Q: Has anyone had any experience buying a farrier business? Good or bad?

—KT, kenotimm@netscape.net

A: I’m not sure about buying a farrier business, but my clients wouldn’t go for me selling them to someone who hasn’t earned their trust. I consider the relationship I have with my clients to be one of trust — a trust that I have earned over a long period of time. It takes time and lots of hard work to gain that trust.

When I left Florida for Texas 21 years ago, I asked my former clients what they wanted me to do. I asked them if they wanted me to refer them to another farrier or spread them out with a bunch of different farriers? The overwhelming response was that while they were sorry I was moving, they had 6 weeks after my last appointment to find a new farrier and they could do it on their own. A lot of my customers had already been through most of the local farriers on my list or knew of other farriers through friends.

I guess it all boils down to a private treaty between horse owner and farrier.

—Gary, FtFrkGary@aol.com

A: When the day comes, I’ll be more than happy to sell mine, but who’d want to buy it? If I quit shoeing for a living, and you’re a farrier who works in my area, all you have to do is sit back and wait for customers who need a shoer to call you. Whether you’re a skilled shoer or not, customers need their horses shod. If I stop doing it, somebody else will start where I left off. Why would you pay for that?

No shoer has a contract with their customers and every customer can leave if they please. Accordingly, a farrier can stop working with a customer if he or she wishes to do so. That being the situation, a farrier simply has nothing to sell.

Anyone who impresses potential buyers by showing off their low customer turnover, or anyone who agrees to introduce them to their customers, has found a buyer stupid enough to pay money for that! An introduction to a customer is not worth that much. It’s way cheaper to run an ad for your farrier services.

Selling a shoeing business boils down to just your inventory. And while that’s worth something, it’s not that much.

—Ronald Aalders, ronaldaalders@planet.nl

A: Buying a shoeing business may be foolish when you can build a clientele for free, but building a good client list can take several years. The best move a young (or new farrier) could do is pay an established farrier for his or her client list at the end of an appropriate apprenticeship. That way, the new farrier has been introduced to all the clients and has developed a level of professional respect. Deep trust from the customer comes over time and confidence in the new farrier’s work. It would not be unreasonable to lose 10 to 15 percent of the customers early in the business transition.

From the customer point of view, they know most of the horseshoers in their area and chose the previous farrier because they got along. An apprentice of the previous farrier probably has a similar approach to shoeing and would make the customer feel more comfortable. To go back into the horseshoer pool and start the selection process over isn’t usually what horse owners want to do. They will give the new farrier a chance, especially if they have seen his or her work and know that the new farrier has worked under a farrier that they trusted.

A new farrier will be 1 to 2 years ahead by buying the client list. It takes nearly 5 years to peak-out by accumulating your own clients. The price of the farrier business should be about 2 years profit, since that is how long it would take to build the business. I would settle for payments over 4 or 5 years so the new farrier could afford to eat while he works.

Since there are hardly any tangible assets in a service-based shoeing business, good luck finding a bank that would back this sale. So there is little chance that you’d get a lump-sum payment for your shoeing business. But if you are a shoer who is retiring and can take incremental payments from a new farrier who is buying your business, it’s a good income. Also, if you are retiring and will be in the area to mentor the new farrier it helps the clients accept the transition and helps guarantee that you will get paid.

You can go somewhere and hang out your shingle and take a long time building a real shoeing practice that feeds your family. But word of mouth is what gets clients. And then you have to be good enough to keep them. It’s very cost effective to start with a client list and a recommendation, then prove yourself deserving and worthy of keeping those clients.

Businesses are bought and sold all the time, and most customers will at least try the new owner.

—Glen Henderson, abletinker@aol.com

Flexor Tendon Laxity In Quarter Horse Foal

Q: My client has a three-week old foal that is suffering from flexor tendon laxity in the hind legs. Basically this Quarter Horse foal is walking on his fetlocks in the rear legs.

I plan to confer with the vet before taking any action, but would also like to get some input from farriers with experience in this area. My first thought would be to use glue-on heel extensions. What type of extensions work well? How long should they be left on?

— D.M.

A: I have seen this type of laxity more than once in Quarter Horse foals. A considerable number of those foals straightened themselves without any help, but it all depends on how severe the laxity is.

A good test is to try and spook the foal a little. If the foal pulls itself up when it runs or turns, there’s a good chance that the foal’s laxity problem will take care of itself. It will need plenty of exercise, though. Basically, by picking up strength, the foot will straighten out.

If the fetlocks are touching the ground, you can safely consider this a severe case. But sometimes even those cases may be cured when the foal gains strength. Always confer with a vet in severe cases!

Do not work with casts, splints and such unless you really have no other option. With those kind of devices, you limit muscle activity and you’ll only contribute to the laxity.

You may want to advise your customer to use a light bandage to prevent abrasions on the fetlock joint.

—Ronald Aalders, ronaldaalders@planet.nl

A: The first thing you need to do is to work with the attending vet and get his or her support and help.

In my experience on probably a dozen or so foals with significantly lax tendons, all of them straightened up eventually and with no splinting. A couple of them received glued-on caudal extensions for a short time.

It’s very important to keep the heels rasped back to the sole plane and the widest part of the frog during this time. The heels will very quickly run under if you don’t. I’ve seen those soft baby heels get run under in the first day of life if they don’t have a chance to wear off short immediately after birth. If this isn’t addressed with the rasp, it sets that foot up for long-term problems.

Keeping the heels trimmed back prevents the base of support (the “footprint”) from moving forward and distorting the foot. It also helps prevent the heels from contracting and thereby limiting the developing width of the coffin bone in this critical stage, which prevents the onset of longtoe, underrun-heel syndrome. I keep the toe rockered to a decent breakover point. This means just rounding and rockering it lightly and frequently so it doesn’t develop that pointed form.

Foals who get plenty of outside time tighten up a lot faster than those who are confined.

—Patty Stiller, calshoer@direcway.com