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Tuesday December 7, 2021

Farrier Industry-Related Problems

Written by Ray Miller
Category: Business, Career & Health
Hits: 8785

There is an underside of the horse industry that many never see and a few get only a glimpse. One needs to have been in the industry full time for a number of years to truly comprehend that side of the industry. The slick equine publications and breed association literature very rarely address this underbelly of the industry. Indeed, for the most part, only the full-time farriers, equine veterinarians, and insurance investigators see this underside or have any understanding of the true facts of the industry. Generally, the National and State Horse Councils ignore it, but facts are facts and it does exist.

In an effort to enlighten, I have conducted a study of a section of the industry--Farriers. Having been a farrier for the past 37 years, turning my first hot iron/steel at the age of 14, working seasonally for a number of large major horse shows, rodeos and livestock shows, and owning and managing several large commercial saddle horse and packing operations across the United States, I have seen a number of changes within the industry. Fads come and go.

In times past, when a person wanted to be a farrier, he/she found a Master Farrier, spent time working with that farrier and learning the trade for four or five years and went to school to learn the science of the horse. ToDay we have the shoeing schools offering everything from a couple of weekends, to two-week and upwards of two-year courses. It is hard to tell who really knows horses and hooves. At the same time we have gone from full-time professional farriers who comprised 90% of the work force to where 80% is now part time, with only 20% being full- time professionals.

These figures and answers were taken from several web sites on the Internet, personal interviews, and "question and answer" sheets at some of the Horse Fairs and shows around the country, as well as interviews with other full-time professionals in the equine industry. Hence, we have offered up a good cross section of the equine industry, not generally found in current equine publications.

The problems facing the farrier industry are very complex, as are those within the entire equine industry. For the most part, horse ownership turns over every three years. We have a core ownership of about 10% who will keep their horses over a long period of time. The industry has gone from the very large barns of owners and trainers, to the backyard horse and small breeding and boarding stable. There are some large barns around the large metro areas yet, but for the most part 90% rollover in three years is the norm in the industry at this time. That is one reason that the saddle and strap goods and other related manufacturers are able to stay in business and sell the same product (ie: saddles and strap goods that have up to a fifty year life span). That is also the reason that there is very little real research in the presentation of new products within the farrier industry and the equine industry in general. In the past this rollover was at ten years, then dropped to five and is now at three years. This causes many problems with how people learn about proper care for their horse.

Another problem is the cost of owning a horse. Thirty-seven years ago there was a nice tax package and write-off for horse ownership. That is when we had the larger barns and people owning a number of horses, the expense for which they could take a tax write-off. Look around today and those barns are pretty much gone. Places like Robert Q. Sutherland’s Quarter Horses, Berbiglia Ranch, Longview Farms and thousands of others. The people that had the real income to support their horse programs. Regardless of how we look at it, it takes real dollars to own and maintain a horse. Again we have about 30% of the people that can really afford the number of horses that they own--the proper care, feed, veterinary and farrier care. The remaining 70% skimp or have very little or no care for their horses. How many times as a farrier you have heard, " I bought another horse, so you will need to give me a price break", or, "Do you know of someone who is giving away a horse, I can’t afford to buy another, but I want another one so my ---------- can go riding with me". How many horse owners really have the land, space and wherewithal to support all their horses. Seven acres for the first horse and one acre for each additional horse. All one needs to do is drive down the road and take a look at the some of the horse pastures and barns and how they are kept. Keep a score card. Proper care and space versus improper care and space. Owning and caring for a horse is a very expensive luxury if it is done correctly. Take a look in the show ring or rodeo arena. Those that are competing at a very high level have sponsors. Look at your high-end breeding operations, for the most part they are subsidized by a business or a person earning a large income. Take that income or sponsor away and see if they can stand on their own.

Most owners want to do what is right for their horse, but because of the short period of ownership they either don’t take the time or have the money to invest in proper education. So in short, they listen to whoever happens to be the current " in" person, neighbor or friend to learn from. At times it may be a trainer, veterinarian or farrier. They attend clinics, watch videos, read books, but they really don’t put in the time with the horse to get a full understanding of the complexities of the equine and the industry. They just skim the surface.

