Communication is difficult under the best of circumstances.

The endless differences in personalities, principles and philosophies have a way of making a mountain out of a proverbial molehill. Yet, it’s during these disagreements when it is most important to keep open the lines of communication. It's no different in farriery.

As a court-certified expert witness in California, Bob Smith has seen a number of farriers end up on the wrong side of a lawsuit simply because the lines of communication were cut.

“I get paid to read depositions and give my opinions on them,” the owner of the Pacific Coast Horseshoeing School in Plymouth, Calif., explained to attendees of the 2014 International Hoof-Care Summit in Cincinnati. “During the past 15 years, every single farrier-involved lawsuit that I’ve worked on, there has been a farrier who just decided to quit talking.”

Usually, the disagreement sprouts from a simple misunderstanding.

“Every lawsuit involved something that the horse’s owner assumed was being done by the farrier,” Smith says. “The farrier made contact a couple of times, but he walked away and quit talking to them after he got mad.”

A farrier might disagree with the client, or even believe that the demand is unreasonable, yet walking away only causes more problems.

“Had the farrier stayed and resolved that issue — even if it doesn’t resolve in your favor but at least resolved it to where the client and you could part ways reasonably happy — there would have been no lawsuit at all,” says the International Horseshoeing Hall Of Fame inductee. “I know you’ve got crazy clients out there. I’ve worked with them, too. But don’t break that line of communication because you’re inviting a lawsuit.”

To help avoid misunderstandings with your client, keep them in the loop.

  • Be proactive by informing clients about what you have seen, both in the barn and with the horse.
  • When you encounter clients who want you to perform certain tasks that you disagree with, have a well-reasoned explanation for why you believe it won’t work.
  • Avoid assuming that a client is challenging your knowledge when they ask a question regarding your footcare practices. What might have been a well-intentioned question could have been merely a hasty and poor choice of words.
  • Explain why you want to employ certain footcare practices on the horse.
  • Ask whether the client understands what you are explaining to ensure that you are both on the same page.