Every now and then I receive a phone call from someone interested in becoming a farrier. They always want to know what shoeing school I’d recommend. I talk to them for a few minutes to find out their history, especially work experience. Toward the end of the conversation, I never recommend a particular shoeing school. I offer different advice, which may serve as a good reminder for established farriers.

Instead, if the caller’s work history is sparse, I recommend that they work a minimum of 6 months at a small, family-owned business. Among those, I find restaurants are ideal because it is a tough, competitive industry. And I find family businesses usually are more passionate about the business than the onsite managers of large, national chain operations. Regardless, this position should involve customer service.

I usually get a “come again” when I tell this to seasoned farriers — I did earlier this week when I told this to a 20-year shoeing veteran. After I explained myself, he agreed.

If a farrier doesn’t like dealing with customers, all of the ability at the anvil and under a horse won’t help. Keeping clients happy through quality care is crucial. By ignoring this, the farrier’s business will suffer and the practice will never reach its potential and maybe cease to exist. If that aspect of the job is distasteful for the person, it would be best to avoid being a farrier.

Take the example of working as waitstaff in a restaurant. This is an excellent school for learning how to deal with a wide range of personalities. These restaurant personalities translate to horse barns. There are people who are having a blast and are a pleasure to deal with. The indecisive customer who needs recommendations. Or the complaining customer that you appease. Or the angry customer you can never please, despite your best efforts.

Simply put, the inability to provide customer service will cost a waiter/waitress and the restaurant money. And with it being a small business, continued failure by its staff to match customer expectations will result in poor reviews and potentially a closed business. Likewise, the better the waitstaff is at managing tables and customers, the better the pay (tips).

Excellent customer service is a skill, and is one that can separate a farrier from the competition, much like the ability to make and apply a shoe or investing in continued education.

And if the caller is persistent about the shoeing school, I still never recommend one. There are plenty of excellent schools, with dynamic instructors. My advice is do your research, talk to local farriers and visit the schools you’re considering. The latter likely isn’t cheap because of travel costs, but its less expensive than making the wrong choice of which school best fits you.