In our 2012 edition of Getting Started in Hoof Care (A Career Guide for New Farriers), we asked Eli Beiler about Standardbreds. The Gap, Pa, farrier explained there are three things that every farrier who works with Standardbreds must understand about working with the trainers and owners of these horses:
1. Be Patient In the Standardbred business, you're up or you're down. There's nothing in between. There's probably more lows than highs in the business. So the horse is doing well, and the trainer says, "Don't change anything." But what happens if the horse doesn't do well after some time? It may not be your fault, like one time I had a horse that was giving the trainer fits by hitting her knee. So of course the trainer wants to blame the farrier. Turns out the issue were a bowed tendon.
Always do the best job you can, but be ready for criticism, even if it isn't justified. That is why you need to know your anatomy and be able to explain what you are doing. Don't take it personal. You have to find trainers who will be patient, but they need results so that is hard to come by.You have to manage expectations. A trainer will come to you screaming, "Fix him! Fix him!" You just don't "fix" the horse. I think we should say, "Well, let's help the horse."
2. Communicate As A Team I remember another horse that started to hit its knee. With a race coming up, the trainer wanted to get this changed. Luckily the trainer, veterinarian and I were there to assess the situation. We talked it through, both the vet and I giving what we were seeing. Ultimately we would leave it up to the trainer to decide what to do, but he was better informed to make that decision. Make everyone part of the team, Talk through the problems when they come up. And remember, you don't know everything, so it is a time for you to learn too.
3. Pay Your Dues You aren't worth a lick if the trainers don't know you. But how will they know you if you don't work? And they won't hire you if they don't know you, so you won't work? See the problem? You have to ride along with someone before they industry knows you. Your name is everything; it is worth more than money. When you want to shoe these horses, your respect is better than actually work to a certain extent. Go to the local tracks and learn who are the respected farriers are. Introduce yourself. Sweep for them. Do anything for them, and don't ask for money in return. Looking back, I would even pay a farrier to ride along with just for the experience and what it would do to get my foot in the door.
We will have more advice for working with various disciplines. Stay tuned to AFJ on how you can get this free edition.