Ray Miller's Column

The True Cost of Shoeing a Horse © Ray Miller

When you search for a farrier, one of the first things that you consider is the cost of shoeing and trimming. Do you really know what it should cost to have your horses trimmed and shod? There are many factors to consider: Is the person full-time or part-time, do they belong to any farriers' organizations, do they have an education (farrier school, college degrees, etc.), and how long has the person been shoeing? A full time farrier may see as many as 11,000 hoofs a year while a part time shoer maybe 500. There can be a big gap in the knowledge of a full time professional and the person down the road who has another job, or the person who went to a two-week course or self study.

We are just now being able to prove that improper trimming and shoeing as a colt, or continued improper shoeing and trimming will lead to lameness earlier in a horse life. The theories in shoeing are changing as we can prove with science study and our new technologies what is going on with the horse in biomechanical movements.

There can be a big gap in price and cost of doing business in shoeing and trimming, between the part timer and just starting out Farrier and the full time Professional Farrier. A lot of part-timers don't carry the equipment or have the shop, don't but and carry any type of insurance.

You may want to check with your attorney or your state workers compensation board. They don't maintain a truck or van just for shoeing, (they use the truck or car to drive to work). Back to the original question:

The answer can be found by calculating costs, just as any other type of business must. In this article, I am going to look at a full time professional farrier, with any other source of income, full or part time job, inheritance, not living at home with parents, spousal support, etc.

SALARY, what the farrier wants to earn for a gross income (before taxes): Beginning Farrier, six weeks shoeing school, $24,000.00 a year, Journeyman Farrier with continuing education $36,000.00 a year and a Master Farrier with continuing education $40,000.00 a year. Add a college degree of four-year BS/Equine Science and add $5000.00 a year to base salary; a six-year degree M/S Equine Science and add $8000.00 per year. If the person has teaching credentials and further education you could add as much as $25,000.00 per year to the base salary. These figures are what the average is outside the equine industry and within the sales force that services the equine industry. So the range of salary for a full time farrier can range from $24,000.00 per year to a high of $49,000.00 per year gross income.

Let us say our farrier is a Journeyman with a four-year college degree. His salary should be at $41,000.00 per year, divided by twelve months = $3416.00 per month, divided by 4.33 weeks in a month = $788.91 per week. Say he is a suburban shoer, working an 8-hour day. His day rate is then $157.78 a day; averaging five horses per day = $31.55 per horse in just labor. But he wants that income for a year. So you need to add the cost of eight traditional holidays (Christmas, New Year, Easter, Labor Day, etc.). Then add a couple of paid sick days per years of service, lets say five days, and a couple of personnel days. So now, instead of 359.8 days a year, he is working 234.80 days at $170.00 per day, divided by five horses = $34.00 per horse. The cost of labor for trims would be $14.16 per horse at 12 a day.

Retirement needs to be planned for the end of a long hard journey of say 20 to 45 years. The farrier should have been putting away 10% of his income which is $341.60 a month, of which the employer, usually, places matching funds. These funds must be figured into the cost of the business of shoeing a horse. The amount came to $4099.20 per year, divided by the number of shoeings of 1,174 = $3.49 per shoeing. Trimming 2,817.60 horses it would increase the cost of trims at $1.27. The costs for just the farriers labor of shoeing is $37.49 per horse. If he is trimming the cost for trimming would be $15.43.

Now start the BUSINESS EXPENSE. What expenses, you say! First is the transportation to your location. A van or shoeing truck, new, costs $25,000.00. Driving 200 miles per day = 46,960 miles per year. If it lasts about three years = $8,333.33 per year in replacement cost of gas, tires, maintenance, etc. I will use the average payment to a person using their own car for an employer. This is now 32 cents per mile, or $15,027.20 per year, or $12.80 per horse. Total cost per horse = $19.80. Also keep in mind that any service person coming to your home or office charges a trip charge, such as Sears & Roebuck, local phone companies, plumbers, office machine repair and veterinarians etc. The farrier is the only one who finds it hard to convince an owner that it costs money to come to their place to shoe or trim a horse. Would you the owner, be willing to take the time to catch, load, hook on to your trailer, drive to the farrier? You could add as much as a day 1/2 day of your labor to the labor of your farrier. Is your time worth anything?

