An integrated life

Farriers and an Integrated Life

I just came back from the International Hoof Care Summit in Cincinnati where we were rolling out our latest enhancements to the Farriers United offerings. [NOTE: Since then, that business was sunsetted, and RoleModel helped start My Farrier Supplies.] The founder of Farriers United, Jeff Denson couldn’t bring his wife as she just had a baby last Friday, so I took my daughter Hope with me to help in the booth at the exhibition. She did a great job of helping out in all sorts of ways and it was great to have her take a more active role in business side of what I do. We both enjoyed hanging out with farriers (the folks that shoe horses) and the more I learn about this group, the more I love them.

I’m thrilled that our services were so well received as the farriers, and others who work with the farriers, realized how they can help them save time and make money. These are a hard working group of people that know a lot more than the uninformed would give them credit for. It’s not just a matter of wacking some metal shoes on a horse’s hooves… or avoiding getting kicked! The horse’s hooves and legs are a key part of the horse, and an indicator of the overall health of a horse, and these folks know a LOT about how to keep horses healthy and at their peak. These folks work hard, make a good living (once established), and can live an integrated life a lot better than many professions allow.

I had the honor and privilege of meeting Chris Gregory and his son Cody. They both took off their hats as they were introduced to my daughter, Hope. Their politeness and down to earth nature were very refreshing. Their humility was impressive. especially as I learned more about them.

Cody started working with horses when he was 4. When he was in 5th grade, the family’s move out of a school district prompted them to start homeschooling Cody and his sister. I heard Cody say that homeschooling was the best thing that ever happened to him. At 19 years of age, he has more accomplishments than most farriers. At 15, Cody passed the American Farrier’s Association Certified Journeyman Farrier, shattering the previous record for the youngest to reach that mark by 4 years. He gets it honest.

Cody’s dad, Chris, earned the title of Fellow of the Worshipful Company of Farriers (FWCF) at the age of 30. The Worshipful Company of Farriers, (WCF) is a group founded in London in 1356 and regarded by many as stewards of horseshoeing’s highest standards. Only 35 farriers currently hold this distinction of Fellow, four of those Americans.

You can find a bit more about Chris and Cody and the rest of the family at the staff page of the Farrier School the family started in 1995 – Chris’ wife, Kelly, is also a farrier – Heartland Horseshoeing School. (Cody jokingly informed me that his sister is “the black sheep of the family” because she focuses on rodeo). The school turns out 45 farriers a year and is known, according to Jeff Denson, as the premiere school for farriers in the country.

Though the Gregory family is certainly unique, I was also impressed with how many husband and wife teams were at the Hoof Summit. We signed up a number of husband/wife farrier teams for our Farriers United services. Sometimes the husband was the one who typed in their registration at the computer, sometimes the wife. Often the wives were the ones who “did the books”, but not always. Although a major part of farrier technology is still that of a blacksmith, the mobile farrier trucks and a lot of other great products are connecting the old-time craft with the modern times we live in as is our growing suite of services for Farriers United and some other software technology such as ONTRACK. These folks are not left in the dark ages, but have the benefit of a lot of great heritage to draw from.

I’ve heard the average age of farriers in the US is 55. There is a bigger demand than supply. I’ve also heard that it is not uncommon for an established farrier to have a six-figure income. The family economics are there. There is a lot of opportunity in the industry. There are great schools that teach the craft (a lot cheaper than a four-year education) and it is not just for people with weak minds and strong backs… though a strong back is definitely a plus.

If you want to live a family-integrated life and don’t mind getting your hands dirty, consider farriery.

For anyone interested, the American Farrier Association’s Convention is in Lexington, KY, March 1-4.