When more than 125 hoof-care professionals responded to a recent American Farriers Journal e-mail survey on dealing with the current economic crisis, there were plenty of valuable suggestions and ideas.
Adapting to Tough Times
1. If there are economic concerns, explain to clients why they don't want to neglect their horses and offer other options. Maybe a horse with four shoes can get by with a pair of front shoes and only trims on the hinds if they can't go totally barefoot. Front shoes can often be switched from aluminum to steel if the horses won't be competing or showing.
2. Recognize that first-time horse owners may sell their animals because they underestimated how expensive ownership can be.
3. One shoer is promoting hoof-care services more extensively to horse owners that are doctors and nurses, since the health care field is among the most stable parts of the overall economy.
4. The current economic situation provides an opportunity for some folks to get a nice horse for little or no money. People who can afford to feed and maintain a horse, but previously couldn't find the money to buy one are realizing their dream of horse ownership. They often turn into terrific clients and are eager to learn. It is fun to share footcare knowledge with them and their enthusiasm can be contagious.
5. With skyrocketing boarding fees, there's more co-ownership of horses in an effort to save dollars where two or more people own and ride the same animal.
6. Line up buyers with sellers and trainers with owners. It's simple networking, but it helps everyone.
7. Adapting to changing conditions is a key to any successful business. Be ready to change, because the times are definitely going to change on you.
8. Remind clients that in both the short- and long-term, keeping horses sound is the least expensive strategy. One barn call from a vet to conduct a lameness exam and the follow-up costs can quickly wipe out any savings gained by modifying a horse's regular shoeing regime.
9. Remind clients that you respect the way they've always cared for their horses and that it's one of the reasons you've chosen to work with them.
10. With the increased costs of veterinary care, hay, feed, training and other items associated with being a horse owner, let clients know that proper footcare is an efficient and inexpensive way to avoid increased cash outlays.
11. Focus on providing the best service you can. Clients appreciate this when dollars are short.
12. Offering top quality work and being reliable can definitely increase your business.
13. Refrain from bad mouthing other farriers. If you see something that you don't like, just tell the owner or trainer that you might have tried something different.
14. If you're good at shoeing and courteous, you'll attract better clients.
15. What you do for a client will go a long way toward what they think about you regarding future work. Responsible farriers know how to wisely spend a client's money.
16. Find new ways to cut footcare costs for clients. When you're able to do this, make sure they know you have their best interests in mind.
17. With an owner who only has his or her horse trimmed and shod once a year, don't wonder if charging less would result in more work. This customer only thinks about their horses at a particular time of year, such as at the start of hunting season.
18. Carry your lunch with you in the truck and avoid buying snacks. At the end of the week, you'll be surprised how much money you've spent on lunch, snacks and soda.
19. If a client doesn't express any concerns about the current financial situation, don't bring up the subject.
Find New Opportunities
20. Networking with other farriers and equine veterinarians can lead to many new business opportunities.
21. Becoming a more effective communicator with increased knowledge through continuing education will boost your profits and the enjoyment of a job well done.
22. Potential horse buyers are asking farriers to look at an animal's feet while the vet checks out everything else. More people are looking for horses that can remain barefoot.
23. Have clients call you first if their horse is lame, as you may be able to find and drain an abscess as easily as a vet and at much less cost. If you can't handle the problem, recommend a vet.
24. Praise the good things you see in another farrier's work. This might lead to a later phone call when he or she has a difficult footcare case or needs someone to cover for vacation time.
25. When a client asks you to leave the pads off or stretch the trimming and shoeing schedule from 5 to 7 weeks to reduce costs, remind them that your prime consideration is keeping their horses sound.
26. Reschedule each horse's next appointment before you leave the barn. Some farriers tell clients, "If you don't stay in my schedule, I'll have to let you go."
27. People who use their horses' tend to stay on a regular schedule. Those who are less serious about horses don't trim and shoe as often.
28. Work harder to consolidate your work into fewer longer days with less travel.
29. Have people truck horses to your shop.
30. Call each client the night before to confirm an appointment to save a wasted trip.
31. Reduce the amount of time driving from barn to barn to avoid spending more time behind the windshield than under a horse.
32. Do what is necessary and practical without rendering the horse unusable for client needs. This can sometimes help them avoid later veterinary expenses when you tried to be a friend instead of a responsible professional.
33. Don't require clients to be present for a shoeing. If you are familiar with the horses and can safely handle them, let the customer remain at work.
34. Try not to deviate from therapeutic shoeing needs with regards to the long-range outlook for a horse.
Products And Inventory Management
35. Reduce your inventory. For example, one farrier orders supplies before noon and has them delivered before 3 p.m. the next day by UPS with free shipping. By not carrying as much inventory, this farrier isn't spending dollars on supplies that are sitting around.
36. Learn to more efficiently sharpen your hoof knives.
37. Buff rasps on a cotton wheel. The cotton wheel will knock off burrs and get a few more horses out of each rasp.
38. There are times when a one-burner forge will do just as good a job as a two-burner unit.
39. Use more keg shoes rather than handmade shoes to save both propane and time.