So what’s your policy on replacing lost shoes? A few weeks ago, in a blog post, I talked about an incident that occurred when a farrier made an extra stop and replaced a lost shoe for a fellow farrier. I mentioned that the farrier replaced the lost shoe without charging the horse owner for the service.

Now most farriers I’ve talked with say they do the same thing as part of their service. But Andrew Park, a farrier from Fischerville, Ontario, makes a pretty good argument for not being too quick to nail that shoe back on for free.

“Tacking” Takes Time

Park notes that “tacking” a shoe back on is often very time consuming, and also adds costs to the farrier’s day. When shoers make an extra stop, they’re out at least the cost of fuel involved, and possibly propane for the forge, hoof packing and other materials, as well as their time.

Coming to that realization is one of the reasons Park changed his lost-shoe policy. He admits that when he started out, he also put shoes back on for free.

“I’d be out on Friday night at 9 p.m. putting a lost shoe on,” he recalls. “Mad that my Friday night was ruined, but felt I had to because the horse was in a show on Saturday.”

It became a habit, he says, because he wanted to please his customers. It wasn’t always pleasing his wife and he was missing his kids’ hockey and baseball games. He thought about making a change and finally did so about 4 years ago.

Not At Fault

Part of his motivation was coming to believe that often, lost shoes weren’t his fault. He described a particular case where he was called back four times to replace a lost shoe on one particular horse. He carefully checked his trim, his balance, his fit and his nailing and couldn’t find an issue.

Then one day, as he happened to be driving past the farm in question, he saw the culprit extending a front foot through a fence, using it to pull back a wire fence so that it could get at the grass beyond. The reason for so many lost shoes suddenly became clear.

Unforeseen Benefit

Park says that an unintended but positive consequence of his decision to charge for losing shoes is that the number of lost shoes he’s had to deal with has gone way down. It may have been that replacing the shoes for free was, in effect, enabling poor animal husbandry.

He found that when horse owners found they’d have to pay to have a lost shoe replaced, they were more likely to use bell boots and take other steps such as keeping horses inside when conditions are extremely muddy. He estimates that the number of lost shoes he’s had to deal with has decreased by 80% over the last 4 years.

“It makes people take more care with these animals and what they do with them,” he says.

Park has talked with a number of other farriers in his area about charging for replacing lost shoes. While many are skeptical and concerned about losing customers, he says those who have tried it have reported very similar results.

Not For Everyone

Obviously, part of this is understanding where you are in your career. If you’re relatively new at horseshoeing and get frequent calls about lost shoes, it may say more about your need to improve your skills than it does about neglect on a client’s part.

But if you’ve been at this job for awhile and find that lost shoes are only a problem at certain barns or with certain clients, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate “tacking” on those shoes for free.

Maybe give it a little thought the next time you’re making that one additional stop on a Friday night when you’d planned on dinner out with family or friends. And as you’re tacking on that shoe, you happen to notice a lot of pawing marks at the fence line of a pretty grazed-over paddock — where more succulent grass is just a forelimb away.

What’s your policy for dealing with lost shoes? And have you come up with any strategies that help you cut down on them? Let us know in the comments section.