Farriery is more than a career, it’s a lifestyle. It instills a strong work ethic, sense of duty and pride. Yet, a balance is necessary. Without it, you risk costly consequences.
The life of a farrier is a tug-of-war. There are plenty of long days, demanding work and difficult clients. Emergencies — real and imagined — pop up. Other forces are at work, as well — bills, food, clothing, shelter, etc. The reasons to let the work side of the tug-of-war rope gain ground are endless. After all, the initial need for work-life balance might not be so apparent.
Consider the horse’s foot. Balance is vital for optimum performance and long-term health. It’s no different for you. The belief that it’s necessary to always be on duty to be successful is a fallacy. Research has found that working long hours adversely affects your health,1 while time off improves productivity.2
Waiting for stress to become evident, or worse, overwhelming, is not in your best interest. Trying to pull the rope back into balance during a tug-of-war is far more difficult.
“Stress can shut your immune system down, upset your digestive system, increase your risk of heart attack and speed up the aging process,” says Harry Trosin, a former Oklahoma farrier who made a career change as a behavioral health rehabilitation specialist after suffering from burnout.
What are the warning signs? You don’t need to feel all of the following to be stressed or burned out.
- You feel tired and drained most of the time.
- You have lowered immunity and frequently feel sick.
- You have frequent headaches, back pain and muscle aches.
- You have a change in appetite and/or sleep habits.
- You are experiencing a sense of failure and self-doubt.
- You feel helpless, trapped and defeated.
- You are detached and feel alone in the world.
- You aren’t motivated.
- You are increasingly cynical and have a negative outlook.
- You have a decreased sense of satisfaction and sense of accomplishment.
What can you do? Make a change.
“We need to stop glamorizing overworking,” says Katy Leeson, the managing director of Social Chain. “The absence of sleep, good diet, exercise, relaxation and time with friends and family isn’t something to be applauded. Too many people wear their burnout as a badge of honor and it needs to stop.”
The American Psychological Association (APA) offers the following evidence-based advice to manage stress.
Take a break. News, social media and certain friends and colleagues can contribute to stress and burnout. “Constantly exposing ourselves to negative information, images and rhetoric maintain our stress at unhealthy levels.”
Count your blessings. At the end of each day, reflect on three good things that have happened, regardless of the perceived significance. “This helps decrease anxiety, counter depression and build emotional resiliency.”
Practice self-care. Take 15- or 30-minute breaks throughout the day, such as a short walk, calling a friend, or watching a funny show.
Stay connected. Friends and family help build emotional resiliency so you can support each other.
Keep things in perspective. Reframe your thinking to reduce negative interpretations of experiences and events.
In the meantime, Brock, Texas, farrier Lee Olsen suggests establishing boundaries.
Set a 40-hour workweek. “People will work you to death if you let them,” he says. “They don’t care that it’s Saturday and your kid has a game. They want to know if you can shoe a horse. If you say that you will, now you just traded your family life for shoeing that horse. That’s when things get a little sketchy.”
It’s your time. “We have to make sure we’re not giving our time away,” Olsen says. “I use a 5-week schedule to ensure that doesn’t happen. Clients prefer a 6- or 7-week schedule or suggest that they’ll call when their horses are ready. At a certain point, that’s not going to work just because it messes up our schedule. When most of my clients are on a 5-week schedule, it’s easy to plan.”
Make a plan. “You need to make a plan because if you’re not making a plan, you’re planning to fail,” he says. “Make time for the things that make you happy. I have a great friend in California who goes golfing every Monday at noon. Whatever is important to you, schedule it and make a plan.”
In other words, spend time with your kids or grandkids. Take them camping, go fishing, ride horses or all-terrain vehicles. Or simply follow the lead of retired farrier Richard Duggan and go jump in the lake (watch the video below).
To paraphrase entrepreneur Malcolm Forbes, no one ever dies wishing they’d spent more time at work. The secret to winning the tug-of-war is to remain balanced.
1. Wong K, et al. “The Effect of Long Working Hours and Overtime on Occupational Health: A Meta-Analysis of Evidence from 1998 to 2018.” Int J Environ Res Public Health, vol. 16,12 2102. 13 June 2019, doi:10.3390/ijerph16122102.
2. Perlow LA and Porter JL. “Making Time Off Predictable — and Required,” Harvard Business Review, October 2009.
- Heed the Warning Signs for Stress: Long-time shoer turned counselor offers coping strategies to avoid burnout, which can prematurely end a farrier career.
- Everyone Needs a Break: While passion fuels our drive, it can only be sustained for so long. We need to take time away from clients’ horses to sustain our passion for farriery. Eventually, with no breaks, that passion can turn sour, wither and die.
- To Succeed at Farriery, Take Time Away from it: No matter how much you like your work, if you invest all of your time into it, you will burn out.
- Tips for Identifying and Managing Compassion Fatigue: Emotional highs and lows of caring for clients’ horses can take a toll.
- Improve Your Farrier Business by Setting Boundaries: Maximize your profits with better scheduling and hoof-care clients.