©2013 Doug Butler PhD, CJF, FWCF
Butler Professional Farrier School
We all are guilty of shooting ourselves in the foot once in a while. Perhaps it would be good to review some of the unique ways farriers do this to themselves. Much of the adversity we face in our lives is of our own making. Here are some of things that I have observed over my 50 years of teaching that have derailed the careers of some potentially very successful farrier students. They have neglected one or more of the following:
1) Knowing the anatomy of the foot and horse. Some students shortcut their study and learn “the techniques of getting by.” They do the minimum required by their instructor. Farriers are tempted to accept mediocrity when they learn that most horse owners don’t recognize or demand excellence. Recent studies of college-age students reveal that less study and more recreation are trends, even at expensive universities. Farriers that have neglected to learn anatomy should know that it is not too late to make a turn around and pay attention to learning this all important skill.
2) Trimming the foot consistent with the horse’s conformation. Persons who neglect to recognize conformation faults that predispose a horse to unsoundness’s will make mistakes and will not be as helpful as they could be to a horse with problems and its owner. Farriers must learn to pay close attention to foot balance. They must measure hooves and train their eyes to see accurately. They must practice to master hoof as well as forge tools.
3) Recognizing the effect of heredity and domestication. Today much is said in favor of leaving a horse barefoot. This fad can be cruel when taken to the extreme. Those who advocate Barefoot Only don’t seem to understand that people have selected horses for things other than soundness, and many domesticated and selectively-bred horses have weak feet that require shoes. Of course, some horses never need to be shod if their use or conformation doesn’t require it. However, trying to make a foot which is the product of over selection for other desirable traits become like that of a Mustang that has been selected by its environment can be cruel. Farriers must learn the facts and know how to use them when answering questions that are bound to be asked by owners searching the internet.
Googling is not understanding! Understanding comes only after hard study and experience. Adopting a fad without thinking it through is unwise. Instead, ask an experienced grey head who isn’t trying to sell something.
4) Understanding of horse aptitude and behavior. Horses are intelligent and sensitive animals. They are creatures of habit and like to be near a companion, usually one that is close in the herd hierarchy. They can sense whether a person has their best interest at heart. They can sense awkwardness, tenseness, and lack of confidence. They have great memories. They reveal their discomfort to a sensitive horse person.
5) Learning and understanding the client’s connection to their horse. Each client’s motivation for owning a horse is different. Professionals are appreciated who try to understand them and make an effort to understand their horse. Clients expect service providers to run a business that they can trust. Farriers need to understand what is required of a horse to perform its job so he or she can recommend what would help it perform its best.
6) Paying attention to details when finishing the job. The visible finish or smoothness of the job is a farrier’s advertisement. The nails should come out high and in alignment sloping from toe to heel, the clinches should be square and smooth. The shoe is shaped to fit a nearly symmetrical dressed hoof. Owners should be warned about “high maintenance shoes” that are fit wide or long to support horse conformation defects or treat disease.
7) Making the effort to really master their craft. Mediocrity is all too common in the farrier business. Some blame this on the short amount of time farrier school takes and the relatively inexpensive business setup cost – when in reality it is a character issue. Due to the low level of knowledge of many horse owners, the attitude seems to be, “Why make the effort if the client doesn’t know the difference?” Top level farriers who work on expensive horses for affluent and appreciative horse owners know better.
Feel free to share other farrier “sins” you have observed.
Butler Professional Horseshoeing School
495 Table Road
Crawford, NE 69339
If you think you want to become a farrier (or know someone who does), this book can help you make that decision. Horse owners will learn the importance of choosing a qualified farrier and how to select the “right” one.
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