Each issue of Practical Horseman features a question posed to readers about a variety of equine topics. In the January 2014 issue, the editors ask the readers for feedback on the most important trait looked for in a vet and/or farrier.

There is some crossover in what the horse owner requires of both. However, because of the differing roles of each, the answers become very generalized, especially when footcare isn't placed as a qualifier for vets. Responses are driven by both bad experiences and by those who love their current farrier.  Many of the responses are familiar: be professional, show up on time, have horsemanship and be empathetic.

It shouldn't surprise anyone that another common trait owners look for is a farrier who will be kind to their animals. Unfortunately, some farriers lose clients by failing in this department. However, in many cases, you can read between the lines and decipher the true message. When some owners use words like "patience", they might actually be saying, "Please help train my horse to stand for the farrier because I've failed to." This is an important part of communication — understanding what someone is actually saying.

For me, the most important thing to take from this Q&A is that many owners look to farriers as teachers. Typically, farriers see the horses many times more per year than the veterinarian. By answering anatomy questions or showing how to pull shoes, you can make yourself more valuable to the client. You solidify your place as their footcare expert. You make it more likely that your services will be retained.

There is no such thing as a composite of a horse owner. Horse owners' desired traits of farriers are all over the place, but  there is one consistent theme among these traits: quality customer service. Whether they want farriers to answer questions, be punctual or have patience, the owners want to feel they are receiving a good return on their investment. As this year comes to a close, it is a good time to make sure you are doing your best to exceed those expectations for the clients you want to keep. It can also serve as that time to remove clients from your book in which the cost of doing business with them exceeds the benefits gained.

And with 2013 coming to a close, here's to your success and happiness in 2014.