I’m spending a couple of days at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine (VMCVM)  in Blacksburg, Va. The time I’m spending with the members of the Equine Podiatry Service will be featured in the July/August issue of AFJ.

Cases presented during this time include those more typical of what a farrier (hopefully) sees on a day-to-day basis (trimming and resetting the shoes on sound horses) to what you would see in a veterinary hospital (building an extension onto a goat’s hoof). Regardless of the case’s complexity of what they encounter, the farriers here (Travis Burns and Ellen Staples) run through a multitude of variables, weighing pros and cons, to come up with the best possible solution for the animal’s hoof care. This process is no different for the experiences of every farrier in the field.

I imagine that for any farrier starting out that this requisite depth of thought can be overwhelming when still trying to get his or her feet firmly on the ground. And a complete knowledge will never be achieved. I find in speaking with farriers throughout the United States that the older they are, the more they question what they understand or what they were more certain of in their youth. New Jersey farrier Bob Pethick likes to end his clinic presentations with this quote: “It takes a lifetime to shoe horses well … I hope to live that long!”

So to improve in the farrier trade, education and experience are the obvious pathways to success. But some may fail to realize that you can achieve more through the help of others. Burns mentioned that he’s observed some farriers who work in isolation can stagnate in their careers. However, he has witnessed those who commit themselves to personal development and benefit from communal learning, such as competition, have accelerated the growth and health of their footcare practice.

This is an important reminder, especially in the busy months. When the volume of work and the clients’ needs increase, it is easy to put your head down and push through. But don’t let the effects of busy months evolve into year-round habit. There are many options for connecting with others, from ride-alongs to local meetings to regional clinics to national conferences. There also are many groups that can facilitate this learning. Commit to finding time to connect with other farriers and learn from each other.

The ultimate consequence of working alone is that you won’t be able to recognize what you’ve missed. As the adage goes, “If you work in solitude, you’re the best farrier that you know.”

What recommendations do you have for making the most out of the experience of working with others or finding different ways to learn from others? Post them in the comments below.