FOCUS ON Hoof Health

The Reluctant Remedial Shoer Y

ou don’t want to shoe lames horses, trust me.” Bob Marshall tried

to warn the confident young farrier, but the then 18-year-old Travis Koons had made up his mind. The Hemet, Calif., young- ster had printed business cards, announcing that his farrier prac- tice specializes in pathological, remedial and corrective horse- shoeing. “Why would you ever put that

on your business card?” the leg- endary shoer asked him force- fully. “You don’t want to shoe

Travis Koons takes a minimalist approach to therapeutic cases, focusing on proper trimming and fit. “It’s not so often the therapeutic device that helps the horse,” he says, “but good, solid horseshoeing helps the horse the most.”

lame horses!” “Yeah, I do, Bob,” Koons told him. “I can charge more money.” “No, you’ll get those old chron- ic horses sound and then you’re a hero,” Marshall told him. “But the minute they go lame again, you’re a zero. You’ll be geting calls in the middle of the night. You don’t want to do this.” Koons was sure that this

was the right path for him and carried on. It didn’t take long, though, for Koons to realize that the Hall Of Fame farrier knew a thing or two about what he was talking about.

“It took a couple of years, but

I realized Bob was right on the money,” Koons says, pulling his 2012 Dodge Ram 2500 through the gate of a boarding and rehabilitation ranch on a warm November day of “Shoeing For A Living.” “So, I’ve done my best to avoid chronic lameness cases over the years. I’d rather just shoe performance horses.” This isn’t a typical client,

though. Koons has been shoeing for Emalee Tomoni since she was just 5 years old. Now, more than 20 years later, Tomoni operates Talley Meadows, a suc- cessful boarding and rehabilita- tion facility. “Now this account has evolved

into a layup and rehab place,” says Koons, whose practice consists mostly of dressage and jumping horses. “I’m doing a lot of therapeutic-type work. Typically what I have learned over my career is that it’s not so oſten the therapeutic device that helps the horse but good, solid, basic horseshoeing — proper trimming, proper fit that helps the horse the most. So I go at my therapeutic work with an extremely minimalist approach.”

Managing Client Expectations Handling the client’s outlook

on their horse’s recovery oſten can be as much work, if not more, than actually helping the horse. “That’s a big aspect of our job,”

he says. “I’ve learned that the best clients are the ones who you actually take the time to educate and inform. Sometimes it takes a lot more time than I want, and a lot more time than I have. In the end, it reciprocates and becomes worth the time that I spent. It actually costs me less time down the road.” It’s important to get as much

information as possible from the client. “Asking questions helps a

California farrier Travis Koons finds success relying on a minimalist approach in therapeutic cases by jeff cota, american farrier journal

lot,” Koons says. “Find out about the horse’s history of lameness and soundness; what it’s done; how old it is; and what they know about different injuries the horse might have had, even before they owned it. That histo- ry is oſtentimes helpful.” Communicating with clients

in therapeutic cases means can- dor. “It’s our responsibility to be

honest,” Koons says. “I’ve always found that it’s just best to be as brutally honest as possible. I don’t candy-coat anything.” Yet, it also involves thinking

the conversation through. “I come up with a game plan before I start talking,” he explains. “I’ll take my time to look at the horse. While I’m evaluating the conformation, hoof quality and issues, I’m going through that in my head. I might call out a few things about the conformation to the owner. As I’m explaining these things, I’ll be rehearsing in my head what I’m ultimately going to say about what needs to be done and what the options are.” When options are limited by

the client’s pocketbook, Koons will take the time to find some alternatives that are more cost effective. “I’ll explain more specific

things that we can do for that particular condition,” he says. “While I’m doing that, I’ll explain how much these different shoes, techniques, pads or whatever might cost. Ultimately, they are the ones who have to pay the bill, so you need to give them options for their own budget.” Even the best teachers need willing students, though. “You’re still going to have

those clients who have a horse with ringbone and expect it to be sound for the rest of its life,” Koons says. “If their expecta- tions don’t marry with mine and they let me go because they want

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