Today marks the first day I’ve felt better since being infected with norovirus earlier this week. This wasn’t a pleasant way to spend time off from work, but thankfully this illness wasn’t long-lasting.

Others are not so lucky when it comes to being sick. We heard from North Carolina farrier Martin Kenny about a recent bout he had. Back in January, he had a chest cold that seemed to be clearing up. Despite having symptoms days later, he pushed through, continuing to work. Things did not improve.

“A week ago Sunday, while doing some field work in my heated cab tractor, my lower back seemed to be stiffening up,” explains Kenny. “After about 3 hours, I decided to put the tractor away and walk to the house, which is about 1,000 feet away. As soon as I opened the door, I realized I would not be able to walk. So I drove to the house and, with terrible pain in the hip area, made my way upstairs.” 

After his wife forced him to go to bed, Kenny suffered violent muscle spasms and paralyzing stiffness for about half an hour. Things weren’t better in the morning, and so Kenny would spend a little more than a week in bed, recovering from this, as well as bronchitis.

Kenny says this shows why farriers should not push themselves too hard. He did, admittedly so, and paid the consequences. Much of this could have been avoided if he would have heeded the warnings earlier.

Sure, that is easy for me to say — I have a job that offers benefits such as paid time off for being sick. If a farrier doesn’t work, that farrier isn’t paid. And it isn’t like the work disappears, because those horses still need to be trimmed and shod.

External pressures make it difficult to recognize when you are overdoing it. Hoof care is a service-based industry, so it can feel necessary to do more and more to keep clients happy. This is especially true in the formative years of a practice. There could be an imagined or real threat with a client that rescheduling will result in being fired. So the result is to do more and, thereby, endanger your physical and mental health.

Luckily, Kenny has his friend Russ Vanderlei to lean on. Over several days, the Illinois farrier helped Kenny cover 35 horses in three states. That is another lesson to take away from Kenny. Inevitably you will need help from another farrier to some degree. This is why it is critical to network, build relationships and treat every farrier with professional courtesy and respect.

You are in a tough profession that is incredibly demanding. Don’t make things tougher by failing to recognize you are pushing too hard. More importantly, make sure you do slow down.