Saturday, August 17, 2013

How having a farrier is like dating...

I'm sure it's happened to at least most of us women.  We meet a guy we really like.  He seems to really like us too.  At first, he calls all the time, and when we call him, he calls us back right away.  But, after awhile, when we call, he returns the call more slowly with an excuse, "Sorry, I lost my phone" or "Sorry, I wasn't feeling that great."  Soon, he doesn't bother to make excuses and it gets increasingly hard to get a hold of him.  We start to wonder what's going on.  Doesn't he like us anymore?  What are we doing wrong?  Then, eventually, he doesn't call at all.  He avoids us like the plague.  The relationship is over, and he figures the easiest way to tell us that is not to tell us at all (see He's Just Not That Into You).  We feel angry, hurt, and sad, and we're clueless about what happened.

I'm not sure what farrier services are like in the rest of the country, but the above scenario has happened to me more than once.  Plus, with the advent of texting, I've had 2 farriers break up with me via text.  And, lest you think that my difficulty with farriers stems from defect in me, let me assure you that I always pay immediately.  I go to virtually every appointment, and I leave a check if I can't be there or mail one within 2 days if the farrier came when I wasn't expecting him.  I also always pay more than the charge because I'm often the farrier's only client at the barn, and I know that it takes extra mileage to keep me as a client.  When I lived in Iowa, I never had these problems.  My farrier scheduled appointments in advance.  He set a specific time.  He showed up at that time.  Always.  Except for maybe one time, when he called ahead of time to reschedule. 

Here in Virginia, good farriers are practically mythical creatures.  My first farrier was an awesome farrier, but he sucked in the communication department.  I would spent weeks hunting him down before every appointment.  My friends who also used him, would conspire with me to get him to trim/shoe our horses.  This went on for years, but finally, after it had been 15 weeks since he trimmed my horse's feet and my horse's white line was starting to show signs of trouble, I got a new farrier.  This new farrier was even more awesome.  Not only was he really good with feet, but he scheduled appointments in advance and showed up on time.  For two and a half years, I had bliss.  Then, I had to move to a new barn.  It was not in my farrier's service area.  But he kept telling me that he'd think about it.  Maybe we could work something out.  I fantasized that I could move to the new barn AND keep my fabulous farrier.  Oh, was I wrong.  After not hearing from my farrier about the "work it out" scenario, I texted him.  Two weeks later, I got the break-up message via text.  No suggestions for other farriers I could work with, no apology for leading me on for weeks when I could have been searching for a new farrier, and no offer to trim my horse's feet for a last time, so I had plenty of time to look for someone new.

So, I found a new farrier.  He seemed like a pretty good farrier.  His scheduling wasn't as good as my old farrier, but he was still reasonably reliable.  Then, he got hurt.  He was out of commission for several months.  While he was out, I stayed his client.  I begged the first farrier I had to please trim my horse's feet one time.  I had to haul almost an hour to a different barn, but I got my horse's feet trimmed.  And I waited for my farrier to heal.  I texted him for an estimate of his return to work, trying to decide if I needed to use someone else temporarily.  After a couple of weeks, I got his response.  It would be a few weeks yet before he could fit me in, but he was planning on continuing to trim my horse's feet.  Weeks went by.  I texted again.  When could I expect his visit?  Two more weeks.  Then, the text message, "I can't trim Nimo's feet anymore.  I don't have any other clients at your barn."  WTF?

Panicked, I contacted my trainer at the time to see if she had any recommendations.  She gave me two names.  I called one and prayed.  My horse's feet were in rough shape because they hadn't been trimmed in 5 months.  Luckily, the new farrier called me back quickly and was able to fit me in within 3 days.  Awesome!  He was also training an apprentice who gradually took over the trimming of my horse's feet under the new farrier's supervision.  Eventually, the new farrier asked me if I would be happy with the apprentice continuing the care of my horse's feet.  It was fine with me.  I figured the apprentice was just starting his own business and would provide good customer service to get and keep clients.  He worked with several farriers, so he had back-up, and he seemed to be doing a good job with the trimming.  Again, it was great for awhile.  Advance scheduling, showing up on time, even going out to bring my horse in if he arrived early.  Then, it happened.  He said he'd come, but he didn't.  No phone call, e-mail, or text message explaining why.  No apology for missing a scheduled appointment.  Nothing.

My horse is now 2 weeks overdue for his trim, but with all the riding I've been doing, his feet are worn pretty well, so I just took a rasp and cleaned up some rough edges.  As it turns out, I'm planning to move to a new barn in a couple of weeks. There is a farrier who already handles almost all the horses at the barn, so if he's decent, I should be able to use him.  Here's the thing.  I'm beginning to think that maybe it's just better if I learn to take care of my horse's feet myself.  Sometimes you just have to take responsibility for yourself.  Right?

I've noticed that a lot endurance riders, particularly the ones who boot, seem to trim their horses' feet some or all of the time.  After over 2 decades of leaving it to the experts, I think it's time that I learned more about my horse's feet and how to take care of them.  For some reason, I've never had the interest in learning the details of trimming a hoof.  I can't really explain why, except maybe fear of screwing up such an important part of my horse's anatomy.  I love delving into every other topic related to horse care and I think I've got an above-average grasp on nutrition, exercise, and health care.  With hooves, I can tell a decent hoof from a bad one, but that's about it.

So, from this point forward, I'm definitely going to be reading up on hoof care and attempting to take over trimming for myself.  I still intend to work with a farrier, at least for awhile, or occasionally, to make sure I don't screw up.  But, my horse's feet are honestly pretty basic.  He doesn't really have any issues, except for some thrush in the spring when he ends up standing in mud for about 3 months at a time.  And even that was hardly noticeable this year.  I can do this.  And then I will no longer feel the panic that comes every time I realize I have to find a new farrier.


  1. Being free from the tyranny of a farrier is a wonderful feeling. It's totally worth all the rasped knuckles and stepped-on toes. ;)

  2. I had never really thought of it as tyranny before, but you're right. Every 6 weeks I have to rearrange my life to accommodate what ends up being a 20 minute appointment. And if I'm not happy about something, like the lack of communication, or even the trim itself, one negative word finishes me as a client. I've been living in constant fear, and I never even realized it until now. Wow!