Stephen Hendrickson is a farrier in Isanti, Minn.
Stephen Hendrickson worked full-time for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, but â€œI always wanted to do something with horses,â€ he said. â€œI watched a farrier do one foot on one horse and decided I wanted to do that.â€ In 2001, he took the 10-week course through the Minnesota School of Horseshoeing and started his new career part-time.
â€œI hated it for the first year,â€ he said. â€œI decided I wouldnâ€™t quit until I had the skill level to see whether I could do it or not.â€
He moved to the Twin Cities area to apprentice full-time with an experienced farrier. â€œI never moved back,â€ he said â€” although â€œit was probably two years before I enjoyed the job.â€
Hendrickson said people use â€œfarrierâ€ and â€œhorse shoerâ€ interchangeably, â€œbut we donâ€™t just shoe. We trim their feet. A horseâ€™s feet are usually due for a trim every four to six weeks. A lot donâ€™t wear shoes, so we just trim the excess foot off so the horse can perform better. Most horses that are performing at a high level do wear shoes.â€
Care of the feet is the second most important thing to the health of the horse, aside from feeding, Hendrickson said. Trimming is the typical entry-level task for a farrier. â€œAs you go on, you do more shoeing and less trimming,â€ he said. â€œThe majority of farriers use store-bought shoes. They are called â€˜keg shoesâ€™ because they used to be shipped in kegs. Then you shape them to fit a foot and nail them on. In school and in the World Championship competitions, everything is done with handmade shoes because it shows a higher skill level. With a handmade shoe, you can punch your nails wherever they need to be for that particular foot.â€ Hendrickson now hand-forges about 50 percent of the shoes he uses.
Hendrickson said there are both full-time and part-time farriers. â€œIt depends on how hard you work and your skill level,â€ he said. To build his skill, Hendrickson took the 10-week course, then apprenticed for free for three years as he built his own business. He earned a journeyman certification from the American Farriers Association and in recent years has entered World Championship Blacksmiths competitions.
â€œYouâ€™re either going to get tired of it or you get more and more addicted to it,â€ he said. â€œThatâ€™s what happened to me.â€
Why does a horse need a farrierâ€™s services?
Balance is the big thing â€” youâ€™re making it so that horse is the most comfortable to perform its job. A horseâ€™s feet grow out of balance. We make the horse as strong as it can be. You donâ€™t just look at the foot. You look at the whole body. That will determine how you work on each particular foot.
What part of the job is the most fun?
I love making horse shoes. Thatâ€™s my favorite part. But I also enjoy having good clients I see on a regular basis. You get to know them very well.
Is horsemanship a prerequisite for horseshoeing?
Horsemanship skills are very important, but not required. When I have an apprentice with horse experience I can trust them to work with less supervision. You want to train your clients to handle their horses â€” then itâ€™s not as much of an issue. You still have to be able to read an animal and what itâ€™s going to do.
Photo Credit: Tom Witta