Continuing education, this person will attend the farrier's conventions and workshops. Going to a couple of seminars within the year, they will need to figure in travel expense and cost of being away from the business, for a total of 10 days throughout the year, $65,000.00 = $5.53 per horse.

INSURANCE??? Remember a full time professional will carry insurance: Health Insurance at $3,000.00 per year, Care, Custody & Control, $12,000.00, ($100,000.00 per horse) Liability, $25,000.00 per year, ($300,000.00 policy), Truck, $3000.00 per year, Comprehensive on equipment, $1500 per year, Workman's Compensation, $1200 = $10.56 per horse.

EMPLOYEES, to do what? Many, many things: scheduling, bookkeeping, answer the phone, designing and sending newsletters, working in the field with horses, ordering shoes and supplies, answering mail, working with owners understanding what the farrier is doing. At $20,000.00 per year plus insurance, vacation, taxes, Worker's Compensation = $26,000.00 per year = $22 per horse. Also remember that even if a farrier doesn't hire a person to do this work, he will do it himself or hire someone outside the business, such as a C.P.A. (my C.P.A. charges $120.00 per hour, my attorney charges $195.00 per hour) or H & R Block, temporary office help, etc. Remember, time is money; whether under a horse or in an office, he or she is still working, because of your horse. A lot of farriers forget to figure this part of the business as labor.

OFFICE EXPENSES, in home of $2600.00, phone (incoming and outgoing lines, 800 number) = $6,000.00 per year. Replacement of office equipment (ink cartridges, paper, computer parts, etc.), and repair $1500 per year = $8.60 per horse.

ADVERTISING & MARKETING, $5,000 per year, (business cards, newspaper ads, flyers, postage, reminder cards, horse flairs, etc.) per year = $4.25 per horse.

REPLACING LOST, DAMAGED AND USED EQUIPMENT, (forge, gas tanks, hand tools, apron, rasp, shoeing knife, etc.), $200 per month = $2.74 per horse. How many times has your shoer dropped or left something behind?

TRADE PUBLICATIONS, subscriptions (Wisconsin Horseman, Farrier Journal, Hoof & Lameness, Michael Plumb's Horse Journal, Equus, Western Horsemen etc.) $300 per year = .25 per horse.

MEMBERSHIP in trade association, WBFA, AFA, $300 per year = .25 per horse.

Cost of keg shoes and nails $6.75 per horse. Specialty and therapeutic shoes, hot forging all add additional costs.

The total cost of shoeing your one horse is $127.88. If your farrier is just trimming horses, you would deduct the cost of shoes which would leave you at $121.13, divided by three horses, $40.37 per horse. A person can usually trim three horses at the same time needed to shoe one horse.

IF THIS IS A TRUE BUSINESS we have only talked about expenses and not about the business of making a profit. Paying a salary to owner and any employees is not making a profit for the business. Any business owner wants to make a profit on the money they have out into the business. A fair profit is 13% on investment. Add another $16.24 on the cost of shoeing or a total of $144.50 to shoe and $45.61 to trim a horse.

THE LAST ITEM TO ADD IS SALES TAX, yes some states such as Wisconsin charges sales tax. Often it adds another five percent to 6 percent to the cost of shoeing. Depending in what county you live in. In this case we will use the five and one-half percent or $7.94 to the cost of shoeing. Making it $152.44 per horse. Trims, again using the five and one-half percent making it $2.25 to the cost of trimming total $47.88 to trim.

