Friday, June 1, 2018

Farrier Friendly: An Interview with Bryan Farcus

Farrier Friendly: An Interview with Bryan Farcus
By Gina McKnight
Archived from the April 2018 Issue of Florida Equine Athlete

No duplication without permission.

“Horsemanship is like any other tool in a farrier’s box, it must be honed or sharpened from time-to-time to give the best results.”

If you have a horse, encounters with farriers are necessary. I have exceptional farriers in my area and always excited to meet someone who is an expert in their field. Last year while my mare, Zubie, was away for a month at a training facility, my horse trainer’s farrier, Bryan Farcus, looked at Zubie. My mare is healthy with good hooves; however, she had an exterior lateral hairline crack on her right front. She had the crack when I bought her – from excessive pavement exposure. When Bryan looked at Zubie, he had an idea, and put a different shoe on Zubie. Now, after six months, the crack is almost completely gone.

Bryan is the proprietor of Farrier-Friendly™. For over 30 years, he has been “combining the skills of horseshoeing, teaching, and riding.” He is the author of Farrier-Friendly™ book series and is a freelance writer for horse magazines and websites throughout the US, Canada, UK, and Australia.

Welcome Bryan!

GM: You have an extensive horse history, with ties to Meredith Manor Equestrian Center, Waverly, West Virginia, where you were a director/instructor for 14 years. Then to Hocking College in Nelsonville, Ohio, where you were an adjunct farrier instructor for six years, all while conducting clinics, creating a product line, writing books and articles. Plus, you have an extensive list of clients! Now with over 30 years of horsemanship and farrier experience, your expertise shines. When was your first encounter with a horse?
BF: The first real lasting memory was my first trail ride with the grown-ups.  I was ten years old. The pony that was to babysit me was named Joey, he was older than me by about five or more years and he was by far a better swimmer than I. As I recall, the river we were attempting to cross that day was raging, however as a few of my family members, along on the ride that day, will attest to the fact that this raging river was more of a shallow stream. As Joey the pony swam-out from under me, I was certain that I was going to drown. While flailing about, I suddenly heard the shout-out of one simple instruction… “just stand-up”!   As a kid, my cousins and I would spend at least a few weeks each summer playing around the farm and there were times that ponies were in the mix. 

GM: Tell us about your horse history and the horses you currently stable...
BF: Though I had mostly random, summertime encounters with horses as I was growing up, it wasn’t until I was a young adult of 20 years before I was able to devote more quality time with horses. I learned what it took to care for a horse. I learned how a good horse could also take care of a person, as well. I remember a half-Arab named Rhett. He was a well-trained, veteran endurance horse and he got me through my first 25 mile experience. He, of course, was a solid 50 and 100 miler, so he did this ride with ease.  Me, on the other hand, not so much! Another horse named Wokon, was an older school master dressage horse that I had the privilege to ride for several years while I was on the teaching staff as a farrier at Meredith Manor Equestrian School. You might say he took me under his wing, as I attempted to learn the basics of that sport. He was always willing to break into a maneuver that I had no idea about. He certainly motivated me to learn and just try and keep up with “his” program! These days, my wife and I have two horses. When needed, my wife’s horse Angel will “volunteer” to help me out as a foot model for an occasional article illustration and at times has helped me do hoof care demonstrations for riding/pony clubs or just interested visitors. 

GM: Working on-the-go, meeting lots of people, and always different horses - how do you maintain schedules, horses, emergencies, and adverse situations?
BF: When I speak with young farriers, one thing that I emphasize is the importance of keeping an organized and a “do-able” schedule. In the beginning, it’s far too easy to overextend yourself and get caught in situations that are over your head. As first-year farriers, I always recommend that they work primarily with a seasoned, establish farrier.  The best way to learn about all those different people and horses is through a respected mentor. There are many situations that just aren’t in a textbook and can’t be simulated in a classroom setting. As far as maintaining a good schedule, personally, I must admit that I have gotten much better with that and also better at communicating, thanks to my smart phone and social media. Incorporating the use of a text messaging system for my client’s appointment reminders has been a big help.

