Unless you will begin your shoeing career by riding with an established farrier as an apprentice or already have an appropriate vehicle, you’ll need a shoeing rig to get from one location to another. Buying a rig for your business will be the most expensive single cost you’ll incur when heading out on your own.
What Do You Need?
Your finances may predetermine this, but don’t feel like you have to go out and buy a new truck loaded with features. International Horseshoeing Hall Of Fame member Danny Ward thinks too many young farriers make the mistake of buying over their heads. Instead, concentrate on what the truck needs.
“Start with a clean, attractive and professional vehicle,” advises the Martinsville, Va., farrier. “It doesn’t have to be new. Make sure it is well organized, with a nice selection of inventory. I think side doors are a must for convenience. There also are some very nice slide outs or cap options available until your income grows.”
Dansville, Mich., shoer JD Pepper takes a minimalist approach to his shoeing rig. In 2003, he bought a 2002 Toyota Tacoma and redesigned the bed to hold his tools and inventory. Using his scaled-down approach could help you save money.
“If you do things yourself, you can save a lot in the end,” says Pepper.
“A lot of farriers will use their trucks as a storage shed. You don’t need all that excess. I don’t work in my truck. I think it is wasting money and isn’t necessary for your business.”
He created a storage system for the Tacoma based on 1-by-6-inch wood planks because of wood’s affordability over aluminum. He also customized the cap for side doors.
If you take this minimalist approach, Pepper says to keep good records for tracking inventory. “I write in my appointment book what each horse will need the next time I see it, so I know what to bring,” he explains.
Although his business is to customize shoeing rigs, Stone Well Bodies & Equipment president Brent Chidsey says the do-it-yourself route is the way to go if money is tight. His company’s Web site, www.stonewellbodies.com, and others offer hundreds of ideas you could mimic.
“It doesn’t have to be expensive, just use good construction techniques like screws instead of nails,” says the Genoa, N.Y., businessman. “Use the ideas of people in your area. Ask other farriers what works for them. Read the stories like ‘Shoeing For A Living,’ in the American Farriers Journal to see what successful farriers are using.
“Think in terms of simple, but functional. Look at basic beds, you can find used caps with the standard size because people will sell a cap because their old one doesn’t fit the bed any longer. Make sure it has side doors so you don’t have to crawl in the back.”
Bob Weber of 3W Truck and Equipment in Escondido, Calif., believes you should fabricate a truck’s layout before you outfit your rig. “Place a big box on the floor and walk around it several times,” suggests Weber. “How does your work flow around the truck? Think about how you use tools together in your workplace.”
Using a Trailer
Don’t just think about what kind of truck you need. Consider the work you do — how will the layout affect your workflow?
You may not have a vehicle that can carry the necessary load of equipment and supplies for farrier work. Also, your income may limit you to one vehicle, so loading and unloading farrier supplies from your all-purpose vehicle everyday is not an option. In either case, a trailer could be the solution.
Chidsey says to look in your local classifieds for standard cargo trailers. Finding a used one shouldn’t be too difficult. As with a shoeing box, you can customize it for your needs based on ideas from farrier resources. Chidsey thinks the key is organization.
“Even if it is just milk crates, have them neat in there,” he says. “It is better to carry less that is orderly rather than a lot that is messy.”
Before you buy a trailer, consider your shoeing area. Are there steep inclines and windy roads that could make navigation difficult or dangerous while hauling a trailer?
Ramona Calif., farrier Chris Richter says if you can’t take a trailer directly to a work site, make sure you can carry your tools and stall jack there.
North Canton, Ohio, farrier Craig Lindauer found fuel-saving measures by downsizing his truck to an SUV and pulling a trailer. Although the reduction in fuel consumption is a big draw, he says it took time to get used to the trailer’s size. “A smaller trailer means less capacity,” admits Lindauer. “This might require planning on your part so you can take the shoes and other equipment you will need for a week or so and leave the rest of the inventory at home.”
