There’s a company called Farriers’ Greeting Cards that sells all manner of practical paper products – business cards, billing forms, greeting cards, etc. – for hoof care professionals. They also have a number of less practical ones featuring “things not to say to a hot, tired farrier” sayings that no doubt everyone in the hoof care world can relate to, like “Now that you’re done, could you hold that check till next week?” and “I’ve been planning to work with this yearling – just haven’t found the time to get him halter trained yet.” This product line came to mind the other night when a long-time client asked me if she was a “good client.”
The answer to such a question is obviously a matter of opinion, because everyone has his or her own idea of what is and isn’t acceptable behavior for both horse and human. But given the “things not to say” phrases, I’m guessing all hoof care providers have similar issues, and only our tolerance to the severity of the infractions varies with the individual. For me, I think it all boils down to the following six statements. And please note that although abundant, I’m avoiding any specific anecdotes in this article! So, here are my expectations –
Have your horse ready. When I arrive, I expect you to already be present and prepared for me, which means the horse is immediately available – not out in a pasture somewhere – and reasonably clean and dry. Please don’t wash the horse right before I arrive, because working on a soaking-wet animal, especially in cold weather, is not my idea of a good time! If the horse is muddy, it’s far better to brush and/or wipe off the mud, and the rest will quickly dry. If it’s fly season, please let me use my herbal-based fly spray on your horse rather than have to be in direct contact with pyrethrin-based products. Pyrethrin – derived from chrysanthemums – is a neurotoxin, and I’d rather not be rubbing it into my skin all day!
Provide a reasonable work environment. To do the best possible work for you and your horse, I need to be able to both see what I’m doing and not have potentially dangerous items in the work area. The light in most barns usually isn’t the best because it’s directly overhead, which means that my own shadow and/or the horse’s shadow prevents a good view of the hoof. Ideally, the light should come from above and behind the horse. And make certain there’s adequate clear space around the horse, which includes not being in a major traffic spot. Constantly stopping to move myself, my tools, and the horse makes for a very long appointment.
Keep me safe. My preference is nearly always for you to hold your horse while I work, because it allows the horse some latitude in movement. Prompt handler correction for inappropriate behavior (the horse’s!) is important but needs to be coordinated with me, since I’m usually the one at risk when the horse jumps or dances away. And much as I might like your dog or chicken (yes, chickens like hoof trimmings!), your horse may not have the same warm feelings. And my constantly worrying about falling over one of your animals only increases the odds of one of us getting hurt.
Pay me promptly. If you’re not able to hand me cash, a good check, or a credit card as payment for my services at the conclusion of the appointment, please reschedule before I get there. We did, after all, agree on this date and time probably well in advance of the actual appointment, so it’s not a surprise – you knew you needed to pay me! I do realize things happen, of course, but if you get caught short, please be courteous enough to tell me before I begin so I have the option of not doing the work at that time. I, too, have bills!
Respect my time. I love horses, or I wouldn’t be doing this work, and I truly enjoy talking with my clients. Nevertheless, I’m not there to play with your horse, watch you train your horse, or always spend a lot of extra time in conversation, because I owe my next client the same prompt and efficient service I just gave you. If your horse requires time for training or energy release before trimming, please have it done before I get there. Otherwise, tell me in advance and expect to pay for the extended appointment.
Acknowledge your role. Even if I spend an entire hour with you and your horse every 6 weeks, it still amounts to less than one-tenth of one percent (<0.1%) of any given year that I’m actively caring for his feet and providing advice. You are responsible for the other 99.9% of the time. His diet, the amount of time he spends moving (not standing), and the terrain over which he travels all directly contribute to the quality of material his foot produces, and therefore factor greatly into the potential for owning a healthy and pain-free barefoot horse, which is always my objective. But I don’t have control over those things – you do!
And now for the other side of the coin…
You, the client, naturally have certain expectations of me as well, which I always strive to meet or exceed. But at a bare minimum, you can always expect me to –
Return your phone calls, emails, and/or messages as promptly as possible, including requests for appointments and answering whatever questions you may have. I’m always amazed when people tell me horror stories about hoof care providers’ bad attitudes and poor business practices, and I don’t ever want to be perceived in that way!
Show up on time and prepared to work. I generally have a good idea of how long it takes to trim a particular horse, and don’t schedule appointments so close together that I’m late for the next appointment. Sure, things can and do happen. But if I’m more than 5 minutes late for an appointment, which is extremely unusual, something has happened and I’ll do my best to let you know I’m running behind.
Give you and your horse the full benefit of my hoof knowledge, trimming skills, and horse-handling abilities. That includes answering questions and being patient with both of you, and not taking out whatever frustrations I may have on your horse no matter what happens. Horses have good and bad days, as do owners. And trimmers. Nevertheless, you’ll still get my best work.
Act as your advocate to other horse owners, barn owners, veterinarians, and other equine professionals. The decision to have your horse’s feet properly trimmed in accordance with what nature and logic tell us to be true can be difficult enough; other people, usually with good intentions but bad information, can make your decision seem like the most challenging thing you’ve ever taken on. I’m always happy to discuss the merits of proper hoof care with them, as well as provide other opportunities for educating them. You’re never alone!
Those are my specific promises to you, and I believe every hoof care professional should have the same, or certainly a very similar, set of criteria for their behavior and the care they provide to their clients. So…is your hoof care provider a good hoof care provider?
And are you a “good client?”