I had answered a different question for March, but this seems to be the question on everybody’s mind right now during this COVID-19 crisis. The good news is that farriers (at least, farriers here in Canada) made the list of “essential” service providers, so we can go to work. But we will definitely have to change some of our habits.
Keep Things Clean
I don’t know about you, but I’ve only ever cleaned my tools after I worked on horses with thrush or white line disease. To be safe, I’m going to start sterilizing them, my boots and my chaps after every job. It’s not a bad idea to bring a change of clothes and a different pair of gloves for every stop. I know it’s not often practical to only make one stop a day, but that could help contain this, too. At least gas is cheap.
So far, there are no cases of any horses, cats, dogs, cows or any animal contracting the COVID-19 virus, but there’s a possibility of it being transferred to you if someone with the virus pets or coughs near your dog or horse and you pet the same area. Maybe leave your dog at home or in your truck for the time being. Barn owners and boarders should keep their dogs away from everyone, as well.
I know it’s nice when clients have their horses caught and feet cleaned out when we get there, but for now, it’s probably best to just have clients catch their horses and to clean their feet out yourself. And then to wash your hands. A lot.
Keep Your Distance
Cross ties are great for physical distancing, but we all know that might not work for some horses and some farms aren’t set up for them. If you can, work outside in the fresh air and resist the temptation to snuggle with every horse. Only touch the legs and feet.
Good protocol for anyone holding any horse for a pedicure is to stand on the opposite side of the horse when we’re working on front feet and the same side when working on the hinds. This is just for the farrier’s safety if the horse spooks, but kind of appropriate now.
The CDC suggests we should all stay a horse length distance from each other, at least, and have as few people around you as possible. You should set up an appointment time when there are only one or two other people at the barn. Yes, you might be there a little longer and have to wait for more horses, but you could potentially be much safer in the long run.
I realize that getting paid in cash is a nice perk to this job, but for now, e-transfer might be the safest way to get paid. If that isn’t possible, then have your clients put the cash or cheque in an envelope or little bag. Put that somewhere safe in your truck and don’t touch it for a few days or weeks. The COVID-19 virus can only live on surfaces for a few days.
Check In With Clients
Keep your distance, touch as little as possible and wash your hands after you touch anything. Don’t be afraid to check in with clients before you head out and ask them if they’re sick or if they’ve been travelling (or are in close contact with someone who has been).
Most importantly, if you think you’re coming down with something or just don’t feel well (even if you think it can’t be COVID-19), stay home and reschedule. You can rest up, read a book and get ready for how busy you’ll be when things start to get back to normal.
This is our monthly feature, “Ask a Farrier,” a Q and A with farrier Karen McMann. Karen has been a full-time farrier for 17 years. She graduated in 2002 from the Canadian School of Horseshoeing, where she studied under Pat Cullen. She serves on the Advisory Board of Equi-Health Canada and Equi-First Aid USA as a Farrier/Hoof Health Support specialist. Karen lives and works outside of Okotoks, Alberta.
If you have a question you’d like to ask a farrier (about horseshoeing, farriery, hoof and horse health, blacksmith tools, working as a farrier, etc.), email or leave it in the comments below. Every month, we’ll pick one question to answer in our feature.
feature image: Danielle Haggart