Where To Buy
If you have the financial resources, there are several companies that provide customized farrier truck and trailer options. Depending on when you read this article, pick up the 2009 or 2010 November issue of American Farriers Journal. This special edition offers all of the leading vendors of customized rigs and how you can contact them. Identify the ones in your region and call them. Discuss your shoeing rig goals and they likely have a option for you.
For buying used, Chidsey says to look in your local newspaper and auto classified magazines. You’ll find plenty of options and can look at the vehicle before negotiating a price. However, he warns against finding the cheapest offering to save money. “If you are going to buy used, go for reliability over price,” says Chidsey. “I would pay up for used quality over a lower price. Vehicles that will last longer are a better investment.”
Chidsey says to go back to your fellow farriers to see what they like. Get involved in online discussion boards like the Farriers’ Forum found at www.americanfarriers.com.
Buying online is a popular option today. Sites like e-Bay or Craigslist offer the ability to search outside of the farrier world based on criteria like region or price range.
Several farrier-based sites have classified sections that allow you to buy directly from other farriers. Although the selection isn’t as extensive at general audience sites, the buyer-seller interaction isn’t as anonymous. Baron Tayler, the Pennsylvania-based site administrator of The Farrier & Hoofcare Resource Center, believes specific online classifieds like those found on his site provide that superior interaction.
“There are functions in place to prevent fraud on sites like e-Bay, but you don’t interact person to person as you do on our site,” says Tayler. “When people register on our site, you get a real name and a real phone number. It isn’t someone hiding their profile. In our 10 years of having classifieds, there has only been one case of a purchase that wasn’t what it was advertised as.”
As far as what to ask online sellers, Tayler says to approach it as you would by buying a truck from an auto dealer. “Ask about the condition and mileage,” advises Tayler. “Find out if the seller kept maintenance records — when was the oil changed, how old are the tires and have there been any major repairs.”
Leasing As An Option
Leasing makes sense for those who may want to keep a vehicle for up to 4 years, rather than 8 to 10. A major benefit for someone who may not have a strong cash reserve is that you can often structure a lease without making a down payment.
Typically, most farriers look for a commercial lease because of its flexibility. Personal leases, like those for those driving a family car, have fixed terms and payment terms. Commercial leases can be structured for leases beneficial for someone starting out, like scheduling higher payments later in the lease.
Since a standard truck isn’t outfitted for farrier work, you may need to have a company that assembles farrier rigs replace the standard bed with a box. The company will often store the bed for you, protecting it from any damage. When the lease ends, the company will reattach the original bed to the truck and place the box on the next vehicle.
Scott Lambert, a Minnesota farrier and owner of Ontrack Equine Software, has owned and leased shoeing rigs throughout his farrier career.
“I’ve had no down time because of truck problems since I started leasing, and if anything did happen, I’m not liable for the cost,” he says.
If you will place high mileage on your vehicle, leasing might be a good idea.
Determine how many miles you will place on the vehicle per year and negotiate that in the lease if it exceeds the general limit of 30,000. If you go over your allowed mileage total of the year, you will have to pay for that extra amount.
One downside to leasing is you will always pay for a lease throughout its life. If you pay off a vehicle in 5 years that you will own for 10 years, you will have half of a decade without payments.
Paying At The Pump
The fuel pump pains experienced in 2008 could return and impact your bottom line. Paying for fuel is an inevitable cost for your business.
Back then — and still today — many farriers added fuel surcharges to their billing. This may not be a viable option for those just starting out and trying to develop their client base.
Other than charging more, the best way to manage fuel cost is to schedule clients at the same barn for the same day. Plan ahead of time to schedule your clients for efficiency.
“I plan my shoeing days in certain areas,” says Frederick, Md., farrier Phil Thommen. “This creates more efficiency in staying on schedule and is saving $15 to $20 per day in fuel costs.”
Pine Grove, Pa, farrier Cody Holden travels to the scheduled barn that’s farthest away, then works his way back home. He advises you to use a GPS navigation system.
“I thought I knew every road in the area until I got that unit,” he says. “Now I save time and miles off my work with better scheduling and driving.”?