stay organized.”

Focusing on Organization

Stephens’ solution came in a Chevy Silverado 2500 with a Stonewell body. He worked closely with the manufacturer over the phone and email to design the truck body. Stonewell added extrasprings to accommodate the 1,700 lbs. empty body. He traveled to the New York shop for the final installation to ensure the final placement of the body elements, adding that seeing the unfinished layout is a crucial step when working with a fabricator so that you can see specifically where you want things before everything is mounted. 

Stephens says some farriers will view the rig as ordinary compared with other truck bodies, but he says he intentionally kept it simple and instead focused on how this investment could improve his speed at the farms.

Time is money for every farrier, but to manage Thoroughbred farms, a farrier has to balance speed with quality because of the number of horses requiring footcare. In Stephens’ case, he has 30 days to work on nearly 800 head of horses. The key to his layout beyond organization was to have tools in close proximity and minimize time away from the horse. 

“It can be demanding because of the number of horses and keeping to a schedule, farm,” he says. “Thoroughbreds can be anxious at times, so I don’t want the horse to have to wait for me when I’m looking for tools or supplies. I focused on having an open layout so I can see what I have or don’t have in my inventory.”

A trailer wasn’t an option for Stephens. He says there are 22 barns on this property. On a busy day, Stephens may hit 17 of those barns.

“Thoroughbred farms differ from riding barns. I’m not saying that those barns aren’t busy, but this is different,” says Stephens. “Most of my business is trimming mares, foals and yearlings. I cover 450 to 500 horses on this farm. I don’t have to back up a trailer and can stay out of the way of the veterinarians, who also have many horses to work with. The barn managers and their help also have a lot of work they need to complete.  These farms also have their clients coming in for visits. Then at a property like Keeneland, there is nowhere to part a truck, let alone a truck and trailer, during sales season.”

Stephens acknowledges the relatively high cost of a manufactured body. A well-crafted body holds its value, and Stephens reasons he could get the return on the cost if he sold it years from now. But a little more than a year after buying it, Stephens isn’t selling. Instead, he appreciates how it has improved his efficiency on the farms.

“This rig cost a lot of money, but I wish I did it a long time ago,” he says. “The truck hasn’t shod a horse for me, but it makes it easier for me to do the job.”