I just returned from the early December meeting of the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) in Anaheim, Calif. Like attending many other conferences, I always visit with as many exhibitors as I can to find out what role hoof care plays in their business.
One conversation with an architectural firm really stood out for me at the AAEP trade show. This is one of those noteworthy firms that designs vet clinics and horse barns that rival the Taj Majal.
I told the firm’s rep that I’ve found that many vet clinics we’ve visited have done a good job in the last decade of giving the farrier a “home” in the facility. However, I told him I was disappointed in many of the high-end horse barns that the AFJ editors see, in that there rarely seems to be a dedicated spot solely for the farrier’s work.
He was dismissive and essentially replied that farriers should be OK with working in the wash rack.
Granted, I’m not in the market for a vet clinic or horse barn, so he was well within his right to lose interest in talking to me. But maybe if he listened to what I’d tell him about farriery, he’d realize that his firm — and those like it — have been doing their customers a disservice by ignoring a farrier’s need to practice his or her trade in a proper environment.
Now, I’m not talking about the backyard clients, where a farrier is happy to just find dry ground and a shady tree.
Instead, I’m talking about people with money to spend on big and/or fancy horse barns. Maybe these folks feel it is more important to allot the extra square footage for a larger lounge to let riders and their friends gossip with one another rather than to provide a work area for farriers.
This goes beyond courtesy — it’s in the barn owner’s best interest and responsibility to provide a safe environment for all workers. Expecting someone to work with a large animal in a wash rack or busy aisle is an embarrassing oversight when thousands of dollars are spent on design and building.
To me, an architect’s belief that a high-end barn doesn’t need a space dedicated for hoof care is like designing a mansion without a kitchen and expecting the chef to prepare meals in the bathroom.
Who’s At Fault?
There is plenty of blame to share in ignoring the farrier. When scoping the project, the client needs to make a farrier work area a priority. The architect has the responsibility to recognize key areas their client overlooked. And sometimes the builders are at fault, as they often reject reasonable plans in favor of their cookie-cutter blueprints.
In the end, farriers will go about their work. These high-end barns will never comprise the backbone of the industry. While they may not be perfect, working in these barns will beat the outdoor conditions on a rainy day. And many farriers fortunate to work in these fancy barns often cut their teeth under those shady trees shoeing horses on uneven ground, and are happy for what they have at these barns.