How to achieve the best results for your horse
This page is aimed at both horse owners and farriers so they can jointly provide the very best equine care.
As a farrier, you know what you can do and the service you can provide, but do the owners you meet every day understand that you are registered and highly qualified to care for their horse?
Expectations have increased; today it is simply not enough for a professional to have a qualification. Clients have a right to expect reliable practice arrangements (for example concerning contact details and appointments), sound professional advice in terms they understand, as well as information before and during the provision of services about the desired outcome, and full details of the fees involved.
They should also expect any member of support staff – for example, an apprentice – to whom a task is delegated, to have the knowledge and skills to undertake the task properly under appropriate supervision if necessary.
- Arrive on time. We all know how frustrating it can be, having to hang about waiting for the farrier to turn up. However, let’s look at that from the farrier’s point of view: At the first yard the horses were in, but with filthy wet feet, so time had to be spent picking them out and drying them. At the second yard, there were no horses to be seen. However, there was a bucket with head collars and a note in it, which read ‘the cheque is under the bucket and the horses are in the usual paddock’ – more time wasted. Even if the farrier uses a mobile phone to warn owners of a delay, it’s not much help if you have taken time off work to be there. At the third yard, the owner came out with those magic words, dreaded by farriers and veterinary surgeons. ‘While you’re here . . . ‘ – the great plan for the day is now right out of the window!
- Do a thoroughly professional job on their horse's feet. Yes, owners have the right to expect that the shoes will stay on, and to be given sound advice in terms they will understand.
- Provides with details about fees in advance, producing fully itemised invoices on request.
- To alert you to anything untoward that may need special attention, for example, corrective or surgical shoeing (and they should respect your decision if you wish to refer the problem to a more experienced farrier known to be an expert).
- Work closely with their veterinary surgeon in any situation affecting the hoof or lower leg where the vet is also involved. Remember that the ultimate goal is the horse’s welfare. Owners are part of the team of three – with the farrier and the veterinary surgeon – having responsibility for resolving the problem. Good communication is essential, leading to cooperation rather than friction. For example, a vet who leaves instructions or advice for a farrier with the horse’s keeper is acting unwisely, and it’s something that could possibly lead to confusion.
- The Worshipful Company of Farriers has always promoted good farrier/veterinary surgeon relations. To this end the Company is working towards introducing an Equine Veterinary Studies Award Scheme, enabling senior undergraduates from each of the seven veterinary colleges to spend five working days with a senior farrier.
- To agree a date for the next visit and agree arrangements for the supervision of the horse if a helper is required or if a veterinary surgeon is needed to sedate the horse. Although it is not a requirement of registration, owners may expect you farrier to have professional indemnity insurance.
- Finally, expect that you will keep your knowledge up to date. The farriery community recognises the wisdom of Continuing Professional Development (CPD). This is a requirement in most regulated professions. In farriery, CPD is voluntary; there is a wide choice of CPD activity with workshops, courses, seminars and conferences, all designed to keep the profession abreast of new techniques and scientific achievement. Owners may well ask what courses you have attended lately, or you may wish to share your new-found knowledge with them.
In an ideal world, and, in order to care for your clients horses safely and comfortably, build a good relationship with clients and encourage them to provide:
- A flat, hard, non-slip surface; ideally, one that is covered (and lit) in case of bad weather. Farriers cannot be expected to trim the feet for correct balance if the horse is standing in a field! A safe working environment is essential. For example, the Farriery Training Agency is working hard to reduce accidents through sound working practices for apprentices.
- Horse owners should have public liability insurance (this is automatic for British Horse Society members).
- All work to be done is agreed beforehand, for example, two to be shod plus three trims. You can refuse to do unscheduled work, but obviously it would be a good idea to keep clients happy by fitting them in at a mutually convenient time.
- All horses requiring attention have been brought in from the field and have clean, dry feet.
- There is a secure wall ring (with a twine loop).
- Serviceable head collars/ropes are provided. -Someone is available to hold the pony/ horse if required.
- Payment arrangements – usually on completion of the work – have been agreed. Some farriers ask clients to abide by a set of guidelines – in effect, a farriery agreement, which summarises the above points, and also ensures that everyone knows where they stand!
These points are also set out in the ‘Farriers Guide to Professional Conduct’, published by the Farriers Registration Council.