One thing you will need to remember, other items do run the cost of shoeing and trimming up. If you are the one, two, three horse owners, or out in the country and you cannot put a group of horses together for the farrier to spend the day, travel expenses increase. If you are a long way out, he has a lot of travel time and possible overnight expense. Or if your horse has a problem about standing quietly for the farrier and it takes longer to shoe or trim, he cannot complete as much work; time is money to your farrier. As a rural owner you should expect to pay a higher rate than at a barn or an area that has a lot of horses in it, just as you should if you have hard to handle animals.

Also, think about the quality of the farrier's work. How much work experience and further education does the person have? Does he do a lot of therapuetic work? Is he in demand? Is he working after hours or on weekends and holidays? The question I ask is do you, the horse owner, receive overtime, night bonus, holiday pay? Remember that most full-time farriers start early in the morning and are expected to work when you get home from your job in the evening. Some will work 20 hour days. Horse shoeing is not a hobby for them, it is a full-time profession. They really care about your horse and what is best for that horse. A lot of full time farriers will work a double shift because they cannot expect to receive the true cost of shoeing or trimming your horse. Now other things can bring the cost down. For example, is he part-time not running a true business, cutting corners on expenses, or is there another full-time job covering some expenses, such as personal insurance, it is the family van or truck, instead of company equipment? Is he young and living at home with parents? Is he only staying within a few miles of the home? Do you bring the horse to them? Does he only do one or two horses a week for extra money, by that keeping the cost down?

Remember that a full-time professional farrier will see a lot more problems and triple the number of feet that a part-time farrier will see. The proper insurance will be in force to protect both the owner the farrier. And he will definitely have a better understanding of the equine.

Now you know why a lot of farriers and horse shoers go and come; very few can afford to stay in the business. The full-timer soon learns that he can go to work as a truck driver and make $35,000.00 per year, or a brick layer at $35.00 per hour plus benefits. Plus have evenings, holidays and weekends off.

Never getting kicked, bitten of pawed are added benefits. Your full-time professional farrier also becomes an extra set of eyes. He will look at your horse in an independent objective way, giving you insight as to what is happening with the entire animal. He may spot problems that you have not seen. By seeing the horse regularly, he may identify changes taking place that you should contact a veterinarian about. As a owner, this input is invaluable.

So the next time you shop for a shoer because yours is no longer in business, think about why. He has probably gotten tired from working double shifts or found a better job. Those that stay in are usually there for the love of the horse.


About Ray K. Miller, Jr.: 40 years full-time professional within the horse and cattle industry. Master Farrier/Plater, Race Track License AZ, U.S. Dept. of Interior, U.S. Department of Agriculture, ratings of Master Farrier, Senior Packer/Wrangler, Senior Horse Specialist, Senior Wild Horse Specialist. Colorado State Board of Colleges: Teaching Credentials for Farrier Science, Equine Management, Equine Science, Secondary, Post Secondary and Adult Education. U.S. Forest Service Permitted Outfitter, License Outfitter Guide Wisconsin. Former Licensed Outfitter and Guide, AZ, CO, MT Lic. Member, American Farriers Assoc., Working Brotherhood Farriers. Certified Expert Witness in Federal and State Court System for Equine and Equine Related Legal Matters -- Arizona, Kansas, Missouri, Colorado, Texas, New York. Former Superintendent at the American Royal, Livestock, ASHA Horse Show and PRCA Rodeo 16 yrs. Former VP Equine Services at Resort Development International 3 yrs., General Manager/Senior Wrangler/Packer Rocky Mountain Outfitters, Glacier National Park 10 yrs. Former owner of Spring Creek Ranches and Ute Peak Horse Center, Colorado, Former Director of C & R Packing, Guiding and Outfitting School, 8 yrs. Owner of commercial riding, outfitting and packing stables and ranches in Arizona and Colorado.

I appreciate Jonathan Weiler for introducing me to Ray Miller's articles.
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