From showing up late to doing a shoddy shoeing job, a number of problems can affect farrier-client relations. But there are also a few things the client can do to improve relations with their farrier. Certified Journeyman farrier Bryan Farcus MA, CJF, offers some advice in this Q&A.
Do you encounter any difficulties with clients?
Unfortunately problems between clients and farriers come up from time to time. When this occurs it seems tempting for either the farrier or the client to automatically kick into a “blame game” mode. To this day, after 25 years of practice, I still make a conscious effort to avoid falling into this trap. When I take a moment and reflect on both sides of an issue, I then communicate better and most often arrive at the best solution.
What are some of the major issues you deal with?
For many of my clients and most horse owners, concerns over many so-called “new & improved” products or certain “faddish” shoeing approaches, particularly those arguing the case of barefoot vs. wearing shoes top the list of likely difficulties. It seems as though most client-related problems evolve around confusion, resulting from information overload. Not unlike any other profession, today’s farrier must be willing and able to help a client sort through all of those conflicting facts/opinions, particularly the unsolicited ones. In this day and age, the “information highway” can be a great thing, as long as the client is not a victim of a “hit-and-run” from all the confusion.
Many horse owners complain about their farrier being unreliable. Is there something a client can do on their end to keep up a good working relationship with their farrier?
Being unreliable has been something that has plagued the farrier profession since its inception. I’ve always been an advocate for professionalism in our industry. When I consider that most professionals (doctor, lawyers and the like) tend to recognize a “reliability principle” as a foundation for their success, why then shouldn’t we farriers subscribe to the same standard?
This also raises the next question. If, as the old saying goes, “like attracts like”, then it may stand to reason that “ reliable farriers, should attract reliable clients” and vice versa. However, as we all know things aren’t quite that simple. For those clients who want to develop a better working relationship with their farrier, here’s a few tips:
- Though coffee and donuts are nice, what I appreciate more is a long-term commitment by the client to a healthy and well-trained horse.
- Keep your farrier on a regular schedule (not just when problems arise).
- Set up an uncluttered and comfortable work area.
- Be open-minded and honest with your farrier. Learn what your farrier’s views are about your horse’s situation. If you value your farrier’s opinion, let him or her know.
- After you understand and if you agree with your farrier, commit to following his or her recommendations.
In my experience, if a client displays the willingness to build a better working relationship with their farrier, they will most likely reach the top of his or her “most favorite client list.”
How do you suggest horse owners find the right farrier for them and their horse?
Even with all our modern modes of networking, it seems as though an old fashioned personal “word of mouth” referral is still the best. A certification website of professional farriers in your area can be a good place to start, but there’s still no guarantee. Finding the right fit for you and your horse is not an easy decision and should be based on references from reliable sources and in-person interviews and reviews of some of your potential new farrier’s current clients and horses. Ask a potential farrier questions about topics that you are most concerned about. For instance, what are his or her views on certain approaches to lameness? What does he or she expect as far as your horse’s behavior? Will the horse be expected to be tied or held by a handler for shoeing? What is the lost/pulled shoes policy?
One of my most respected mentors once quipped, “Word of mouth may get you in the door, but the job you do on a horse’s feet will do all the talking…A horse’s feet are a farrier’s walking billboard.”