Originally Posted by CowboyGirl
I was wondering if it is possible to learn and/or to buy tools to trim your own horses hooves itstead of have the farrier come every 6 or so weeks to do it. I know that if something was really wrong I would call the farrier, but I just mean for regular trimmings.
Trimming a horse is certainly something that many people are capable of learning. That said, there is a downside to consider.
Professional farriers, for the most part, build their business around steady, repeat customers. Those same farriers will invest hundreds of hours in initial training and thousands of dollars in equipment and inventory. The better ones will continue investing in education, inventory and equipment as their skills, knowledge and customer base grows.
The difficulty with trimming your own is that you may find it difficult to acquire quality farrier service should your horse present needs beyond your ability. The "one-off" type customer falls to the bottom of the priority list as compared to those on a farrier's regular schedule.
Trims are the "bread & butter" for the working farrier. While laborious and less technical than shoeing, trims earn the farrier a higher hourly wage. This net average earnings keeps the total owner cost lower. Without a regular customer base and the value that trimming adds to the annual bottom line, shoeing a horse would be cost prohibitive for most owners that need that service.
Aside from the educational and startup business overhead costs, scheduling is a significant business model difference between the veterinarian and the farrier. The vet operates a bit like the McDonalds drive-thru. Customers usually call on short notice to schedule an appointment and the vet provides service on a first come, first served basis. While some vets are booked for any given day, they often have "slots" available and "sell" those slots as the calls come in. This business model means they have to charge a lot more (as compared to farriers) to sustain their business. Those higher prices offset the down time when the phone isn't ringing. It's also a reason why there are usually fewer vets in a given locale than farriers. The customer base isn't large enough to keep the "drive-thru" busy if there are too many vets. Farriers earn considerably less per hour than the vet (and justifiably so), so they need to know their day is booked well in advance.
Compare it to your own job. How might your situation change if your 8 hour work day suddenly became "ad-hoc". You never know from one day to the next if your boss is going to pay you for any part of that day or if he'll need you at all. If there are gaps in that work day, you're going to need to earn more dollars per hour (or visit) to sustain your business and your livelihood. This is, in part why independent businessmen from most trades appear to get a much higher hourly wage than those working for the private sector. Unlike the public/private employee, that 40 hour paycheck isn't always there. The hourly rate has to reflect that variation in down time.
Farriers are different than most tradesman in this respect due the repeat nature of their business. That 6 to 8 week routine schedule not only best meets the needs of the horse but also keeps professional farriers in business and able to provide service at a cost that most owners can manage. Disrupt that regular schedule and you change the business model. Costs across the board would have to rise and the number of farriers per given area would decrease. Service availability to the "Whenever I need you, I'll call you" type customers becomes sketchy at best and much more expensive.
This is at least one of the problems that professional farriers have with the self-taught trimmer crowd. These folks typically have much less invested in training and business costs yet are cutting in on the higher paying, technically easier part of the total farrier business. The result is less reason for farriers to make that larger investment in the more difficult and costly aspect of providing complete service to horse owners as a reasonable cost. Trims provide the average farrier with about 40% of his annual income. Take that away and guess what happens to the price of the remaining 60% of the work provided and the number of practitioners trained to provide that service.
I once asserted on this website that the barefoot trimmer crowd is a cancer on the trade. This post better explains that phenomena. As the trimmer crowd increases, cutting into the professional farriers "bread and butter", the number of good farriers capable of providing full service must necessarily decrease and prices must rise. However, we really don't see this in most areas. Prices are generally holding steady. What we do see are people entering the field as "full service farriers" that have not made the training and equipment investment because the prices don't warrant that investment. Instead, you end up with the backyard hacks that are just hanging iron. The result is a growth in the "all natural" crowd that can't meet every horses needs and the poorly trained "bucket shoer" that can't earn enough money to make a go of a full time business that pays enough to warrant serious investment in better training. In other words, the quality offering and service availability of the entire trade is diminished.
It's the same business logic that explains why veterinarians have a problem with lay dentists. It's also why so many professional trades require licensing. It's not just to assure minimal competency. It's also to protect and assure the quality and continuing availability of a service.
Here's the best example I can give you.
Let's say your horse comes up lame and needs the services of a professional farrier. You find one, he's normally booked but fortunately has one opening for tomorrow and agrees to meet you in the afternoon. The next morning, one of his long time customers at a large account calls to share that her horse pulled a shoe. She needs that shoe put back on and the horse made ready for a show. The only time the farrier has available for the week is the afternoon slot he promised to you.
Guess who is probably going to get their horse taken care and who is going to be left waiting at the gate? While it may seem unethical and unfair to you, that farrier has to protect his business interests. He knows that you are a "drive-up" client that he may or may not ever hear from again. At best, he might call you and try to get out at the end of the day. At worst, he just won't show up or even bother calling.
While just about anyone can learn the basics of trimming their own horse, it's important to factor in long term service needs, availability, quality and cost. Should your service needs exceed your skill, finding a competent, professional farrier may prove a very frustrating and very expensive experience. That presumes you can find a competent farrier willing to come out at all.
One of the more common adages shared among farriers and vets (albeit seldom heard by customers) is... "it's not my job to subsidize your hobby". While some customers may take offense to such a notion, make no mistake, horses are a luxury, an expensive hobby and frankly, not for everyone.
It is both fair and reasonable to ask, if saving a few hundred bucks per year is financially so important to your ability to manage the needs of a horse, should you really be owning one at all?
If an owner finds themselves choosing between paying the farrier bill and buying groceries, the answer is a definitive no.