RIDING LESSONS, Spanish lessons, working more closely with equine veterinarians and picking up valuable shoeing ideas from veteran shoers are key techniques Geoff Goodson is using to expand his 8-year-old shoeing business.

Just as importantly, the East Hampton, Conn., farrier sees a critical need to continue to gain more shoeing and business knowledge every day.

As a kid, Goodson rode horses. He later trained dogs and studied wildlife biology in college. Eventually, he met a farrier with a fantastic shoeing rig and saw he was earning a good income.

“This was much different than the farriers I remembered from my childhood,” he says. “Those shoers didn’t have a forge, acted like cowboys and did nothing except nail on shoes.

“All of a sudden, I saw shoeing in a brand new light and was excited about what it could mean to me as a career.”

Goodson worked for a local farrier for several months to get a basic understanding of the business. Then he headed off to Danny Ward’s Eastern School of Farriery in Virginia.

After farrier school, he worked with several farriers to expand his shoeing knowledge. In 1994, he spent 3 1/2 months as part of the American Farrier’s Association Cultural Exchange in Australia.

Goodson passes along these tips and ideas he’s picked up from other farriers over the past 8 years which can make shoeing work easier for young farriers.

1 Know The Basics. While shoeing skills are essential, don’t overlook the importance of understanding basic foot preparation.

2 Sell Yourself. When starting out, be prepared to oversell your shoeing skills. “Prospective shoeing clients don’t want to hear about your mistakes,” he says. “They want to be confident in your work and what you can do for their horses.”

3 Inspire Confidence. You can’t successfully shoe for clients unless they have complete confidence in your abilities. If they have confidence in your shoeing skills, they’ll trust you with all kinds of foot problems.

4 Get The Whole Story. A “rookie” farrier needs to fully understand the whole story behind each horse. “Don’t take on a shoeing case when you don’t know the whole story,” he says. “If you do take it on and something goes wrong, you’ll be blamed for everything even when it’s not your fault.”

5 Think About The Sequence. When he has to trim and shoe a horse with a disease problem, Goodson schedules the horse at the end of the shoeing day. “I don’t want to spread diseases from barn to barn,” he says.

6 Let ‘Em Relax. With a horse that has just come off a trailer or come in from pasture, place the animal in a stall before bringing him to your shoeing area. “This gives them a chance to relax for a few minutes and relieve themselves in the stall rather than in my shoeing area,” he says. 

7 Be Courteous. If you are running late or can’t keep a shoeing appointment, call clients to update them on the changing situation.

8 Take Control. It’s important to let the horse know you are in control. “Once you do this, you can work with almost any horse,” he says. “If a new horse is a problem, I’ll have the vet tranquilize the animal the first few times I shoe him.”

9 Use Tiered Pricing. His three largest shoeing accounts are located an hour from home. When he drives 60 minutes, he includes a travel fee in his shoeing charges.

10 watch your cash flow. “I don’t hear from a few of my shoeing clients from Thanksgiving until March since they aren’t using their horses and let them run barefoot,” he says. “Since winter shoeing is a slightly slower time for us, we watch our cash flow and supply purchases carefully.”

11 Keep current. Because of the growing popularity of reining horses, Goodson is taking reining horse riding lessons. Not only is he interested in reining from a riding standpoint, but he hopes to use this training to secure shoeing work from reining horse owners and trainers.

“Reining is becoming an Olympic equine sport,” he says. “This has greatly expanded the value of reining horses and related services in this area.”

12 be diverse. Goodson hopes to learn Spanish. “I want to do a better job of communicating with Spanish-speaking grooms,” he explains. “They can tell you what’s really happening with each horse.”

13 Pay special attention to grooms and trainers. “I buy T-shirts or get a Christmas present for grooms and trainers who really help me,” he says. “I treat them well because they are valuable, can explain what’s going on with horses and keep me from losing my temper with an unruly horse.”

14 play on the team. Rely on others for foot care help and to secure more shoeing work. “I learned a great deal from my Australian visit, and was really impressed by how well the farriers and equine veterinarians worked together,” he says. “The result is a much better shod horse.

“Since I’ve come home, I’ve made a real effort to work closer with area vets on foot and leg problems. It has paid off.”