GM: I'm sure you have lots of stories to tell about being a farrier. What event/scenario stands out the most from your career to date?  
BF: I feel that I’ve been very fortunate to have so many great memories, having worked with and study from many top-notch professionals: from the best farrier educators, lameness experts and veterinarians, to top trainers. But there is one experience that still stands out. During my first year as a working farrier, I was called to shoe a pony. As I spoke to the owner to arrange my visit, all seemed straight-forward, so the date was set.  When I arrived, the pony was hanging out with her rider, an eight year old little girl. As I proceeded to get my tools set-up, I noticed the mother was negotiating and then finally demanded that the little girl go into the house until the job was done. Still not thinking that much was unusual, I began. The owner quickly offered that the pony has been difficult to work with in the past and sure enough, it was. Within minutes, I realized that this would be more of a training session. As I began to demonstrate some of the basic leading approach and positioning that would be necessary to safely and more easily pick-up the feet (which today is the basis of my Farrier-Friendly ™ method), I noticed the pony suddenly became more relaxed and began to cooperate. With a good strategy, and perhaps a little luck, I was able to complete the job that day without incident. With this, I felt real good about what I/we were able to accomplish. But, actually what made this scenario the most outstanding for me was what occurred as I was packing up my tools.  Suddenly, I turned as I heard a little girl yell out. “Hey, mister! Wait, wait! I have something for you.” As she approached, I noticed she had a little piggy-bank in her hands. She insisted that I take her money and that I promise to comeback. Being a bit surprised, the mother spoke up and explained how several other farrier visits by others went so badly that it traumatized her daughter. On this day, even though mom sent her into the house as a precaution before I started my work, she was watching us through a window. Apparently, the little girl had a plan, since she was happy with the outcome, and was not going to take no for an answer. The mother continued to explain and asked me to please take some of her money, so I agreed. As I stood by my truck, I extended my hand and on that day, I accepted a few dollars in coins as a commitment to a little girl and her pony. I would shoe the pony for a few more years until the pony eventually passed away and the little girl gradually became busy with other interests.

GM: As a seasoned farrier, what is the most important hoof care information that horse owners need to know?
BF: Probably the single most important piece of advice I can offer is keep your horse on a routine farrier schedule. Regardless, of whether they are shod or barefoot, a visit by your farrier every 6-8 weeks can often prevent many issues. Do not wait until a problem arises. Relaying on a “damage control only” approach to hoof care is never as effective as a preemptive one. A farrier that is familiar with your horse can spot many early warning signs that can be acted upon to save you and your horse a lot of pain and grief in the long run. Such issues, like sole bruises, thrush, abscesses, tendonitis, Navicular Syndrome and Dietary Laminitis (just to mention a few), are all preventable in their earliest stage.
GM: Do hoof supplements really matter if I am feeding quality horse feed? How much does hay factor in to hoof care?
BF: I would say that supplements for horses can be thought of like multivitamin tablets for us. For it to be the most effective, it’s important to keep a good base diet and to maintain an appropriate exercise regimen. Feeding your horse a good diet that is higher in fiber and less in carbohydrates, which can be offered in a combination of grain and hay is the best approach. Often, this may require consulting your equine vet or nutritionist.    Certain signs can be noticed in your horse’s feet that can tell you if his diet is right. A nice shine on the outer wall, a flexible coronary band, a well-formed frog and a solid sole are all indicators of good health in general. I often remind people that horses’ hooves are like a window into the state of their health.

GM: Do you have advice for those seeking to become a farrier and looking for a full-time career?
BF: Yes. It’s important that a person realize that he/she must not just be a mechanic, of sorts, for the horse, but also in many ways a horseperson at heart. The farrier profession is more than just pounding iron and nailing on shoes. Learning how horses move and how they think are two skills that will determine your success. If a person is looking to become a full-time farrier then there will be many hats to wear, such as a businessman, consultant, craftsman, communicator… just to mention a few.

GM: What does horsemanship mean to you? 
BF: In a nutshell, it means EVERYTHING. Without it nothing can happen. Horsemanship is always a two-way street. Both horse owner and farrier must be devoted to it and practice it in order to do the best for our horses. A book published in 1889 titled:  The Practical Horseshoer by M.T. Richardson is a good example of the importance of being a good horseman, first and a horseshoer, second. Many people forget that the art of horseshoeing is best performed when the farrier has the whole horse in mind.  Horsemanship is like any other tool in a farrier’s box, it must be honed or sharpened from time-to-time to give the best results.

Bryan is a Certified Journeyman farrier through the Brotherhood of Working Farriers Association (BWFA) and holds a certification in Equine Massage Therapy. Over the years, Bryan has been an instructor for several equine programs at various higher learning institutions. He briefly served as an Equine Science guest instructor at Salem International University in Salem, West Virginia. He holds a Master of Arts degree with a specialization in equine education and a Bachelor of Science degree in business. Bryan is committed to furthering the advancement of equine education and, upon invitation, he offers Hoof Care demonstrations and Horsemanship clinics for horse owners. He currently works with horses and their owners in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania USA.

Gina McKnight is a freelance writer from Ohio USA.

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