Another problem facing the farrier industry is the number of horseshoers/farriers that are out and about. Given the fact that the shoeing schools have been in business now for the past 25 to 30 years and that these schools, along with the technical schools and colleges and shoers teaching others to trim and shoe and the self-help books/ tapes on shoeing, we have around 7000 new shoers entering the marketplace each year. Taking into account the number of years, we have somewhere around 150,000 to 200,000 people that say they can shoe or trim a horse. That is why we hear so often, "So-and-So who just lives up the road trims my horse". "So-and-So’s husband does it on the side." Or, "I just want to do a little shoeing when I retire or on my days off." (I will cover this later as to the effect on the full-time professional).

The part-time farrier can never see the number of hooves that a full-time professional does. A full- time professional may do as many as 15/20 trims in a day, this adds up to 60 to 80 hooves and their related problems. He/she may shoe up to six horses in an eight-hour day. Giving him/her a skill and experience well above that of the part-time farrier.

But even with all these horseshoers and farriers out there, every spring we hear, "I can’t find a good farrier," "My farrier quit," "My farrier got injured and is no longer shoeing," "My farrier took a full-time job," etc. For the most part, the shoer/farrier quit due to injury or not making a living wage. Shoeing for a living is really tough. Yet a lot of these shoers continue to jump in and out of the business, always shoeing one or two horses for this person or that one. Or we hear from the shoer’s wife that he never seems to have enough money--he spends it all on the business-- if it wasn’t for my salary we would not survive.

Some say there is a need for this type of shoer/farrier, to pick up the people that can’t or won’t pay the higher rate for a professional farrier. They say this type of shoer is needed for the dink, unruly, unmannerly horses that the professional will not do. There are even horseshoers in this area that pull shoeing stocks behind their trucks so they can work on these horses, but they do not charge any additional fees. I think this type of shoer perpetuates the misunderstanding of the cost of doing business for the full-time farrier and, therefore, depresses the wage of the full-time farrier. As discussed in other articles, "The True Cost of Shoeing A Horse," and "Farrier Trip Charges," I think that a number of these shoers also pick up a number of the good horses and people who might be willing to pay the higher rate for a good trimming/shoeing job if only they had the knowledge and experience to recognize what good trimming/shoeing looks like.

If a person is fully committed to a profession, would they not then want to make their living and pursue continuing education in that profession? It appears that a person that does it as part-time, a hobby, or for whatever reason, cannot commit to the industry as would a person making a living within that industry. We also hear many times in the questionnaires and interviews the statement; "I cannot charge enough or get enough clients to make it a full-time business. Again forcing the price for farrier services down.

These farriers (part timers) do not have the cost that a full-time professional has. They use their personal car or truck, they usually carry no insurance of any type. They do not have a portable shop or a real property shop. They have very little travel expense. They often use their vacation time from their full-time job for going to clinics, again cutting costs--if in fact they continue their education. The full-time professional must figure cost for this into the cost of shoeing, as well as the cost of business lost while attending continuing education. We see all types of people who have good-paying full-time jobs shoeing horses on the side. From firemen who may work three 24-hour days and then get four days off to shoe, to well-paid "white-collar" professionals. These people enter the horse shoeing field with the knowledge that they don’t need to make a living from shoeing. Therefore, they charge much less then the full-time professional farrier can afford to charge. They don’t need to cover the same expenses that the professional full-time farrier must. No shop, no truck, no office staff, less travel time, no insurance (Liability, Workers Comp, Health, Commercial Truck, etc.), no sick pay, no vacation pay, no replacement cost of truck, plus a lot of miscellaneous expenses incurred in doing business.

