hoofI have seen many farriers come and go during the last 49 years I’ve spent in the farrier training business. The number of farriers who stay in the business longer than five years may even be as low as 5 percent. Why? What causes some to succeed and others to shoot themselves in the foot?

Here are seven characteristics that successful farriers have in common. It is often the lack of these qualities that cause them to drop out.

1. Humility. Humility is defined as being “teachable.” To be successful in anything you must be teachable. Awareness of ignorance (lack of knowledge) is necessary before learning can take place. While you know what you know, you also realize there is a lot that you don’t know. You are willing to “do your homework” by discovering what training you need to improve your skills. You make the sacrifices necessary to get the training needed to make it possible for you to excel. You read books, attend classes or seminars, and work with those who have the knowledge you desire for yourself. Arrogance or a “know it all” attitude is the opposite of humility. Arrogant people are so self-centered that they don’t recognize (and don’t care) about what they don’t know. They figure they know all they need to know.

2. Activity. Marketing your business to the public should be your central activity for creating a successful business because your best marketing tool is a recommendation by a satisfied customer. You must recognize that each contact with the customer is either positive or negative. You realize that the customer’s perception is as important, or more important, than reality – especially when they don’t understand the work you do. You endeavor to make a good impression every time you meet them. You strive to make each job your best, yet you are constantly improving. Learn how to emphasize your strengths and downplay your weaknesses. It’s a given that farriery is hard work; it requires a fit body and a high tolerance for pain. Laziness and carelessness are the opposite, and will get you nowhere as a farrier, except to the poor house.

3. Selflessness. Your motivation should be to help clients enjoy their horses and to help provide their horses a good and comfortable life. You possess what Steven Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, calls “an abundance mentality.” There is plenty enough business for everyone. You want to see others succeed as well as yourself. Selfishness and greed are the opposite of selflessness. Because farriers can make a lot of money per hour, there is a great temptation to justify neglecting your health, family time, and self improvement for the almighty dollar.

4. Gratitude. No one gets to where they are in life without help. Acknowledge your mentors and teachers. Each time you use a technique you learned from another, think of them and publicly give them credit. Build a support network of successful people. You are influenced more than you think by who you hang out with. Robert Kiyosaki, author of Cash Flow Quadrant, says that not only will you become like the people you associate with, but your income will be the average of the income of your six closest associates. Plagiarism is the opposite of giving credit; you steal ideas from others without giving them credit. Give credit where credit is due.

5. Practice. Perfect the basics with consistent practice. Practice doesn’t make perfect – rather it makes permanent. Practice with a knowledgeable coach. Practice against the clock. Practice daily; put it in your schedule. Master the specific skills that must be learned in this craft if you are to be confident and have a sustainable business. The opposite is to ignore the basics of your craft, attempt to operate above your skill level, and constantly reinvent the wheel while calling it your own idea. Working above your competence level may cause you to damage horses and future business by using shoes or techniques you don’t understand and are not qualified to apply.

6. Investment. It is important to invest in systems to provide better service for your customers — the life blood of your business. Acquire software that will help you better utilize your client database and manage your finances. Diversify by taking money out of the business and investing it where you can get a good return. The opposite is not investing in yourself. You do nothing to improve the professional skills that form the basis of your service; rather, you get caught up in buying new tools, new vehicles, new “toys,” etc. You must be the sharpest tool in your truck to consistently grow and sustain your business. Seek out and learn from those who can help you become all you can be.

7. Caring service. Your most important business asset is your customer base. Take care of your clients and horses. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Do your best to provide first-class service to all your clients. Study the breed or type you specialize in by learning all you can about it, such as reading breed publications and searching out and evaluating information on the internet. When possible, attend the horse events your clients attend. The opposite of caring is abusing clients and horses by being habitually late, failing to keep other promises, or not striving to perform perfectly the tasks you are called on to do. It becomes quite obvious when you really don’t like your work, and would rather be doing something else. When you care it shows. Your reward will be customer loyalty and confidence, which will make you want to become successful and continue in the farrier business.

As you strive to incorporate these characteristics into your business you will become indispensable to your clients. They will not want to switch to the newest kid on the block. They will depend upon you for the work and advice needed to keep their horses performing at their best.

Now is the time to set goals that include incorporating these things into your life. Develop the characteristics, systems and skills that will help you reach the success you desire. Spend time ON your business, not just IN your business, and you’ll be rewarded with much more than just financial prosperity.


For more information on how to build a profitable and rewarding farrier business, check out our popular Six-Figure Shoeing at www.dougbutler.com . This book shows you how to spend time ON your business, not just IN your business — and you’ll be rewarded with much more than just financial prosperity.

If you are a practicing farrier and want to boost your proficiency, master a new skill, or learn how to grow a more profitable business, we can customize a training program just for you. Call today to discuss your particular needs and plan to attend an upcoming Practicing Farrier Workshop at our training facility near Chadron, Nebraska. For more information call Jake at 1-800-728-3826.

Doug Butler, PhD, CJF, FWCF, has a doctorate from Cornell University in Veterinary Anatomy and Equine Nutrition. He is a Certified Journeyman Farrier by the American Farriers Association and a Fellow of the Worshipful Company of Farriers of England established in 1356 A.D. He and his sons Jake, CJF, AWCF, and Pete, CJF, operate Butler Professional Farrier School, LLC located near Chadron, Nebraska. Their recently published Essential Principles of Horseshoeing book illustrates – in color – the most important aspects of horse hoof care. Visit www.essentialhorseshoeingbook.com to learn more.