A third generation horseshoer, former rodeo cowboy, and owner/instructor of Mission Farrier School, Mark Plumlee has years of experience as a farrier and educator. As part of its farrier business tips Q&A series, The Farrier Guide asked him about his decision to become a farrier, his choice of certifications and how to make it in a career as a farrier.
Why did you choose to become a farrier?
My dad was a farrier and a good hand. He always did right by a horse. I wanted to continue that, and it was a good way to pay for my rodeo habit.
What do you like most about your job?
Having a positive influence on meeting the needs of a horse and being able to teach that skill and knowledge to the next generation of farriers.
When you were first starting out, how did you find clients?
Word of mouth. Still the best way to get clients today.
Have you since employed any marketing strategies that have been more successfully?
A website and Facebook page are valuable in today’s market.
What qualities do you feel someone needs to have to make it in a career as a farrier?
I tell my students, if you are a good listener, you will learn. After that, if you return phone calls and show up on time, you’ll have all the business you want. Be professional, use appropriate language and clean up your mess. Bad language just shows you are too ignorant to have a better vocabulary, and leaving nails on the ground, it’s just not professional. If you are lazy natured or complacent, don’t bother. Do something else.
What do you recommend to farriers wanting to stay on top of their skills once they leave school?
Practice their forging skills; Get meaningful continuing education. Focus on “meaningful”; Go to work. No substitute for experience.
Can you explain your choice of certifications? How important have those certifications been to you in your career as a farrier?
All certification is good, up to a point, as it’s an opportunity to continue one’s education. If you want to advance on forging skills work toward AFA journeyman certification. If you want to learn meaningful hoof science, follow the ELPO certification program. Of course none of this matters if you don’t also aspire to become a good horseman. So go to horsemanship clinics and soak up all you can—it will make you a better farrier. I’ve received certifications through the American Farriers Association, the Guild of Professional Farriers and the Equine Lameness Prevention Organization in Penrose, Colorado. ELPO discusses the function of the foot, how it’s designed to work, and what goes wrong and why.
How did you first go about pricing your services?
When you are first starting out you want to be affordable to attract new clients. If you received a high quality education, price yourself just above middle.