The farrier in the large metropolitan areas can fare better than his counterpart in the small towns and rural areas. In the large metro areas there are many large barns that a farrier can contract with and, therefore, eliminate a great deal of travel time. These farriers are somewhat affected by the part timer, but not by quite as much as is the rural farrier. A farrier working the rural areas and small towns may travel as much as 400 miles a day to do a day’s shoeing. That is why you will see this rural farrier put in as many as 16 to 18 hours a day. Half of that is travel time. However, the majority of the one and two-horse stop owners feel that they should not be required to pay for this travel time. I don’t know of any other service business that does not charge for the cost of travel and the service person’s time while on the road. In the past, it was the norm for the one and two-horse owner to pay for travel time or pay a higher rate for shoeing. You must remember that a farrier at a large barn can shoe four horses in say that one hour to get to the client, one hour to unload equipment, shoe and reload equipment, and one hour to get to the next one or two-horse stop. But because the part-timer down the road already shoes for less, the full-time professional cannot cover the additional travel costs by charging a fair rate for his/her services.

The time is coming when you will only be able to find a full-time professional farrier near the larger metro areas at the large barns, where a farrier can select the type of client that can afford his services. The small towns and rural areas will be left to the part-time farrier.

Another problem that has come about is the horse that is not trained to stand for trimming or shoeing. In the past most horses had someone working with them every day, like at the larger commercial and private barns (Saddle and Sirloin Club, Kansas City area). Horses’ legs and hooves were handled daily and trainers considered it part of their job to train the horses to stand for the shoer. This too has changed with the backyard horse and the small backyard stables. The owners all have full-time jobs and just don’t have the time to spend with the horse. Most people feel that training starts in the saddle. Many trainers are also part-time trainers and skip important ground work and basic manners. This attitude causes major problems for the farrier in the time it takes to trim or shoe and the risk of injury. Many owners seem to feel it is the farrier’s responsibility to train the horse to stand for trimming and shoeing. However, they aren’t willing to pay for that additional service and the time it takes to perform. Moreover, to be effective, feet should be handled on a daily basis, not once every six to eight weeks.

I also find that many of the owners lack in the basic knowledge and understanding of the horse. A lot of the owners are even afraid of their horses, not wanting to risk getting hurt themselves. Again, ownership rollover every three years.

We have lost the full-time professional trainer and groom that took time to work with their horses. In some cases, horses are never handled except when the veterinarian or farrier are there. As far as training, most trainers fail to teach horse ground manners. Many feel that training is riding of the horse, so this end of the industry also has it many complex problems.

Another problem facing the industry is that anyone is allowed to buy shoes, nails and supplies direct from some of the manufactures, wholesalers and stores. This creates a problem for a farrier trying to cover the cost of inventory. It also affects the farriers ability to make any markup on product, as the owner knows the cost. Most other industries are protected by the wholesaler and manufacturer. Some of the manufacturers and wholesalers market directly to the owners giving the wholesale prices.

And yet another problem facing the industry is that most of the new farriers entering the industry are never schooled in Business 101 or Marketing 101. Without this knowledge they don't know how to figure cash flow and budgets or how to figure the cost of doing business. I even had one tell me, "you first find out what the market will pay for your service and then charge up to that amount. Then you figure your business expense and profit into that figure."

The following information was taken from 6,000 people responding to the following questions. It will give you an idea of how people perceive the farrier and the industry in general:

Is your farrier a full-time professional?

80% responded yes, 7% said no and 3% did not know.

A lot of owners think they are using a full-time professional when in fact they are not. For example, I shoe one horse in a barn where there are several other owners. They use a farrier that charges 1/2 the rate that I charge and they think he is full-time 40 plus hour a week shoer. When in fact he farms, and works a 40+ work week for another large stock and grain farm in our area.

Is your farrier licensed, certified or holds some type of certificate for shoeing?

75% responded yes, 10% no, and 15% didn’t know.

Is this a misconception?

How much schooling does your farrier have?

Most responded that they knew their farrier went to a shoeing school somewhere or that they had worked with another shoer. Only about 5% knew for how long. Most of the owners felt that their shoer had gone to school for four years or more, or had served an extended apprenticeship.

This is again another misconception that owners have.

What do you consider a fair rate for shoeing your horse?

The range here went from $15 to $180.00 for a standard set of four shoes. Most stated what they paid. The largest group was in the $35 to $50 range for a set of four standard shoes.

The price for trims was from $4.00 to $90 for trims, the most common price ranging from $12 to $25 a horse.

Do you know what it costs your farrier to come out and shoe or trim your horse?

