The future will bring the foot care industry a combination of good news and bad news.
The good news is that farrier communication will be better and easier. Publications, the internet, conventions, summits, sponsored clinics and general sharing of knowledge make learning faster and easier. The bad news is that unsound ideas will be spread faster by the same media and adopted and put into practice by those weak in knowledge and experience. The “natural” and barefoot movements are examples of fads that continue to spread out of proportion to the application of sound research and common sense.
The good news is that farriery will continue to get easier, more effective and more lucrative for the skilled farrier. New materials and techniques as well as the proliferation of shoes, tools and accessories will be useful to skilled farriers who understand basic balance and therapeutic principles. The bad news is that persons weak in skills and understanding, because they are unwilling to pay the price to become competent, will continue to pass themselves off as qualified farriers by using these products. In so doing, they will hurt more horses and horse owners.
The good news is that business publications, accounting and contact management programs will make the farrier business easier to professionally manage than ever before. The bad news is that surveyed horse owners say good business principles are being ignored by many farriers. Hiring qualified employees to help expand your business has always been difficult. New levels of government watch-dogging and involvement along with the liability and risk of litigation will make it even more so. Continued intrusion by the revenue-seeking federal government will continue to be discouraging to small business owners.
The good news is that people with discretionary income will continue to look to the horse industry as a pleasant way to spend their time and money. There is a strong demand for sound, highly-trained, gentle horses. If horse people have good experiences, they will remain in the industry and support good farrier and veterinary care. The bad news is that less educated horse enthusiasts will buy unsound, poorly-trained, and even dangerous horses. These people will tolerate a standard of work lower than ever before from lazy con artists who have no intention of improving their skill level beyond what is necessary to fool ignorant customers. Fads and incompetence will continue to proliferate in the presence of an uneducated public.
The good news is there is always room at the top, and the hoof care industry is no exception. Farrier work is now and will continue to be practiced at a higher standard than ever before by a few dedicated craftsman. Opportunities will be good for the well educated and highly skilled farrier. Good craftsmen will get better, while the poor ones that have no desire to improve will continue to give the rest an image of ignorance. The poorly prepared farrier is bad news now and will continue to be in the future.
The September/October 1999 issue of the American Farriers Journal published my look into the next 25 years of farriery. I stick by those predictions and comments. The things that all farriers will need to know and do to stay in business in the future are the things that the most successful farriers are already doing.
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