RICHMOND, KENTUCKY (WDKY)– Students in a Madison County classroom soak up knowledge every day, learning such things as history, anatomy and physiology. That’s not unusual at most schools, but it catches some people by surprise when they witness it at the Kentucky Horseshoeing School. They expect to only see people standing in stables or sweating over a forge.
But before a student pounds a hammer, they have to hit the books.
“It’s hard to do all the other things we do if you don’t know the textbook side of it,” said Chance Bishop, a student from Georgia.
Still it’s the hands-on part of the training that brings most students in the door– the lessons that lead to shaping metal into a perfect horseshoe
“It’s as cool as it looks,” Bishop says.
Cool, but not easy. There’s a six-foot stack of discarded horseshoes behind the school, known as the “wall of shame.” When a horseshoe doesn’t make the grade, it makes the wall.
“Making mistakes is what makes us really good,” said J. P. Jarmann, a recent graduate who came all the way from South Africa to learn to be a farrier.
He says the quality of your work speaks for itself. “You can’t lie about it because your work and actions will show if you put the time in.”
It can be hard and dangerous work.
And some students are used to naysayers.
Kelsey Quick, an instructor who got her training here, says many people think she can’t do it because of her gender.
“They say, ‘But you’re a girl You’re so small. How do you manage these large animals?’ It’s more a communication thing. As long as they understand what you want, they’re willing to be participants.”
The school is approved by the U.S. Department of Education with a nine-month program, tuition help and on-site housing. It’s accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges.
Skilled farriers are in demand all over the country.
Director Mitch Taylor, who is a member of the International Horseshoeing Hall of Fame, said, “We make a good income for our families. It’s hard on our bodies, so a lot of farriers think we only have so many horses in us, so it’s important we work smart.”
It’s not just about making shoes. The students spend a lot of time learning how to fit them on a horse perfectly and painlessly.
“We’ve got to somehow figure out how to take a rigid shoe and marry it to a foot that is always changing,” Taylor said. Horses that are used for work or pleasure need shoes to keep them from getting sore-footed and they are changed our every 30 to 45 days as a horse’s hooves grow. So, it’s easy to see why big farms need dependable farriers.
Horseshoes are considered to be lucky. But it’s not about luck here–it’s hard work that gets you to the finish line.
“The blood, sweat and tears come together and you make a shoe that fits the foot and nail it up. That’s the poetry right there,” Quack said. For her, the biggest reward is seeing a once-lame horse walk away in comfort after being fitted with a shoe she made.