75% responded no. The largest group that put a cost on it said between $2 and $3 a horse.

Most owners indicated that they felt that 90% of what their farrier charged was profit, when in most cases about 10% is profit.

This shows us that the average owner has no concept of the cost for a farrier doing business.

Is your farrier making a good living?

98% responded that their farrier made a better living than most blue collar jobs and equal or above middle management in white collar jobs. Again, it was felt that 90% of what the farrier charged was profit.

How do you select your farrier?

Price, 80% the first time. After having problems with shoeing or trimming this number dropped to 0. They started looking at education, reputation and full or part time.

Reputation, 10%.

The balance of the other reasons for selection were many: He lives just down the road, he is my friend’s husband, vet referral, trainer referral, owner referral, advertising.

Do you have your horse on a set schedule for trimming or shoeing?

65% yes, 35% no.

How often is your horse trimmed or shod?

The range was from every four weeks to once a year. The group with the largest number was every ten to twelve weeks, the next being, "When I think about it". The next group was six to eight weeks.

What is the longest that you have used the same farrier?

The answer ranged from 25 years to, "A new one each time I need a farrier." The largest group was one year--55%, two years--20%, three years--18%, four or more years--12%.

Who knows how your horse should move and be trimmed or shod?

The Trainer--32%, The Vet--25%, The Farrier--24%, Riding Instructor--12%, The Owner--7%.

Does your farrier have a full shop as well as a fully equipped shoeing truck?

Only 25% said their farrier had a fully equipped shop on wheels. Only 2% knew that their farrier had a shop.

Does your farrier hot shoe?

Only 20% have had a horse hot shod. The balance is cold shoeing. The same holds true for a fully equipped truck and shop.

When is the most convenient time for your farrier to work on your horse?

The overwhelming response was evenings and weekends at 96%. The remaining 4% was when the farrier can work me into their schedule.

Do you think a farrier needs to certified?

80% said no, 15% yes, 5% don’t care.

The most common reason given for "no", is that it would raise the cost of trimming and shoeing.

Do you think that your farrier needs continuing education in Farrier Science?

75% said no, it’s like riding a bicycle or swimming or driving a car--once you learn you know how.

15% said yes.

10% didn’t care.

Is your farrier insured?

The overwhelming response to this was yes--78%, The reason being, "He’s in business, he better be if he injures my horse, he needs to be covered." 22% didn't know.

If your farrier is injured while working on your horse, who pays the cost?

82% Workers Comp, 3% the farrier, 10% didn’t know.

Most owners think that farriers as a group are insured and carry Workers Comp Insurance. Is this another misconception?

Should your horse be trained for the farrier to work on?

62% yes, 38% think the farrier should be willing to train and work with the horse.

How long should your horse be willing to hold it’s hoof up?

Over 80% said for a couple of minutes, the balance said as long as needed to work on the hoof.

Are you willing to pay the farrier to work on an untrained horse at additional cost?

80% said no, that is part of his job. The other 20% was willing to pay a little extra. It ranged from $5 to $10 a horse.

Is the area where you farrier is to work, free and clear of junk, kids, dogs? Large and roomy, cool in the summer, warm in the winter? Level and hard surface, sheltered?

32% yes, 67% no. 1% no answer.

Is your horse groomed before the farrier arrives, free of mud and dirt, hooves cleaned?

33% yes, 67% no.

Based on the cost of trimming/shoeing a horse in 1974, $8 for trims and $12 for shoes, would you be willing to pay a farrier the current value ToDay? With the dollar being worth 12% of the 1974 dollar that would put trims at $66.88 and standard shoeing at $99.99?

The answer was no by 76%. The reason given was that the farrier would be making too much profit. 21% said yes. Balance didn’t want to, but would consider it based on the cost of business for the farrier.

Do you think a farrier should charge additional for therapeutic shoeing?

70% said no, 28% yes, 2% no response.

Do you think a farrier should charge a mark-up for additional products, such as pads, hoof conditioner and such?

70% said no, they knew the cost and could buy the product and furnish it to the farrier. 28% said yes.

Should a farrier charge the same trip charge as a vet?

