What are the three most important words in real estate? Indian burial ground.
I can’t who remember who is the comedian responsible for this joke — maybe it is old enough to be in the public domain. Of course, this is a play on the old maxim that location is so important in real estate matters that it comprises the three words.
And perhaps it is at least one of the words if the question is where to practice farriery. In this issue’s tip, location is the theme. It also was a significant part of Gerard Laverty’s lecture on the past and future of the industry, delivered at this month’s American Farrier’s Association Annual Convention.
The ever-changing demographics of the United States and Canada affect the types of clients farriers serve, stresses the farrier instructor from Kwantlen Polytechnic University outside of Vancouver, British Columbia. The area one chooses to live in greatly affects the types of horses and clients that farriers serve.
Having emigrated from Northern Ireland to shoe in the United States and Canada, Laverty certainly can speak with authority on the influence location has on a farrier practice. To begin, there are obvious horse-centric areas that serve specific disciplines more so than others. And living near larger populations should provide more clients in a concentrated rather than a rural section. But it goes beyond those simplistic views.
“Some cities have a larger population of older citizens,” explains Laverty. “They will give you a different clientele than a city that is more concentrated with younger population.”
Unless there is a happy marriage of location and attainable career goals, a farrier must choose between one or the other … or really collect those truck miles or frequent flier points. The crossroad of this decision can arrive at any point in one’s career based on self-development and priorities.
In a sense, demographics are part of another “location” that farriers have absolutely no control over — your place in history — that has the ultimate impact.
During the late 19th century and the early- to mid-20th century, declines in the horse population greatly affected horseshoers. Two paramount developments that triggered these massive declines were the advent of electricity and electric street cars, and the widespread ownership of automobiles. Quite simply, fewer horses equal fewer opportunities for hoof-care work.
Today the triggers that affect the horse numbers have more to do with finance than technology. An economic recession and decline in the expendable income of the middle class has hurt the equine industry in recent years. Any recover and its affect on the industry is quite regional in its positive impact.
It is easy to see these outcomes in the rearview mirror. To be prepared, and determine how your physical location is influenced by the demographics of your place in history, Laverty suggests studying the readily available demographics. Data suggests that the typical pool of horse ownership also is the population that isn’t having as many children as in the past.
“The largest growing demographic is white, female adults over 40, and are university educated,” he says. “That’s a client you will have for about 20 years, not the young ones who could be with you for 40 years.”
Look for opportunities in how demographics are changing. For example, Laverty says the immigrant population is experiencing tremendous growth in his area in greater Vancouver. He notes that the first generation of immigrants typically focuses on acquiring capital, while their offspring focuses on spending that wealth — becoming more like the native citizenry.
You need to prepare for a varied clientele,” he suggests. “They may have different backgrounds and different ideas, including what they want you to do for the horse. This will be a challenge and an opportunity.”
In stressing a mindfulness of what the future can hold, Laverty is advocating that farriers — especially young farriers — embrace another truth: the only thing constant in life is change.
“The career I had is not even close to what my boss had,” he explains. “It is going to be a different world for the people I’m training today. I’m not saying that they can’t have a career, but they have to be willing to adapt.”
How do you see changing demographics affecting the horse industry in your area?