The #1 Rule

There is always one thing that is most important in every business and farriery is no different. There is something you must always remember when you are working. It’s usually an unspoken or unwritten rule, that should be followed without fail. So what is that rule in our industry?


Now I called it the most important rule, not the only rule. I have many rules in my practice but there is one that weighs on me the heaviest. The one rule that’s on my mind when I’m driving, when the horse is walking up, while I’m working, and it affects almost every decision.

The Answer  

So what is the number one rule? Leave the hoof as good or better than you found it. Others will say “do no harm,” that’s a good one too but you will do harm at some point it’s part of the learning process and that process will continue for the rest of your career.

Our job is never without fail because there is something that cannot be removed from the equation. That is the human factor and humans cannot and never will be without mistakes. No matter how much we study or how careful we try to be we will always be human.

The reason I like my rule is because it clearly defines a guideline to follow on every hoof. With this mantra, if you will, in mind I can build a plan of how to approach even the worst of hooves. Even if when I’m finished I don’t like the finished product, I at least know that I have done something to set the horse up for success in the future.

It’s important to remember that the hoof probably didn’t get this way overnight and chances are I won’t be able to fix it overnight either. It’s a good idea to take photos before you start and when you finish, and keep this practice throughout the time you shoe the horse. This will give you a viable comparison so that you can see what effects you are actually having on the hoof. 

This method of photo comparison analysis is without a doubt the best way to find out if your theories on shoeing are sound or not (no pun intended). Every (successful) business in the world uses some form of comparison analysis to determine if what they are doing is effective or not and if you want to be successful, you have to as well.

It’s hard to say it was my fault or that what I’m selling isn’t the best, but you absolutely have to. I know I myself have had to swallow my pride and take a long hard look in the mirror and say I’m wrong more than once. Every time I have though, I have made huge improvements in my knowledge, abilities, and income. 

This does’t just apply to poor hoof conditions or horses that you are working on for the first time. It applies to all the horses that you shoe, because sometimes the old regulars are the ones that get the least attention and that kind of complacency is the cancer that kills business.

In Conclusion

So set up your own ‘number one rule’ or follow mine, “leave the hoof as good or better than you found it”, and follow it without fail. Never be to proud to say it’s my fault and if it is your fault, do something about it. The reward is worth the agony of swallowing your pride, I promise.

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