After starting his client grading system 4 years ago, Madras, Ore., farrier Tobias Ellis has seen â??huge improvementâ?? in 80% of the horses that are under his care. The vast majority of the horses can be trimmed and shod while ground tied or crosstied.

Better Grades, Better Horses

Oregon farrier’s system motivates owners to improve their horses

Whether you shoe in a palace of a barn or mud hole, every farrier at one time or another faces a familiar question: how do you handle a fractious horse?

Many, particularly younger farriers, accept a difficult horse simply because they believe they must in order to build their clientele, and in turn, make ends meet. For others, the risk is too great and they walk away.

Tobias Ellis faced the same conflicting question and came up with his own creative solution.

“A lot of my clients are teachers,” explains the Madras, Ore., farrier. “One of them was joking with me one day and says, ‘Oh, you ought to give us grades.’”

While the teacher might have been joking, the idea was intriguing to Ellis.

“As a farrier, you want the horses to improve so you can work on them safely,” he says.

“You also want the owners to work with them. I decided that by giving them a grade, it gives the horse owner and me a way to see whether they’re improving.”

Evaluating The Horse

Ellis grades his clients and their horses much the same way that your teachers graded you — an A- through F-system.

“I don’t use it for every single horse,” he says. “The horses that I end up putting on the grading system are those that I just wouldn’t normally work on.”

Here’s how Ellis assigns his grades.


A horse is assigned an F when it’s fractious and unsafe to tend to its…

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Jeff cota 2023

Jeff Cota

Jeff Cota has been a writer, photographer and editor with newspapers and magazines for 30 years. A native of Maine, he is the editor of American Farriers Journal.

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