Meaningful Mentorship

Everyone has their own ideas about apprenticeships and whether or not they are a good idea for young (new) farriers. It’s my personal belief that an apprenticeship is a must in every farrier’s career. This is probably because all of the great farriers I was lucky enough to spend time with, were big believers in apprenticeships and most of them have studied under multiple mentors, as did I.

What’s In A Name

I’m not however, a big fan of the words apprentice or helper in my personal practice. We have a clinic here at the Oklahoma State Horseshoeing School every spring. A few years ago we were lucky enough to have Dave Farley as our clinician. Dave said something that really stuck with me and I have always tried to apply what he said when dealing with helpers . He said that he likes to refer to the people that help him as “associates.” I remember thinking, what a respectful way to refer to them. All the farriers that I helped referred to me as their helper or apprentice, which never bothered me because I knew that I had to pay my dues. For some people, however, I can see that having a negative impact.

Be A Selfless Leader

When we think about leadership and having people work for us, we often forget about what our responsibilities really are. As a leader, it’s our job to teach and to better those that help us so they can go on and achieve as much, or more, than we have. My personal goal is to set my students up to out-perform me in every aspect of the business. I believe that is the mark of a great leader. I was very lucky because the guys that I studied under all understood this and taught me to think this way. When you realize that true leadership is not just for your own benefit, the quality of help you receive is exponentially better. When people see what you have done for the careers of those that have helped you, the individuals that wish to achieve great things in their career are drawn to you.

Lead The Way You Would Want To Be Led

Nothing burns me up as much as seeing someone publicly humiliate or degrade their help. The reason they are helping you is to further their own career and they can’t do that if you are constantly degrading them. (I’m not saying you can’t jest and pick. I’ve received my fair share and this helps build that thick-skin that is necessary to be successful.) This is why farriers have so much trouble finding and keeping good help. I constantly have farriers calling me and asking if I will send them an apprentice, which is good because it tells me we’re doing something right. However, I am very particular about who I will send apprentices to, because I have to know that they are going to set their help up for success. I am also very choosy in pairing potential apprentices with compatible farriers.

Final Thoughts

I don’t know of anyone who figured it all out on their own. Life is just a series of lessons learned by experiences and failures, but no one said they had to be your own. I’m reminded of something that Dave Goodman once told me, “Let my learning curve make yours shorter.” Always treat those under you with respect and teach them with the intent to one day surpass you.

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