Backyard clients are some of the most loyal people I work for. I know there are exceptions, but I have had some of the same backyard customers for the past 20 years. I don’t really try to develop a personal relationship with clients. But looking back, I have seen my customers’ children grow up, get their driver’s licenses, graduate high school and college, get married and have children — who went on to become horse owners. That keeps the cycle alive. I receive baked goods and monetary gifts from many of them at the holidays.
I shod every type of hoof shape there was because you never knew what you were going to see at the test. I also had to get the job done in the allotted time frame of that shoeing appointment, which helped when my work was timed during certification. I plan on using the same method as I practice for horseshoeing competitions.There are tons of learning opportunities with good backyard clients. When I was gearing up to take the American Farrier’s Association’s certified journeyman farrier exam, a lot of backyard horses got handmade shoes. This was a great way for me to practice.
I also learned something very important. Some horses did really well in handmade plain stamped shoes. The reduction in traction helped Fluffy’s stiff joints. I heard comments like, “I don’t know what you did last time, but Fluffy is doing great!” That kind of thing led to more customer loyalty and forced me to make more of my own shoes.
Witnessing a horse or horses do well just because of a simple shoe is amazing. Most people never notice what kind of shoes their horse is wearing, but when it makes a difference for the horse, it pays off.
As you build a good working relationship with backyard owners, you will find that the horses can be left in their stalls, checks can be left in the feed can and you’ll be better able to schedule them at your convenience.
There are times when a backyard horse throws a shoe. I just fit it in the best I can. When I get a call to fix one up, I sometimes don’t even call the owner back. I simply stop in and take care of the problem the same day they call. I then send a message that Fluffy is all fixed up. We are in a service business and it is very important to fix problems as they arise as quickly as we can.
I have some backyard horses that live a long way from me. It is hard to service them when a problem comes up. I have shoeing facilities at my home just for that reason. It is not the best option for a customer to haul their horse an hour for a shoe replacement, but it is an option I give them. To make it worth their while, I rarely charge if they haul their horse to me to get a shoe replaced.
Read more about his thoughts on backyard clients in the May/June issue of American Farriers Journal.