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As part of our yearlong focus on the backyard horse, we asked farriers to tell us what they like best — and least — about keeping these smaller accounts on their books. In this month’s Email Q&A, readers responded with their pluses and negatives of shoeing backyard horses.

Responses were mostly positive, with the majority listing the personal relationshipsand friendships that develop with these clients as one of the main benefits. Unfortunately, those relationships can also be a negative when it comes time to ask for a price increase or payment on a past-due bill.

Despite some of the minuses of shoeing backyard horses, it remains clear that our respondents have no plans of taking them off their books.  In fact, many farriers tell us backyard horses are the bread and butter of their farrier business.


 My biggest pluses:

  1. Low pressure. The client is happy to see you and we get to spend quality time with the horses.
  2. Good working conditions.
  3. It offers a casual pace with three or four trims on well-behaved horses that are comfortable in their environment. When scheduling works out, these clients are grouped together in geographic regions. Take time between stops to enjoy the air conditioning, listen to the radio, stop at the bank, pick up a bite to eat and head to your next casual appointment. It’s a nice way to get through 8 to 10 horses and head home not too beat up.
  4. If the weather is poor, rescheduling isn’t a hassle.
  5. There’s a total avoidance of barn politics. You only deal with the one writing the check and making decisions for the care of the animal.
  6. Diversification of client portfolio. If you lose the client, your income will not be significantly affected.

My biggest negatives are:

  1. Some facilities are not ideal for inclement weather.
  2. Fewer shoeings and less diversity in special applications.
  3. With the backyard horse, you could get away with mediocre farriery and no one except the horse would know. You need to be self-motivated to be the best farrier you can be.
  4. When you do a special job on a horse at the backyard barn, few hear about it. It doesn’t expand your reputation like it would at a large barn.

— Patrick Quinn, Prince Frederick, Md.


 

 My biggest plus:

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My biggest negatives:

Backyard horse owners are generally less educated in hoofcare and rarely have a good place to work — not even a hitch rail.

— Travis Morgan, Winfield, Kan.


 

 My biggest pluses:

  1. It’s easier to discuss hoof care and problems directly with the owner. I specialize in backyard horses because of the relationships with the owner and his or her family. It makes you feel less like an employee.
  2. Backyard owners are much more apt to keep their horses for a lifetime,
    which means that I get to know each horse and what works for it and what doesn’t.  This translates into better overall hoof care for the horse.
  3. Since I'm not a young farrier, I appreciate the break by driving between places without having to do five or six horses at each farm. It gives my back and knees a rest and gives me a chance to have a snack and stay hydrated. I schedule horses in a certain area all on the same day to help alleviate the driving costs.
  4. It's easier to collect payment when I’m at the owner’s backyard barn. I strive not to do any billing. If I’m working at a big barn, I generally end up having to bill the owner, which means adding a billing fee as I have to wait for my money instead of getting a check the day I do the work.
  5. A backyard owner is apt to follow through and be consistent with hoof-care treatment.
  6. The backyard owner is more concerned about me and willing to work with the horse to have it stand quietly for me than some of the bigger, show barns. Since there’s less activity going on in a private barn, the horses are calmer. 
  7. While not exactly horse related, there’s definitely less drama in a backyard barn than at some barns where competition levels run high and there are a lot of expensive horses.

My biggest negatives are:

  1. If the owner isn’t home, there’s no one to hold the horse. I won’t work on a horse if no one is there, so it means another trip and a missed appointment fee for the owner.
  2. It’s harder to raise prices when you know an owner’s personal or work situation. I have to tell myself that horses are a luxury and this is my job.
  3. I have a couple of owners that only have run-in sheds to house their horses, so working conditions are sometimes less than ideal.
  4. It’s harder to reschedule a backyard horse when an appointment changes.

— Diane Saunders, Bristol, Vt.


 

My biggest pluses:

  1. Most of my backyard clients are devoted to me as their farrier and give me tips around the holidays.
  2.  Backyard clients are generally more caring about their horse.

My biggest negatives:

  1. Most backyard horses are poorly trained or a little quirky.
  2. I often find myself standing in the dirt with a muddy foot in my lap.

— Cassidy Robyn, Boulder Creek, Calif.


 

My biggest pluses:

  1. Horse numbers are smaller than at large breeding farms, which offers a more relaxed shoeing atmosphere.
  2. I receive good feedback from owners because they are usually hands-on with their horses.
  3. Backyard horse owners usually pay when services are performed.
  4. Backyard horses offer the self-satisfaction of helping horse owners with horses that may have special needs.

My biggest negatives:

  1. There are a small number of horses per stop, which requires more travel time to shoe and trim a sufficient number of horses each day.
  2. Inexperienced horse owners and handlers can become time consuming or dangerous to farriers.
  3. Owners may have limited funds if horses are just a hobby, which will limit the amount of proper shoeing and trimming intervals.
  4. Backyard horse farms may have a less-than-desirable workplace for farriers.
  5. Scheduling appointments can be challenging because owners may not be available during normal work hours.

— Douglas Yontz, Georgetown, Ky.