90% said no. 5% said yes, 5% didn’t know. The reason given for the "no" answer, most of the time was, the farrier doesn’t have the same cost as a vet.

Do you want your farrier to conduct his/her business as a professional would?

98% yes, 2% no.

Would you be willing to pay the additional cost if your farrier had an office with staff and conducted the business in a professional manner?

78% no, 22% yes. The reason for the "no" answer was that the farrier can do that work when he/she gets home or while out in the field.

What is the biggest problem you have with your farrier?

Showing up on time--68%. Having the right equipment to do the job, 22% the first time. Listening to what I want for my horse--8%.

What it the second biggest problem?

The largest answer was that the farrier did not have the proper shoes and equipment to shoe the horse.

For what reason would you change your farrier?

Laming a horse, was number 1. Finding a farrier that would charge less was number 2.

Not showing up for the second time, was number 3.

Would you give your farrier a second chance if he/she lamed your horse?

82% no, 12% yes, 6% no answer.

We as a group need to educate the horse owner about our profession. What it takes to shoe horses for a living. The true cost involved in operation of that business. The amount of skill and education needed.

That education and skill is one of the most important things that a farrier has to keep a horse sound. That a full-time professional farrier needs to continue their education. That this costs the farrier time and money. That the time and money must be covered by the rates charged for the services.

The next time, farrier, you pull into a barn or drive, take a look around, do they have the new truck and trailer, indoor arena, nice home, good barn for their horses, more then one horse. Then state that your price has gone up and you are simply trying to keep pace with the today’s dollar. That in 1974 the price for trimming a horse was $8 and the cost for shoeing was $12, so with the rate of inflation the price for a trim is now $66.88 and standard shoeing is $99.99. See what kind of response you get.

Or the next time you run across a part-time shoer ask him/her where they work full time and would they mind if you came in and cut their wage and took their job away.

Our farrier industry is in a state of flux, with the same number of farriers entering the industry each year, but with more and more full-time professionals leaving the industry. If all the horses are going to receive proper and correct care, we are going to need to educate the horse owner to what the full-time professional farrier requires to make a living--in time, cost and education.










Gas 50.00
Insurance 49.00
Van replacement 100.00
Shop rent 36.00
Office expense 6.18
Advertising 31.00
Phone 800# 45.00

Van maint. 3.18
Van repair 11.36
Tool replace 19.09
Shoe replace 29.00
Internet 6.81
Office equip rp 11.36
Utilities 9.09

Employee Wages
$100 x 22 days a month

60 work week
Five days 12 hours each

Ray wage $150
60 hour work week

Five days 12 hours each

Total per day bottom line must meet

Business Ex. $407.07


Total Wage expense
per day

$250.00 wages
$ 32.50 tax

Total Daily Expense is:

$689.57 per day
five day work week

Wisconsin State Sales Tax .055 added to bottom line

Adds another $37.92 daily

Total daily ex

Total expenses for month

$16004.78 on a 22 day work month

This leaves no sick days personal days vacation days off.


This leaves no days for continued education, clinics, conventions.

Van replacement is based on driving 150,000 miles per year. 1 ton van. This is what I have driven the past three years.


Gas price is based on current price of a $1.54 per gallon. 34% increase in past month.

Wages include no retirement, health care, disability.

No gross or net profit on investment in business.


Bottom line break even 4 stops per day must average

$181.87 per stop divided by the number of horses

That is allowing 12 hour work day 2 hours drive time each way and 2 hours each stop also including drive time in between stops

That is a wage of $12.50 per hour Ray

That is a wage of $8.33 per hour one employee for business

The only way to cut daily expense is to work a 7 day week/extent your day to 16 hrs. Will still have an additional $50 a day in gas. Would = $546.82.

You would pay no addition wages. Wages reduce to $4.58 employee per hour.

$9.37 Rays per hour


Now you know why 7000 new shoers come into the business each year You can only find part-timers with limited knowledge.

So when you see me put $200 in my pocket at your barn it certainly is not all mine. Less than 10% is my wages.

Some months it all goes to business expense.

I cannot continue to compete with the horseshoer that bases their prices on 1974 expenses.



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