Saturday, 17 November 2018

C Columns

Cheryl Smith A Farrier Taking Care of His Horses


By Gaye Bunderson


Photo: Cheryl  Smith  is  one  of  a  handful  of  woman  farriers  in  the  Treasure  Valley.  She  knows  her  way  around  horses  and  all  the  equipment  that  goes  along  with  shoeing  them.  (Photo  by  Gaye  Bunderson)

The  Pacific  Ocean  is  wide  and  deep,  and  when  Cheryl  Smith  wanted  to  be  baptized,  she  was  immersed  in  the  Pacific's  salty,  frothy  waters  in  California.  It  was  1984  on  an  Easter  Sunday  —a  day  she'll  never  forget.

“I  got  baptized  in  water  and  by  fire,  as  it  says  in  Acts,”  she  said.

For  18  consecutive  years  following  that,  Smith  taught  a  Sunday  school  class  for  2-  to  3-year-olds  in  Milpitas,  Calif.  The  children  were  frequently  the  offspring  of  pastors  and  choir  directors.  Now,  Cheryl  lives  in  Idaho,  attends  Ten  Mile  Christian  Church  in  Meridian,  and  sometimes  finds  herself  at  the  Snake  River  Stampede  in  Nampa,  carrying  a  sign  that  reads,  “Ask  me  about  horseshoeing.”  

Her  faith  remains  consistent,  but  her  vocation  changed  over  the  years.

As  a  young  woman,  Cheryl  got  a  geology  degree  in  2000  from  Humboldt  State  University.  She  later  worked  in  soil  remediation  at  Vandenberg  Air  Force  Base  near  Lompoc,  Calif.  But,  she  said,  a  steady  job  in  the  field  of  geology  proved  challenging,  and  after  the  company  she  worked  for  lost  its  contract  with  Vandenberg,  she  was  laid  off.  So,  she  did  the  next  best  thing  she  could  think  of:  she  went  out  to  where  she  boarded  a  bay  paint  horse  named  Bubba  and  decided  to  go  for  a  ride.  

She  may  have  thought  she'd  find  some  stress  relief  in  climbing  on  Bubba's  back;  surprisingly,  that  day  ultimately  led  her  to  a  new  calling:  horseshoeing.

For  a  woman  not  raised  on  a  farm,  it  was  a  pretty  circuitous  route  that  led  Cheryl  to  bending  beneath  a  horse  and  securing  metal  shoes  on  its  hooves  —  in  other  words,  doing  the  work  of  a  farrier.  But  that's  what  she's  been  doing  for  years  now,  both  full-time  and  part-time.  The  path  to horseshoeing  didn't  completely  start  with  riding  Bubba.  It  pretty  much  started  with  one  of  her  two  sisters  —  a  girl  who  wanted  a  horse  so  badly  she  talked  her  siblings  into  saving  their  money  to  buy  one.

In  1968,  the  three  sisters  worked  selling  cookies  and  lemonade  and  raised  $75.  Unfortunately,  a  horse  cost  around  $250,  so  Mom  and  Dad  came  through,  made  up  the  difference,  and  purchased  a  horse  named  Rocket  for  their  girls.  A  thoroughbred  broodmare,  the  horse  had  to  be  shipped  from  Los  Angeles  to  the  family's  home  in  Whittier,  and  Cheryl  said  all  three  sisters  waited  in  the  front  yard  for  the  horse  to  show  up.

Rocket  ultimately  arrived,  was  showered  with  kids'  attention,  and  then  was  taken  to  a  nearby  stable  for  boarding.  Cheryl's  dad  had  Rocket  bred  and  she  produced  a  foal  the  family  named  Royal  King.  Later,  Cheryl's  father  had  a  surprise  just  for  her,  his  10-year-old  daughter.

“I  didn't  know  I  wanted  a  horse,”  Cheryl  now  says.  But  her  dad  took  her  to  the  stables,  pointed  to  another  offspring  of  Rocket's  that  came  later,  and  said,  “There's  your  horse!”  

The  foal  was  christened  Blossom,  and  Cheryl  kept  her  for  17  years.  She  now  laughs  thinking  about  how  little  she  knew  about  horses  back  then.  She  would  hand-walk  Blossom  all  over,  and  let  kids  ride  her  —  or  try  to  ride  her.  

“She  bucked  all  the  time,”  said  Cheryl.  “She  was  stubborn.  She  wasn't  mean;  she  just  thought,  'I  ain't  doing  that,  and  you're  not  making  me.'”

Cheryl,  out  of  lack  of  knowledge  of  horse  behavior  at  the  time,  thought  all  horses  bucked  when  you  rode  them.  “I  didn't  know  any  better,”  she  said.  “I  learned  how  to  hold  on  tight.”

