As horses wear old shoes longer, farriers feel pinch

You're not the only who's waiting longer to buy that new pair of shoes.

So are some horse owners in northern Nevada, and that's cutting into business for some of the farriers who specialize in taking care of equine feet.

Farriers say that although they aren't gaining many new clients, their appointment books still remain fairly full from regular customers who require new shoes on their horses, or hoof trimmings.

Jason Carlisle, owner of Carlisle Farrier Service, says horseshoers are always losing clients to attrition. Owners move or sell their horses. Horses die. But there's also usually a small stream of new clients to replace lost ones.

Lately, however, Carisle says, his phone has been pretty quiet.

"When you are building a book, you try to build it with clients that shoe or trim on a regular basis," says Carlisle, a certified journeyman farrier who shoes about 20 horses a week throughout the outskirts of the Reno-Sparks area. "Hopefully you have got a book of good clients, and that is how you make a living."

Carlisle says he usually books appointments about eight weeks in advance, and once his schedule fills up, he can't take on more clients without hiring help. But new clients have been slim, as horse owners wait longer between shoeings.

"In years past, in the spring and summer the phone usually starts ringing and you fill in vacancies. Now I only get an occasional call. In years past it was not uncommon to get two or three potential clients per week, and that's something you can work off."

Horse owners usually stay loyal to one farrier, Carlisle adds.

Michael Tannehill, owner of Sierra Farrier Service in Gardnerville, typically shoes between 30 and 40 horses in a week from Reno all the way south to Bishop, Calif. Tannehill says some of his customers have tried to cut back on equine expenses by going longer between shoeings and trimmings, but at the same time, other clients have been avoiding taking expensive vacations in favor of staying home. As a result, they're riding their horses more, which means more shoeing.

"The focus becomes on the horse again," says Tannehill, a journeyman farrier since 1993.

Farriers typically charge a flat fee for shoeing or trimming hooves, and additional fees if they need to clip a horse's pads or do any other therapeutic work. Tannehill says the biggest trend in the industry is a movement to forgo shoes in favor of barefoot riding.

Sales of farrier supplies primarily horseshoes, nails, and hoof-care products also remain relatively flat, say operators of farrier supply stores in Carson City and Gardnerville.

Katie Krueger, manager of Washoe Valley Farrier Supply, a 2,400-square-foot retail operation at Research Drive in Carson City, says sales peaked in 2007 and '08 and have decreased over the past few years due to a reduction in the number of horse owners.

Big sellers at Washoe Valley Farrier Supply are horseshoes and pad and hoof-care products, such as rasps, knives and trimmers.

To drum up new business many local farriers purchase their supplies at the store Washoe Valley Farrier Supply has revamped its Web site, and reworked Web copy for search engine optimization.

"For the most part the local farriers already know where we are at, but we are expanding business by going on the Internet," Krueger says.

Internet sales have long been the prime revenue generator for Hoof-It Technologies of Gardnerville, but the company is moving into new warehouse space in the Meridian Business Park at 2222 Park Place and will open a small retail storefront.

Leslie Batistich, director of operations for Hoof-It, says business has remained flat through the recession, but Hoof-It benefits from casting a very wide net. The company has warehouses in Brazil, Germany, and domestically in Wisconsin and California.

Hoof-It primarily sells farrier supplies, as well as equine and bovine dentistry equipment. One of its best-selling pieces of equipment is a hoof stand that allows farriers and horse owners to shoe or trim hooves without having to support the weight of the hoof.

The company is opening a retail operation to better serve local customers who want to drop in for supplies, Batistich says. Hoof-It employs more than 20 full and part-time employees at its locations.


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