When I got out of high school, like a lot of guys my age, I went into the military. After I came out, I had a variety of jobs that I was capable of but didn't enjoy. As I struggled through years of looking for something more, I ran across a farrier. Our conversation planted the seed that changed my life and started my career with horses.
That was back in the 1970s. I made the mistake of attending the nearest horseshoeing school to me. I should have picked a school based on curriculum and quality of instructors. Nonetheless, I graduated and headed towards Southern California, where I planned to start my shoeing career.
Coming through Sacramento, I broke an axle on my truck. I called aunt who I'd never met, and I bummed a place to stay and some dinner. Talking to her, I discovered her friend was unable to get ahold of her farrier and needed to have her horse shod. That became my first professional shoeing.
The First Horse of My Career
The lady told me that she would be at the barn after work around 6:00 pm, so I drove out there at 8:00 am. I looked at the hooves and realized I couldn't reset; the shoes were worn off. So, I headed to the nearest farrier supply house. At this point I'm living on pocket change, picking up pennies and dimes and quarters from the floorboards of my truck.
I had enough to buy four horseshoes, and the folks that owned the store were kind enough to give me a handful of nails. I went back to the barn and started shooting the horse. The lady got there a little bit before 6:00 pm, and I was on the last foot. She said, "oh, you're almost done!" I said yes, "I just got here a little bit early." She never knew it was almost nine hours early.
As I packed up my gear, she wrote me a check for $12. That was the going rate for shoeing horses back then. I was completely broke at this point, with no food or gas. I drove out to the bank, and I parked in the parking lot, sitting there until it opened the next morning.
After I cashed the $12 check, I bought some beans and rice and went back to the farrier supply house. They told me that farriers were needed in the Elk Grove area all the time. I bought four more shoes, and they were kind enough to give me some more nails. Off I went to Elk Grove, California.
Starting a Career with Horses
We didn't have cell phones back then. I found a phone booth and copied the phone number down, went to the library, got some paper and pen, and wrote, "horseshoeing, call between 6:00-8:30 pm." I also wrote an "out of order" so I can stick it on the phone booth and nobody else would use it.
That started my shoeing career. Every night at 6:00 I'd be in that phone booth waiting for someone to call, and when I was done I'd find a dead-end street to park my truck and sleep. That's how I began shoeing horses.
As I started to shoe, I fell in love with the profession and the freedom that it gave me. The money wasn't exceptional like it is now, but it was a good living. In 1979, I was accepted into a graduate program of farrier science at Sol Ross University in Alpine, Texas. I went to the bank to see about getting a loan to cover my tuition and discovered that I'd spent the last 5+ years plus shoeing horses, not running a horseshoeing business.
There was no paper trail to show that I was, in fact, a businessman. I was just a horseshoer. Luckily for me, the manager of a small local bank was a client of mine, and he floated me a personal loan without collateral.
Building a Business
The graduate program taught me that shoeing horses is a lot more than just hammering steel into hooves. In order to be successful and support yourself and your family, you've got to set yourself up as a small business.
After I graduated, I came back to California, and I decided to revamp my entire business. I became a professional farrier; I started with customer records, financial books, and an eye to the future at all times.
At PCHS, we don't just teach shoeing, we teach our students how to run a small business successfully, and set themselves up to be financially comfortable. Our emphasis on running the business side of being a farrier sets us apart from all of the others.To start your career with horses, apply to be in our next shoeing class. Apply Now