Becoming proficient in the forge will pay huge dividends to your shoeing business. Learning how to make shoes correctly can increase the quality of your shoeing, boost your profit per horse and increase your corrective shoeing ability.
Increase shoeing quality
First, a competent farrier is able to create the type of shoe needed for any horse. There is an incredible variety of manufactured shoes available, but the manufacturers of these shoes aren’t there to see the foot you’re dealing with. You’re the one looking at a foot that needs a special fit.
This means that with some practice at your forge, you can make the exact shoe the horse needs and not settle for the manufactured shoe that only comes close.
The next big benefit comes when you go to the supply house to buy your shoe inventory. A lot of specialty shoes are expensive, but if you’re good at making all kinds of shoes, you can stock your rig with standard size keg shoes and a few lengths of bar stock.
Of course, the cost of those expensive manufactured corrective shoes can be passed on to the horse owner. However, if you’re hand-making the shoes, the cost is still passed on to the client, but you are making a substantially larger profit.
Increase Corrective Shoeing Ability
One of the reasons that there’s such devotion to this trade is that we’re constantly rewarded for our efforts. Who doesn’t like to see a horse limp into the shop with its head hanging low and trot out with its head held high? For farriers that are competent in the forge and skilled at their craft, this is a common experience.
Handmade Shoe Forging Tips
Following is a checklist that will help you improve your forging skills.
1. Break the shoe making process into steps or tasks and practice each step individually. For instance, you can forge a heel on the end of a piece of bar stock, cut it off or upset the stock square and then forge another heel. You can do the same for every aspect of the handmade shoe. Try making 10 toe bends in a row, then 10 heels on each piece, 10 branches punched, etc., before putting all the skills together.
2. Make shoes for the horse ahead of time. Once you get faster, you might want to make more shoes at the barn, but in the beginning it can be discouraging and distracting to have the horse standing there for the entire process.
3. Heat the steel evenly. It will bend easiest where it is hottest. Beginners often struggle because they heat the steel unevenly because their shaping skills need more work.
4. Learn to use your anvil horn efficiently. The horn is underrated and not understood well by a lot of farriers. With proper instruction and practice, you can increase efficiency many times over.
5. Strive for perfection and speed will come. Get samples of work you admire and try to emulate them.
6. Enter contests and associate with people who are good at doing what you are trying to improve on.
7. Go to as many forging clinics as you can. Try every style and theory, then incorporate what works for you and discard what doesn’t.
8. Use quality tools and equipment. Don’t settle for cheap stuff. You’ll never be sorry for buying quality.
9. Find a forging partner. If you can find someone with similar goals so you can train together, it will accelerate and enhance your learning.
10. Practice, practice, practice!