Backyard horses can be found just about anywhere. They’ll often be kept in small barns or stables that force farriers to do their shoeing outdoors.

Introducing a new AFJ series that will zero in on what many farriers say provides the backbone of their shoeing book

The first “Shoeing For A Living” story that I ever did pretty much revolved around backyard horses. I spent a late November 2000 day in Wisconsin’s Fox River Valley with farrier Monica Hoff, who had driven down from Green Bay.

Hoff made six stops that day, and all but one of them involved backyard horses. I didn’t see a shoe nailed on that day, as some of the horses went barefoot year round and others had already had their shoes pulled for the winter.

But while I didn’t see any actual shoeing, I did see how backyard horse owners care about their horses and got a bit of a feel for the importance of this type of horse in the shoeing books of a lot of farriers.

Many of these farriers tell us backyard horses are the foundation of their business. And it’s surprising how often we find a backyard horse or two tucked into the shoeing day of even very high-end farriers. Our biannual Farrier Business Practices Survey as well as surveys we’ve taken at the International Hoof-Care Summit have consistently shown that well over 90% of farriers include at least some backyard horses among their clientele.

As an example, in 2006 I spent a day with Jeff Pauley, a North Carolina farrier. Pauley’s day included carriage horses at the Biltmore Estates, horses used by competitive endurance riders, high-end jumpers — and ended with a stop far off the paved roads where a family kept a couple of horses for their own pleasure riding.

The Series

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Backyard horses come in all sizes. If you’re asked to trim a miniature horse someday, will you know how to do it and have thought about how much to charge?

During 2012, American Farriers Journal is going to take a yearlong look at the backyard horse. One of the things we need to do first is to decide how we’re going to define the subject. So for our purposes, this is how we’re going to define this animal.

1. A horse or horses that live in a barn or stable on the property of the owner. We want the owner to be responsible for the day-to-day care of the horse, so we’re not going to include those kept at boarding barns.

2. We’re going to look at horses that are used primarily for fun. In other words, owners ride them (or drive them). Participating in something like a 4-H Club horse show is OK, or driving them in local parades or events. But we aren’t going to consider horses that are used in higher levels of competition. In other words, a backyard horse is more of a pet than an investment.

3. Any breed or type of horse that meets the above criterion will be included. That’s in keeping with something we’ve learned in years of doing Shoeing For A Living and other ride-along types of stories. Just about any type of horse may be a backyard horse. We have seen backyard horses of every size from miniatures to draft breeds. We’ve seen retired racing Thoroughbreds and others that never quite made the grade at the track. We’ve seen Morgans, warmbloods, ponies and at least one Tennessee Walking Horse. Rescue horses often become backyard horses, as do mustangs captured in the West.

In fact, one of the biggest challenges in shoeing backyard horses may be when a farrier suddenly is faced with a breed that may have unusual shoeing or trimming requirements.

4. We’re also going to take as a given a standard that we’ve heard from many farriers over the years: A backyard horse deserves the same effort and quality of hoof care as the most expensive racehorse or show horse. We want to explore how this type of shoeing can be done profitably and more efficiently, but we won’t be looking at ways to cut corners that could prove detrimental to the horse.

Get Involved

We’ve put together a schedule for the year, but we also want to hear from you about topics you’d like to see explored, as well as about your own views of and experiences of working with backyard horses.

One of our goals is to share ways farriers can be more efficient and profitable in working with backyard horses. We’re looking for your best ideas and hope you’ll contact us with them.

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Shoeing backyard horses may involve safety issues. Do you want to have to bring in horses from a paddock without help? Will you shoe a horse if the owner isn’t around?