Neu Perspectives

A Team Sport

farrier picking out a horse hoof

It takes a village to raise, train and manage horses. From the farrier to hired help, a good team is respected and valued.

I know that cowboys, ranch folks and horse people in general are supremely capable. Most can patch just about anything together with the right muck boots, some baling wire and the right amount of Vetrap. They are people who can improvise and have a broad, handy skill set—from a little plumbing to farming to veterinary care and beyond.

However, no matter how versatile and talented the individual horseman may be, he can’t do it all alone. They have a growing to-do list. I understand that horses carry a lot of appeal based on the idea that we don’t need human interaction to enjoy them. But the fact of the matter is, whether we have one horse grazing in our backyard or a boarding stable of 80 head, we all need a team to keep us going. And it’s important to find the right fit for your needs.

It’s true. I can’t do it all. But I’m thankful every day for the people who can fill in the blanks for my skill set and capabilities. I can’t cut and grow hay to feed my own animals. I can’t float teeth. I can’t tack sliders on my gelding’s hind feet to keep him from spreading too much in his stop. And a lot of the time, I get so busy cleaning (confession: I love cleaning stalls), organizing, saddling, planning and helping with customer horses, I don’t even get to ride my own favorite mares and geldings in a week’s time.

cowboy picking out a horse hoof
Photo by Ross Hecox

But see, this is where the team steps in. A lot of professionals have hired help, some temporary, and some whose right-hand man lasts for decades. If your hired help isn’t on the same page as you, be it work ethic, vision, goals or a desire for success toward your goals as a horseman, it’s not going to be a fit.

When you go out of town, it’s such a relief knowing that someone you can count on is taking care of things at home (and this goes for both large training barns and the family with one gelding in the back pasture). When you finally get the courage to enter that rodeo, show or group trail ride, it’s your friends and the people who are on your side cheering that make the experience fun, exciting and memorable.

When you have horses, professional or not, whoever you hire to help you out is an integral part of your success and your team. Your hired help can keep things cleaner, running more smoothly and fill in the gaps for riding, medicating or organizing your schedule when needed. Your veterinarians of choice, your farriers, your equine dentist, your trainer, accountants, hay broker and more are all a part of your successes and failures. So choose wisely and make sure you get recommendations from people who have the same standards as you. 

Now, not everyone has the same needs for their team. Depending on goals and desires, you may need a very low-key, broad-spectrum veterinarian who is always up for a casual chat. Or, you and your horses might require an entire panel of folks, from reproductive specialists to lameness vets to people who specialize in physical therapy for equines. Sometimes effectiveness or a quick result is the goal. Sometimes it’s whoever can get the job done cheapest. Either way, you’ve got to find (and appreciate!) what works. 

Sometimes our team requires modification. It can be frustrating when you finally have “your people” lined out and then you have to move. Or one of them retires. Sometimes, it’s just time for a change. There are a lot of options out there in all horse-related areas, and I understand it can be a daunting process picking the proper farrier, trailer mechanic or tack store.

Yes, we’re can-do-type people and we can handle a lot of varied tasks. But, we simply can’t do it all ourselves. We’ve got to have support from our help, our friends, our veterinarians and our best hay guy (because if it weren’t for him, we would all have a real shortage of baling wire!).

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