The practice of farriery is one firmly based in tradition, yet modern solutions have provided farriers with more options for helping horses. Nailing on a steel shoe made from bar stock remains a helpful option for many hoof-care needs, but so do adhesives, urethane shoes and other contemporary tools.

Farrier business practices are similar. Good customer service practices haven’t changed since trade markets of the ancient world. And today, a handwritten hoof-care invoice is still useful, but using technology like business management software and credit card processors can help improve business operations. The key is to not deviate from the foundational principles of farriery or business.

Client Video

Southern Pines, N.C., farrier and Equicast owner Dave Richards called me about a service he provides to his clients. Days to weeks after working with a horse, he wants the client to use their smartphone to pass along videos of the horse. He wants to see a variety of views  — how the horse stands in the stall, how it moves or how the foot progressing. He’ll email, text or call back with feedback and instructions.

Richards reports that clients love this benefit. They view it as an additional service from their farrier who demonstrates his care for their animal. While this is true, it also provides Richards with a way to see whether the client is properly following aftercare instructions for the horse and its environment. He now has a visual record to make sure the client follows the instructions for a laminitic case. Client-generated videos of their horses serve as customer service, save trips to the barn and protect the farrier from uninformed criticism.

Video Consultations Are Here

I’m sure some readers roll their eyes at this approach. But why not adopt technological solutions already successfully adapted in other fields? Look at human medicine and the growing field of telehealth — the use of technology to deliver remote medical services. A typical use could be a patient using video conference call with a pharmacist for directions or questions regarding a prescription.

A study by HealthCare Recruiters International predicts that by 2020, the telehealth market will grow to $36.2 billion — an increase of nearly $22 billion from 2013.

Will it replace the need to visit the doctor’s office? Patient still prefer brick-and-mortar doctor offices and face-to-face interactions. And no matter how interactive a video conferencing session is, in-person diagnostics are more comprehensive and accurate. Nonetheless, telehealth options are here to stay because of the convenience and efficiency it provides to patients, among other benefits.

Part Of The Package

Making recorded or live video conferencing with clients part of your overall customer service strategy can separate your practice from competition. I remember when a farrier school operator told me about tracking the progress of his graduates. He usually found that graduates who had average farrier skill, but exceptional customer service skills, grew their footcare businesses quicker than those with above-average farrier skill, but mediocre skill with managing clients.

The fact remains that keeping horses sound is job No. 1 of a farrier. However, farriery is a service. It requires more than footcare knowledge and skill to advance. And modern solutions can blend well with the traditional practice of farriery.