Later,  when  she  was  older,  she  worked  at  Sunset  Riding  Academy  in  Fremont,  Calif.,  helping children  ride  gentle  horses.  But  it  may  have  been  the  strong-willed,  bucking  Blossom  that  helped  prepare  her  for  the  rigors  of  horseshoeing.  “I've  been  kicked  and  stomped  on,”  Cheryl  admits,  and  she  can  show  the  evidence  of  minor  injuries  she's  endured.

But  back  to  the  day  she  took  Bubba  for  a  ride.  ...  She  was  just  laid  off  work  and  went  to  the  stables.  The  stable  owner  came  out,  and  Cheryl  told  her  she'd  lost  her  job.  The  owner  asked,  “What  are  you  going  to  do?”  Cheryl  thought  she  was  asking  what  she  was  going  to  do  at  that  moment,  so  she  responded,  “I'm  going  to  ride  my  horse.”

The  stable  owner  was  actually  inquiring  about  what  Cheryl  was  going  to  do  to  make  a  living,now  that  didn't  have  a  job  in  geology.  Ultimately,  the  owner  told  Cheryl  she'd  pay  her  to  work  at  the  stables,  and  Cheryl  accepted  the  offer.

Cheryl  had  met  a  woman  farrier  who  had  come  out  to  shoe  Bubba.  She  befriended  her  and  started  to  learn  about  horseshoeing.  Her  farrier  friend  described  Cheryl  as  “freakishly  strong.”  The  farrier  told  a  teacher  at  a  horseshoeing  school  that  she  thought  Cheryl  would  be  an  excellent  farrier,  and  the  teacher  told  Cheryl,  “If  she  says  you'd  be  a  good  farrier,  you'd  be  a  good  farrier.”

She  apprenticed  for  a  year  with  another  woman  farrier  and  then  attended  Pacific  Coast  Horseshoeing  School  in  Plymouth,  Calif.  in  2006  before  opening  her  own  business.  In  the  beginning,  she  found  the  vocation  unnerving,  though  not  from  fear  or  horses  or  being  injured.

“As  with  everything,  when  you're  starting  out  and  trying  to  master  it,  it  was  nerve-racking.  I  had  a  lack  of  confidence,  that  I  wouldn't  do  well  or  the  horse  wouldn't  cooperate,”  she  said.  “I'd pray  about  it.

“I  felt  like  the  Lord  was  saying,  'Why  can't  you  just  take  care  of  My  horses  for  Me?'  After  that,  I  stopped  worrying  so  much  and  decided  I  wanted  to  be  a  blessing  to  the  customer  and  the  horse.”

Cheryl  moved  to  Idaho  five  years  ago  and  is  one  of  five  woman  farriers  in  the  area.

“There's  a  lot  of  horses,  and  there's  plenty  of  work,”  she  said.  

“There's  a  big  demand  for  farriers.  I'm  mainly  a  farrier  for  the  backyard  horse  owner,  a  person  with  one  horse.  Sometimes  it's  one  horse  that  won't  stand  still  so  someone  can  shoe  it,  and  I'll  show  up  and  do  it.”

One  of  the  biggest  horses  in  this  area  she's  ever  worked  on  was  a  Percheron,  a  breed  of  draft  horse.  She  jokingly  tells  about  how  “the  owner  was  in  one  county  holding  the  horse  still,  while  I  was  in  another  county  shoeing  it.”  Then,  she  admits  with  a  smile,  “Okay,  it  wasn't  quite  that  big.”

At  58,  she's  now  a  part-time  farrier.  She  tries  to  keep  her  overhead  low,  and  because  she's  frequently  done  work  for  a  low  fee,  she's  had  people  donate  services  to  her.  She  got  free  business  cards  from  a  client,  free  signage  on  her  truck  from  another  client,  and  a  free  t-shirt  that has  her  farrier  services  listed  on  it.

In  late  April  she  started  a  full-time  job  in  shipping  and  receiving  at  W.L.  May.  Her  exact  title is  warehouse  lead.  She  said  the  man  who  gave  her  the  very  first  horse  she  ever  owned  would  be highly  pleased  with  her  now,  but  didn't  say  that  because  of  her  farrier  skills.  “My  dad  was  in  shipping  and  receiving  too,”  she  said.  “He'd  be  so  proud  of  me.”

A  member  of  the  American  Farriers  Association,  she  intends  to  keep  her  hand  in  the  business for  as  long  as  she  can.  When  she  gets  to  an  age  when  it's  harder  to  lift  a  horse  leg,  bend  up  and  down,  or  take  the  bumps  and  bruises  that  go  along  with  the  trade,  she  vows  she'll  still  be  a  part  of  the  industry  somehow.  As  long  as  there  are  horses,  there  will  be  farriers;  and  as  long  as  there are  farriers,  Cheryl  Smith  will  be  involved.

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