The Two Relationships You HAVE to Care For

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I won't keep you in suspense on this one. Of all the relationships that come into your horselife--show friends, trail friends, club buddies, your coach or trainer, the occasional horse sitter--the two that REALLY make it or break it are your relationships with your vet and farrier. Truth to tell, you and your horses need these pro caregivers way more than they need you. If they're exceptionally good at what they do, they may not need you at all, simply because they probably have more people wanting to be their clients and customers than they can accommodate.

Treat them poorly, and you may just find that they're "too busy" just when you need them most.

Treat them well, like they matter, and they'll be your right-hand helpers without batting an eye.

A few more thoughts on how to nurture good vet/farrier relationships:

* The number one thing: Pay bills promptly. Many vets and farriers are understanding about extending credit in a crisis, but they ALL have stories to tell of the clients who let routine bills drag out for months and months, and of those who somehow never managed to pay at all. Don't shuffle their bills to the bottom of your monthly pile. These people are as important to your horses' welfare as your electric service is to you.

* Provide them with decent places to work. Don't expect your vet to do her best work in a filthy, dimly lit stall or pen, and don't think your farrier's going to work a miracle when standing under brutal sun or out in a bone-chilling wind. And it never hurts to offer a cold or warming beverage, either, especially if the job's a long one.

* Respect their time. You wouldn't appreciate it if your boss said, "Oh, by the way, can you do this extra report?" at 4:59 on a Friday afternoon; likewise, it doesn't make your caregiver's day when you say, "Hey, before you go, could you work on this extra horse, too?"

* Do your OWN horse training. It isn't fair to ask your vet and/or farrier to risk their livelihoods with injury from an ill-mannered or seldom-handled horse.

* Do something extra every now and then. Send a thank-you card for a job well done, or maybe slip your farrier a tip for special service.

I think we all want vets and farriers we can count on; we want "the good ones." Just remember that it's a two-way street. To be treated like a good customer or client, you have to go to the effort to be one.