As farriers we spend a lot of time and financial resources educating ourselves about therapeutic work. We attend contests, certifications, clinics and spend many hours in the shop improving our skills, trying to help our equine clients. Our advanced skills are often left in the truck because of financial constraints of treating a lame horse.

We’ve all got the call that old Daulbin is lame. Sometimes they are calling us thinking that we “are cheaper than the vet.” This statement implies we are going to diagnose and treat the horse for its affliction. We are now responsible and in some cases liable.

A few clients have considerable resources for diagnostics and treatment options. These are not the vast majority of the horse-owning public. The farrier will be caught between what skills they have, available inventory on the truck and what they can charge for the work. The client will balance the cost of diagnosis and treatment, splitting this amount between the equine professionals treating the animal. Finding a formula for charging will be the difference between maintaining profitability and losing money on the work. Those who have been in this business for an extended period of time, do this for more than a paycheck.

With that being said, time is money. When figuring out what to charge, how much time will it take? Do you need to go over the information with the vet or wait for the horse to be blocked or sedated? How much could you make shoeing a different horse? How much time did you block out for this appointment? You should at least get the amount of labor charge per hour. For example, if you charge $150 to shoe a horse and figure one-third would go to supplies and transportation, then you would need $100 an hour. To charge for this, I would figure $30 for the travel, 2 hours for the labor and materials normally associated with your normal shoeing practices. Specialized materials needed for the job should be at least doubled. Stocking these items is costly, many times different sizes are needed if you haven’t been able to see the horse and measure. Many of these items will end up being “dead inventory” on specialty items. Forging time must also be included for specialty items.

Confused? I’ll try to make things simple, which means “itemize.” Thirty dollars for the travel if the client is close, more if there is considerable drive time. Two hundred dollars for the labor; bar shoes, $50; pour-in pads, $100. Grand total: $380 for 2 hours labor. Shoeing the horse with bar shoes, pour-in pads and shoe the hind end based on a $150 base shoeing rate. You can adjust based on your rate. The client won’t always be happy, but it is defendable.

Many farriers will justify a lower rate by saying they “are there for the horse.” The reality is that we are providing a living for ourselves and our families. We are not balancing the customers’ checkbook or paying their bills, nor do we own the horse that we are working on. We can give the customer the best information about what we are treating, give them treatment options and what that will cost. It’s up to the customer to make the decision about what treatment will be performed, based on diagnostic information and how much they will spend on treatment.

I’ve had clients say, “I spent a lot of money with the vet.” This seems to imply that I should share the cost of treatment or the importance of farrier services is secondary. This is something to think about when you look at your family or are paying your company’s bills.

In the end, factors that should be considered are the time allotted. If a block of time is set for this procedure, you should be compensated for that time. This includes time consulting with the vet and client, waiting for sedation, etc. Next, time used for specialty forging and materials associated with the procedure. Realize that you probably need to make a backup set of shoes in case they lose one.

Lastly, the cost of education associated with learning these skills should be considered. Remember this is skilled labor, not common labor. This industry tends to undervalue its service compared with other skilled trades. Breaking it down into billable time and materials will make it easier replace tools, supplies, continued education and that much-needed vacation we seem to overlook too often.