As a farrier, you’re only as reliable as your vehicle and as organized as your rig allows you to be. Your rig is more than your transportation—it’s your moveable office, so you have more than the usual considerations when it comes time to choosing a vehicle to get you to work and back. If you’re buying your first rig as a farrier, or if it’s time to switch to something new, these questions might help you find the best rig for your money.
Where Are You Going?
The primary part of your new rig’s job will be to get you from one farm to the next. You’ll of course be checking any vehicle you’re thinking of purchasing for things like a reliable carburetor, a hard-wearing body and brakes that are in good shape. Beyond that, though, think about where you need your new mechanical partner to go. Are your clients spread far and wide? Will you put a ton of mileage on your vehicle every day? If so, prioritizing fuel economy is a no-brainer.
Does your business rely on backyard farms where access roads and driveways might be dodgy? How much snow do you see in winter? If you can’t get down the driveway, you can’t do your job, so if unreliably-ploughed roads are a staple of your day to day work life, investing in a heavy-duty truck with 4 x 4 will only make sense.
Are your clients typically professional barns with maintained driveways? Are you in a more urbanized area? Does your region not see a lot of snow or heavy mud? You might better spend your money on other features.
What Kind of Shoeing Are You Doing?
New farriers, or farriers who plan on sticking to trims and cold-shoeing can get away with much less in the way of a rig. If cold shoeing is part of your service and you need to move an anvil around, make your physical health your priority. Back injuries are no joke, so find a vehicle that fits your height well enough that you can get your anvil in and out repeatedly without strain.
With less equipment to cart around, your options for a vehicle open up considerably. So think beyond the pick-up truck. It’s an iconic choice, but it’s not the only choice. If the biggest thing you’re lugging is a hoof stand, it might be more practical and more cost-effective to work from a van, or even a hatchback, rather than a truck with a standard cap on it.
Farriers who hot shoe, and who therefore need to tote an anvil and forge around, often rely on a truck with a custom shoeing body. A custom body will keep your tools and supplies secure, in one place. They’ll also be highly individualized, so you can organize your rig in the way that’s most convenient for you.
If you have a ton of supplies, however, a trailer might be your best option. You can find custom trailers that are built specifically for farriers. You can also convert something like a 2-horse trailer into a workspace.
There are a lot of benefits to this set up. You can keep more shoes and stock on hand. You always have a place to work that’s out of the rain. You can unhitch the trailer whenever you need your truck to just go get groceries. And you can swap out your towing vehicle more easily. On the down side, you can expect to spend more money on gas, and to have more wear and tear on your towing vehicle.
What Are Your Future Plans?
Since your vehicle is a big investment (it’s the most expensive piece of farrier equipment you’ll buy), think ahead a bit. Where do you see your business going in 2 years? 5 years?
If you’re new at this but you have big plans and a reasonable expectation that your number and kinds of clients will expand, it might be worth it to spend the extra money on, for example, an inverter so you can power your tools, even though you might not currently need it. That said, evaluate whether that money could be better spent on higher quality tools that will help you do a better, more efficient job right now. Or on continuing education opportunities that will hone the skills you want to use in future.
Maybe, however, you’re on the other side of your journey and you’re thinking about retiring in the near future. Pay special attention to the resale market of farrier trucks in your area so that if you do downsize, you can recoup the most you can from your expenditure.
Those on a budget should keep an eye out for used rigs. If you’re lucky enough to find one, and it’s in good shape, that can save you a lot of money over buying new.
Peek around at other farriers’ set ups if you can, or ask people if they have rigs they really like or have had issues with. Before you invest in a new (or new to you) vehicle, ask other farriers what their experiences are with that particular model. Learning from other people’s experiences can save you a lot of time and trouble.
The right rig will help you to keep your tools and supplies organized, make your job easier, keep your maintenance costs down and reliably get you where you need to go, now and in the future. It might take some searching, but once you’ve found the right fit, it will all be worth the effort. Good luck with your search!
by Anne Bonny