About half of 1%. According to the Department of Defense, that’s approximately the number of Americans who served in the military over the previous decade. However, anecdotally, it appears to me that the percentage is much higher among farriers.
I think this has much to do with parallels between the two careers. Many of the traits learned in the military give veterans valuable skills that bleed into their work as farriers. This doesn’t make veterans better than those who have never served. However, as someone who served and is a practicing farrier, the traits are abundantly clear.
Military service is a unique way of life. From basic training to deployments, service members learn a variety of skill sets that provide a strong foundation for success. Here are five of the best qualities that I have learned from my time in the service. I think any farrier who recognizes these traits and works on enhancing these will be successful in our trade.
In the military, rarely is success accomplished individually, and veterans know the importance of working together to solve complex problems. Teamwork provides you with the ability to learn from others and can allow you to help other people as well.
In your business, you can learn to do this through continuing education opportunities like team forging competitions or mandatory relationships like working with veterinarians, owners and other farriers on problem horses. Having a team approach to your farrier work can provide help in otherwise difficult situations.
Communication is the key element of teamwork, as is understanding your role and being well-prepared in the duties it calls for.
In the military, being late isn’t an option. Missions where lives are at risk depend on keeping your time line.
Tardiness can destroy a farrier practice. One of the biggest complaints of new clients often is that the last guy never showed up on time or at all. If you struggle with making appointments on time, I suggest backward planning the night before your workday. Begin by planning your day from the last stop and work forward up until when you have to wake up. Factor in small amounts of time for the things you don’t normally need to do.
For example, you may see one stop taking you an hour, but did you factor in setting up your rig, or having to return the horse to the pasture? It may only take 2 minutes to do either one, but if you plan it into your time line, it can help give you a better picture of when you should arrive at your next call. The benefits of doing detailed planning are huge. If you are running late or can’t make it, call and let the remaining clients of the day know.
Dedication/Discipline. A line from the Soldier’s Creed states, “I will never quit.” The military teaches this beginning on your first day of boot camp. Dedication and discipline are mandatory to ensure that the good of the entire unit is accomplished.
Have dedication to your trade. If you want to become better, find a mentor and practice. We see this often with those members of our trade who compete. They invest money and time for continued improvement of their forging skills.
Another example is the dedication of Chris Gregory of the Heartland Horseshoeing School in Lamar, Mo., whose hard work in 2009 made it possible for U.S. farriers to take the examinations from the Worshipful Company of Farriers here in the states. This has greatly advanced educational opportunities. Dedication and drive are essential to the success of your business, as they help push you to continue to improve and grow.
Many of the finest military leaders I served with had great integrity. When they said something they followed through. Their actions showed that they did the right thing even when others did not.
Horseshoeing is a business. It is an easy temptation to undercut a fellow farrier or badmouth his/her work for the sake of money. Don’t do it. Have integrity and worry about your own business. If you want to make more money, learn more and invest in your business. Your clients will appreciate the new knowledge and you will be able to better serve the horses you work on.
Stress is a common theme in military life. Whether it comes from combat deployments or large missions with short suspense dates, service members learn to deal with stress and remain composed. Without composure, the mission could fail.
If you struggle dealing with stress management, there are many fixes. The easiest one to practice in a stressful moment is to focus on breathing. You may not be able to control a rude client or unruly horse, but you can control your breathing and how
An example that I often go back to is when I took my certified journeyman practical exam. The first time I took the test, stress overcame me, I panicked and failed. But the next time I realized the moment when my nerves started to get me and I stopped. I took some deep breaths, kept on and passed the test. Keeping your composure during a stressful event will pay dividends and show clients that you are a professional.
Much like athletic skills, the traits I’ve discussed here come through repetition. Whether or not you served in the military, these ideas will give you some new motivation on how to better your business and life by living these attributes every day.