I’m always seeing posts on social media by people asking for recommendations of farriers, dentists, saddlers, instructors etc. Word of mouth is definitely the best form of advertising. But when you’re inundated with a number of recommended professionals, how do you know who to pick? Coincidentally, I read an article today about the legality of the self employed, such as equine dentists and farriers, and how you can ensure that you put your trust in the right person.
- Most importantly, you want to make sure your chosen professional is qualified. Usually if they are qualified they will have letters after their name, or state under which association they are registered with, and put them on their website, business cards, social media. For example, qualified saddlers often have the Society of Master Saddlers emblem on their van or website.
- They may also be listed on the appropriate association’s website. For example, you can search the BAEDT (British Association of Equine Dental Technicians) website to find qualified EDTs (Equine Dental Technicians) in your local area.
- I always think that, unless they are old school, there should be some kind of online presence from professionals. Otis’s dentist is always sharing interesting, and often disgusting if I’m honest, images of horses mouths. It’s an online world we live in now, and I think regularly updating your website shows that you are current. Utilising social media proves that you are actively working, and also engages with your clients which can also boost business. So I would definitely look up any professionals online.
- I would also find out more from people who have recommended the professional; find out what their horse is like, their situation, and how the person in question helped them. After all, if you’re a nervous, mature rider looking for an instructor and another mature rider recommends their instructor who has boosted their confidence, then it is highly likely said instructor will be able to help you.
- I’ve used some professionals and not been very impressed, but other knowledgeable people I know really rate them. I recently realised that you can be a saddler, but you may have trained mostly with Warmbloods or Thoroughbreds, so you aren’t actually that competent fitting saddles to the cobs and heavier horses. Which is why I think it’s important to take recommendations from people in a similar situation to you.
So once you’ve narrowed your list of recommendations down, there are a couple of questions you need to ask yourself. Perhaps you can be at the yard when another horse is treated to see the professional at work, or can meet them to discuss your horse before booking an appointment.
- Watch them around the horses. Do they have a natural, quiet manner and do the horses seem to like them? Last time Otis had his back treated I caught his chiropractor kissing his nose! At least I’m not the only one to fall for his charms … I can remember when Matt was only young he was shod by the farrier’s apprentice. Matt was at that playful stage and took the end of the boy’s belt in his mouth. To my horror, the boy shouted at Matt and hit him in the ribs with his hammer. I was shocked, upset, and from then on hated that apprentice. I’m pretty sure I didn’t like him in the first place, but I know after that I avoided him like the plaque. Can’t remember what happened to him.
- Are they reasonably priced? You do get what you pay for, so I’d always avoid the cheapest option unless there is good reason for it. Some farriers offer a discount to yards if they have a lot of horses to shoe there.
- How busy are they? A sign of a good professional is a busy diary. But they should also be flexible to their loyal clients. For example, squeezing you in when your horse has a suspected goof abscess. Again, I’m lucky with my chiropractor because when Matt fell over in the field just before the champs she popped out that afternoon, checked him over (she used to be a vet) and tweaked his back as well as advising me how to treat him over the weekend.
- The next thing that I like to hear from professionals are explanations. Before they treat, do they ask how your horse is going, and if you’ve noticed any changes in them. No matter how small, you want them to take your opinion into account. Then they should be able to explain what the problem is, such as how the saddle isn’t fitting, or how the foot balance and type of shoe can be improved. Then, you want to be able to see the difference. The saddle should visually sit better and feel more comfortable when you ride. The new shoe should look like an extension to the foot, with an unbroken hoof-pastern axis. Some dentists let you feel inside your horse’s mouth, so you should be able to feel for yourself the improvements.
- It’s not always relevant, but I always think it’s good when records are taken. So a dental chart is filled in, notes are made about physio treatment, and tracings are taken of the horse’s spine in the saddle fit so you can see how they change as the muscle up and grow.
- Asking a professional for recommendations is also useful. For example, asking your vet to recommend a physio who can help your particular horse, or to suggest a farrier who is knowledgeable in your horse’s feet – for example, one who specialises in laminitics.
- Sometimes different professions overlap; such as a physio noticing muscle tension at the back of the saddle, suggesting that the saddle doesn’t fit. They should be able to make educated suggestions, validate them, and assist if you need help investigating. Maybe suggest a saddler, or be able to voice their concerns to the right person if you can’t explain the situation adequately. It’s the same if an instructor feels there’s an issue with tack. I was asked about an I’ll fitting saddle by a new client. Even I could tell it didn’t fit, so I had to tactfully say that it was worth getting a saddler to look because the seat of the saddle didn’t sit horizontal and I thought it was a bit low at the wither. By pointing out my thoughts, this client could see my reasoning, agreed with me, and thankfully the saddler noted both plus a couple of more specific faults in the saddle.
I feel that I’m in a very lucky place because I’ve got a very reliable farrier, who has a quiet manner around Otis and always does an excellent job, especially recently with our foot issues. His chiropractor is amazing, and has a magic touch! But I can ring her about any worries I’ve got. Otis’s dentist always treats him efficiently and quietly, and our saddler watches me ride closely, tweaks the saddle and then watches me ride again. By which time I can feel the difference. I think the important thing here is that I feel involved in the process: the saddler may have to give me the reason behind a feeling I’ve got when sitting in the saddle, but the explanation educates me and helps me understand how the saddle needs adjusting. Which reminds me, I need to book an appointment with him now Otis is toning up. I would readily recommend all of Otis’s crew to anyone who asked, which is the best form of advertising in my opinion.