The (High?) Cost of Hoof Care

I was giving a lecture on the economics of hoof care to a class of university students when one of them asked me how much a particular pair of “specialized” shoes cost. Consulting the farrier supply catalog in my hand, I replied, “They’re $12 per pair.” “No they’re not!” she retorted. “My farrier says they’re $50 a pair!”

Times have changed, and prices have gone up a bit, but the fact remains that what you’re paying for is not merely the cost of the materials. In fact, those costs represent only a small portion of the bill. What you’re supposed to be paying for is the knowledge of the person doing the work. It’s not, in other words, the shoe, nails, pad, etc. you should be paying for, but the skill of the person you’re entrusting to know how to properly prepare that hoof and attach that shoe. And that makes me think of another story…

Working with a client's youngster before attempting to trim him for the first time - time well spent!

Working with a client's youngster before attempting to trim him for the first time - time well spent!

I was talking with a former university student of mine at the All-American Quarter Horse Congress several years ago when a client I hadn’t seen in quite some time walked up to say ‘hello.’ When I introduced the former student to the client, the client said, “Oh, you’re so lucky to know Steve, because he’s so good at hoof care (I didn’t pay her to say that – honest!)!” She went on to explain to the former student that two of her four horses had been chronically lame for years, but were now finally sound, thanks to my care. And as she walked away, her final comment to my former student was, “But he’s too expensive, and I just can’t afford him!”

How much is proper hoof care worth to you? Does it compare to the cost of owning a horse (or two) you can’t use? Jaime Jackson would argue (and keep in mind that he spent many years shoeing horses) that if the best thing for your horse involves not putting shoes on him, the value of the service shouldn’t be less than what you’d pay to shoe the horse. My customers know that the time I invest in their horses rivals that of the horseshoer, so, at least to me, Jaime makes a compelling argument.

But as the scenario above highlights, some people feel that even a modest amount for 2 hours of driving and 40 – 50 minutes of trimming per horse is simply too much. Admittedly, I haven’t asked them, but I suspect the two lame horses would probably disagree…


  1. kelly says:

    Wow…I am shocked! What you do to make horses happy, sound and usable with correct barefoot trimming verses making horses sore, uncomfortable and eventually lame that shoeing does …. is worth a lot more then what you charge. My horses foot care is no longer a stressful big expense that left me frustrated ….now its the smallest expense with the biggest reward….a happy resistant free sound horse. Thank you Steve!

  2. Steve says:

    That’s very kind of you, Kelly. The above is certainly not a unique experience, and different opinions on the cost of hoof care abound. For instance, I recently had a customer remark that she is now spending the same or less to provide hoof care to ALL of her (five) horses than she had been spending to shoe ONE of them previously! And another woman who wants to be a customer commented that she’d just spent $190 to shoe her horse (a terrible job, by the way), it hadn’t helped the horse, and continuing to do so simply doesn’t make economic sense. She’s certainly got that part right!

    But, amazingly, I often hear people complain that certified natural hoof care providers in general charge too much for what they label “just” a trim. For some reason, they place far more value on a piece of metal applied by a person who typically has little or no formal education in hoof care than on the services of, in my case, someone with a Master’s degree in engineering who has spent 18 years applying the principles of engineering, biomechanics, and anatomy, coupled with the latest research results, to provide the best possible hoof care! I guess it is a bit shocking, isn’t it?

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