Q: I’ve decided that my Palm Pilot’s become too limiting for planning and revising my schedule, so I’m looking to buy a laptop and some better business software. Which leads to my question: What do you use for scheduling and billing, and most importantly, what don’t you like about what you’re using? I’d like to know the high points of the software as well, but am really interested in the “holes” and limitations that I may run into.

—Matthew Kiwala

A: I use the “Forge Ahead” farrier business program by Backroads Data. It works well for me and my business purposes. I’ve found no holes in my application as of yet, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Check out their Web site at: www.backroadsdata.com or give Julie Schwalm a call at (785) 594-6807 and Backroads Data will send you a “dummy” version of the program to test out.

—Donnie Walker

A: I also use the “Forge Ahead” software on my laptop and I agree that it’s a huge help in managing my business. I also use the Palm-Pilot version of the program on my Palm. It’s most useful on those days when my clients don’t need a printed invoice. On these days I can give my laptop and portable printer a rest. The Palm Pilot is also much easier to carry around.

— Robert Poole  

A: I had been looking at purchasing the “Forge Ahead” program for a while and finally decided to give it a try. They have an option where you can buy a temporary license for about half the price, so I did that. If you find the program helpful, you can then pay the other half and get a lifetime license. 

It’s an outstanding resource and has helped me keep my shoeing records organized. It’s user friendly and I’ll definitely be upgrading to the lifetime license within the next couple of weeks. 

The only issues I came across that might be considered “holes” are:

  1. It’s difficult to delete an incorrect entry once the entry has been entered. You can, however, simply mark the incorrect record as “inactive” and it doesn’t appear anywhere until you go back to the inactive list and reactivate it. This had been my biggest frustration with the software until I read about the inactive status in the manual. It’s now a non-issue.
  2. When printing my “Horse’s Due” list, it didn’t show a phone number for the “Client’s Due,” so I would have to print off my list and cross-reference it with the client’s contact-information form and look up each phone number individually. This was really an inconvenience and I continued to think that Backroads Data needed to fix this problem in future updates to the “Forge Ahead” program. However, when I voiced my complaint in a phone call to Backroads Data, they explained that if I changed my “Sort Order,” I could display the information I wanted (client’s phone numbers). I tried it and they were right and this fixed one of the holes that I thought the program had.
  3. The only other “hole” is another very minor annoyance, which is really in place to protect the user from entering wrong information. This annoyance stems from the fact than an “Are you sure?” dialog box pops up each time before accepting most of your information. You have to continually click on the “Yes” box to finally submit the information. Again, this is there to protect you from having incorrect information entered, which as I stated in “hole” No. 1, is hard to delete.


Overall, I’m extremely pleased with the software and would recommend it to anyone. The aforementioned “holes” are very minor and almost not worth mentioning, except that you asked for the downside to the software and these are the only things that come to mind. 

If you’re still not sure, then call and buy the 6 month license. If for some reason you don’t like the program then you aren’t out much money. Also, even though I have only called their customer service number once, they were very helpful and knowledgeable. I wouldn’t hesitate to call again if I had any problems. I think you’ll be pleased with the “Forge Ahead” program.

—Jeremy Romoser

Getting Back Into Shoeing Shape

Q:  I’m a farrier who has not practiced for a few years and I want to get back in the game. My problem is that I’m not in very good shape physically. Does anyone have any suggestions for getting back into condition for shoeing (and staying that way). I’m familiar with a number of exercises using a home gym, etc., but I’m not sure which direction to go.

I’m excited about my future as I re-enter the farrier business. I didn’t realize how much I would miss it when I took a job in the city, but now I feel like a kid (56 years young) again! I think it’ll be somewhat like riding a bike, you never forget, but I want to make sure that I do things the right way and not injure myself by trying to do too much, too soon. I’m also concerned, however, about rebuilding my client base.

—Patrick Ards

A: Congratulations on deciding to come back into the shoeing business! No doubt that physically and mentally it should be easier for you this time around than it was when you were a rookie. The best suggestion I have for you is to do as much stretching as possible and slowly build your strength back up. The strength will come back relatively quickly, but it’s been my experience — particularly with new students — that stretching is the most important part, especially as it pertains to your back muscles. 

In terms of strengthening your back to avoid injury, work on your “core muscles.” Your core muscles are your abdominal (stomach) and back muscles. If you have strong abs and maintain good posture under the horses, your body will work better and stay healthier. 

I once broke my hip from a horse riding accident and had to take a while off from doing my shoeing work, but it was fairly easy to get back into the swing of things. Remember, it’s what’s in your chest that counts!

—Nate Allen

A: It’s going to be tough at first, but hang in there. I got out of the shoeing business in 1991 and re-entered the profession last year. I’m only 53 and can tell you that it can be done. 

Don’t worry about rebuilding your client base. The mistakes that young farriers make will definitely bring you many clients — just be sure to tell your local vet that you’re back in the game. The vet will be happy to recommend a veteran farrier to a horse owner. Although this means that you will undoubtedly have to correct some horrible shoeing mistakes.

— Rickey Benningfield 

A: In addition to Nate’s good advice, you might want to start off by seeing if you can work with another farrier a few days a week. This will allow you to get back into shoeing rhythm and shape without overdoing it. 

If that’s not possible, schedule lightly for a brief period of time, and as you round back into form, you can increase your workload accordingly.

— Rick Burten

A: After a few long days bent over like a half-opened pocket knife, you’ll be thinking that you made the biggest mistake of your life by re-entering the farriery fraternity. But you’ll get back into the swing of things in no time. I started shoeing late in life and I put in a lot of long hours on the job. It’s hard work, but I love it.

Be kind to the younger, more inexperienced farriers and help them whenever you can. All farriers have to start somewhere and we all make mistakes starting out in this business. It’ll be a good kid you take on to help you that will pay huge dividends later on when your back starts to give you grief.

— Red Amor

What Causes Hoof Cracks?

Q:  What causes a hoof to crack from the hairline down? I have a horse with cracks on both front feet on the inside quarters — about 1 to 1 1/2 inches long. The cracks do not interfere with the horse’s stride or hit, and he’s not lame. But he’s had this ongoing problem for 4 months. 

—Jack Wittwer

A:  While there can be a number of reasons for hoof cracks to occur, the primary cause is hoof-capsule imbalance, which is often and regularly caused by improper trimming and shoeing.

While your horse is not — at least at the present time — lame, unless the cause of the cracks is determined and rectified, he well could become so. Even if he remains sound, these cracks could very well worsen and become bleeders. Make sure you address this “minor” problem before it becomes a major one.

—Rick Burten

A: I’ve come across this problem quite often in the Ohio area. In most cases, I think it’s because of a lack of nutrition. Something in the horse’s diet is missing. I recommended a good biotin product that strengthens the overall quality of the horse’s feet. 

If you have enough room, burn a hole at the top of the crack with a hot rod that has a point on it. Remember you’re at the top of the hairline, so be careful, as you don’t have much room for error. When you do this, the hole acts just as it’s in leather and the hole, if it’s burned deep enough, causes the crack to stop. Just remember not too burn the hole too deep. 

— Scott Anweiler