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.

1 Teamwork.

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.


If you struggle with tardiness, try to plan your day backward, beginning with the end of the day. It will help keep you on a schedule.

Focusing on breathing and slowing down is an effective way to overcome stress.

Communication is the key element of teamwork, as is understanding your role and being well-prepared in the duties it calls for.

2 Punctuality.

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.

3 Integrity.

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.

4 Composure.

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
you respond.

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.

What Veterans Think

We conducted a survey of farriers who served in the military. Here are some responses from those veterans:

I learned self-sufficiency and self-discipline from the Marines. Most importantly, it taught me that the only time you fail is when you quit. It’s about perseverance.

— Bryan Osborne, Paris, Ky., (5 years in the U.S. Marine Corps)

The Army taught me a strong work ethic, time management and people skills. You cannot be successful in this business without these traits.

— Doug Hogue, El Paso, Texas, (9 years in the U.S. Army)

The Navy taught me self-discipline, self-confidence and most importantly to surround yourself with smart people. You may not always be the smartest person in the room, but you will know to whom to go to get the answers.

— Ken Lyon, Ramona, Calif., (20 years in the U.S. Navy)

Most of these attributes were taught to me first by my parents and grandparents, so I had a good foundation already. The Army just solidified these for me and pushed me to go further. So just because you didn’t go in the service doesn’t mean you don’t have those traits or can’t develop them, you just have to be deliberate about it.

Set your goals, develop a plan and implement it. When the stuff hits the fan, go through it or around it, adapt and overcome. Do not stop driving forward!

— Sean Petrilli, Lancaster, Ky. (16 years in the U.S. Army)

It taught me organization and effective time management skills.

— Randy Luikart, Ashland, Ohio (4 years in the U.S. Navy)

For newer farriers who didn’t serve, I recommend time as an apprentice with a great journeyman or master farrier.

— James Brown, Buckeye, Ariz. (10 years in the U.S. Air Force)

I learned to be hungry for self-improvement and always finish what you start.

— Steve McConnell, Waterford, Ontario (3.5 years in the Canadian Army)

While in the military, two of the first things I learned were respect for others and always be on time. After doing this for a length of time, the practices became automatic. Remembering this will help in any business. It is your character. Paying attention to detail in your work and doing the extra little things will set you apart from others. Customers pay close attention to those extras.

— Casey Sokol, Belton, S.C. (6 years in the U.S. Army)

Read more from military veterans here.