"For seven years in a row, I've been voted the world's worst shoer," joked world-renowned clinician Pat Parelli at the 16th annual Bluegrass Laminitis Symposium Jan. 16-18 in Louisville, Ky., to begin a discussion on "Anvil Side Manner."

"Why do you guys want to shoe horses, anyway?" Various attendees answered that they began horseshoeing because they couldn't afford a shoer for their own horses, did it better than another shoer, they would rather shoe a horse than hold him, and/or they thought it would be a good way to help horses while paying for veterinary school.

With that established, he moved on to shoer stereotypes. "Why do you guys have a reputation for being late?" he asked. "Are you lazy? (Disbelieving laughs from the audience.) Or is it that the last stop took longer than scheduled?" Universal agreement met that one.

"I've got a lot of respect for farriers--you guys showing up on the scene are often in the world's worst scenario," he said. "Let's say your first appointment is at 6 a.m. When you get there, what if the horse isn't even caught? Prior proper preparation (PPP) prevents p***-poor performance, but you haven't gotten any PPP from the owner. And if you aren't part of the solution, you're part of the problem. It's the owner's responsibility to ensure that the time you spend shoeing a horse is the only time you spend on the horse." Otherwise, the farrier’s schedule is stretched later and later throughout the day.

With some help from the audience, Parelli settled on a time frame of about 45 minutes to shoe the average, behaving horse. Much beyond that, he suggested billing for extra time. "Suggest to your client that you bill them for your time over one hour on each horse that's misbehaving," he said. "Here's the deal--if you charge $100 per hour, that's about $1.50 ($1.67) per minute. Start charging $3 per extra minute plus the normal shoeing price. Could you be even more patient for that?" he laughed. "If you charged $3 per minute for a three-hour shoeing job (which should have taken around 45 minutes), you'd get $540! You might lose clients, but those were probably the ones you wanted to lose. But that won't happen if you're a wuss and keep shoeing horses for $100 that take two to three hours." Also, he noted that owners with well-behaved horses wouldn't get into this pricing issue.

"Or you could back down to a rate of $1.50 per hour, and just train the horse for a trip or two," he continued. "If all you had to do was train the horse, the next time you worked with him would be that much easier.

"You never have time to do it right (train a horse to stand for shoeing), but you have the time to do it over and over (training the horse a few minutes at a time every six to eight weeks when shoeing)," he said. "A lot of people get sucked into bad situations because they didn't set them up right," getting under a misbehaving horse rather than training him to stand for shoeing or refusing to shoe the horse until the owner does."

Horse Psychology

"Horses aren't horses, they're prey animals," Parelli stated, getting into the type of equine psychology discussion for which he is so well known. "We can't use predator psychology (humans are predators) to make prey behave. Punishment doesn't work for prey animals--that just makes them act like super prey animals! Many trained horses put up with some of this stuff, though--probably 80-90% of them will put up with a rasp being bumped in their stomachs by a farrier--because they have learned that this isn't something that will kill them. But it's not instinctive.

"Horses have survived as a species because they can quickly sense changes," he went on. "If something startles them and they tense up, then we tense up, the horse gets even more scared because he figures whatever scared him scared his predator, too! We have to have the emotional fitness to not tense up and add fuel to the horse's fire. You have to be gentle without being a sissy, which is hard to teach."

Parelli then discussed three reasons why horses might misbehave:

  1. Because their prey animal mentality doesn't work with what we're asking them to do;
  2. Because they are well bred, overfed, and under-exercised; and
  3. Because they are disrespectful. "The most dangerous horse in the world is a pet that's great until you ask him to do something he doesn't want to do," he warned.

Concluding his presentation, he hinted that his talk the next day would cover tips on dealing with horses that are difficult to shoe.

About the Author

Christy M. West

Christy West has a BS in Equine Science from the University of Kentucky, and an MS in Agricultural Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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