This morning was a trip down memory lane. Last night got a call from Jonna McCabe, she has a western training stable about an hour and fifteen minutes north of me. I remember the time, many years ago she first called me. Her current farrier was no longer able to take care of business and ask if I wanted to. I told her I would drive up and we could talk about it, so we had our interview, I agreed and our working relationship began.
I don’t remember how many horses she had as the time, but there were days I felt the list was as long as my arm. Along with the western training she also had riding school, so I would also be taking over the riding school horses as well. It was a fair about of work for me to take on, plus it was way out from my usual working area. My biggest concern was giving the service I wanted to give, if they lost a shoe, something came up before a show or whatever, but I figured I could handle it. I got her address plugged into my GPS, so no matter where I was, I could always find the shortest route there (used it a few times).
I had a few individual customers who were into reining and the western world. I had attended a couple clinics in the States solely on shoeing reining/western horses so I felt I could handle the work. Along with this, I ordered a couple videos from one of the top notch western farriers so I could review things as needed, they were a great help as well. My biggest problem I soon found out was scheduling. With so many horses I needed to be there every 7-10 days. Working in with my current clients was a job. I quickly learned what to do: I got my calendar, sat down with Jonna, we worked out our schedule for an entire year! Yes, there were still a few dates to clean up, ones around shows and such, but it worked out just great. Best thing was I never took a summer vacation, it was the middle of my high season. I always waited until winter time when things were a little slower.
Sometimes the work was almost more than I could handle. One time she took on an additional trainer, so this almost added a third more horses I was required to do. I was lucky in some respects as I had set my Fridays as my optional work day, so I was able to use it as needed with her. She also had a place for me to stay, so sometimes it was a two day event. In the beginning it was before my computer days, billing was all hand written. Jonna always provided me with owners addresses and such. I would set in her kitchen writing out bills, she would hand deliver to them, worked great for me. She told me right from the start if I ever had a problem with payment just let her know. I never really had a big problem, maybe a few times she had to step in, which I promptly received my money.
Soon we were in a routine, we had my parking place (inside) worked out, work area set, so each time I arrived I opened the door, drove in, set up and ready for work. I knew the times they fed, turned horses out, so her stable help and I worked together as to not get in each other’s way. In my work area was a chalk board with a list of horses needing done. With me being there so much I soon got the horses worked into a schedule. Many times I never did all four hooves at the same time. Depending on the horses, what they did, set their schedule. Once Jonna was comfortable with my work and how I did things, I soon had a fixed schedule for each horse. In my daily calendar I would write each horse’s name, and what I did, this way I could always look back and double check each horse. This made it great for scheduling them as well as billing. Even today I still use the old fashion paper calendar to schedule. You have no idea how many customers contact me saying their telephone has messed up and they lost their appointment date. I like it also, it is so easy to review the year.
Jonna was great to work for (except when we got to butt heads once in an while). After I was set up, I went into the kitchen where she and her staff were usually having breakfast. I would grab a cup of coffee and get any special instructions (having already done a once over on the list), or if I had any questions. After coffee it was nose to the grindstone. I never looked at the clock, just worked. Sometime later I would look up and head in for a cup of coffee. If no one was there, no problem, if coffee wasn’t made no problem – I learned where the fixins were, I was expected to make coffee, especially if I took the last cup! After the day’s work, Jonna and I sat down maybe had a bite and did the billing. After I got my computer program, she then provided all customer info which made things easier. Sometimes if I received an emergency call, after doing the work, there might be supper. I remember her doing Thanksgiving (the only ones I ever had here in Denmark) dinner, she was a class act. Yes I was always on call for shows, when she had shows at her place I was there, usually spending the night nearby ( her place was real busy so I never stayed there during a show). Jonna made the statement a lot, “I got to take care of my farrier”. She understood how important my service was to her work, which in turn I gave her my best service (which I do to all my good customers).
Yes, there was some driving involved. Traffic in some places was terrible. There were a few winters the roads were really bad. Denmark, in the winter time uses lots of salt on the roads, thus they have lots of problems with black ice, the salt melts, runs off, roads are wet and then freeze back (they have yet to discover the advantages of sand, which works longer). Yet through it all I had a great working relationship with Jonna and her customers. They learned to value my opinions and trust my work.
But then I began to have problems, my body started to tell me I wasn’t a young guy any more. During the last year I worked there, I was wearing knee braces. Every time I returned home from Jonna’s, just to get to sleep it was 2-3 very strong pain pills just to get relaxed. I ended up going to the doctor’s to get looked at. I learned the cartilage in my knees was gone and needed replaced. I had orthoscopic surgery on my right knee. After the operation the doc came in, showed me some pics, revealing the bare bone in my knee. He said he might have taken care of 10% of my problem, but I required knee replacement. I got home, told my wife. At that time she said, “Don’t you think it is time to let Jonna’s place go?” She knew how much pain I was in when I got back from every appointment. I said yes. I broke the news to Jonna. It was hard to give up such a good place, good customers, but my body was telling me I wasn’t that young guy anymore and needed to slow down. I helped Jonna find a new farrier she is happy with. I was with him a day, explaining some of the horses and we worked together on many of them.
Last night I received a call, looked at the name popping up on the screen, it was Jonna. My first words were, “What the heck are you calling me for”? She laughed, expecting nothing less in the greeting. She asked how my golf was and how I was doing, then she hit me, with “Are you still shoeing horses?”, to which I replied, “When I need to.” She then explained her farrier was on vacation and had a couple horses needed quick attention due to a clinic this weekend. I am guessing she remember I kept Fridays free for emergencies and took the chance. So here I am at the coffee shop where I used to stop and read and write because I usually got here early to beat the traffic. Had a lot of time to think on the drive up. Many good memories, lots of work. Will be good to have a cup of coffee with them again. Guess the old man is up to bat, so better get to work.