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Farrier Shane Marcantel files the hoof of Tiny, a nearly 1,8000-pound Belgian horse who has a hoof abscess. (Taylor Prejean / American Press)

Farrier Shane Marcantel files the hoof of Tiny, a nearly 1,8000-pound Belgian horse who has a hoof abscess. (Taylor Prejean / American Press)

Vanishing Jobs: Farriers to be here as long as there are horses

Last Modified: Monday, December 24, 2012 10:38 AM

By Taylor Prejean / Special to the American Press

OAKDALE — It’s been nearly a century since Americans relied on horses as regular transportation, but that doesn’t mean that farriers — individuals who specialize in hoof care — are a dying breed.

Marcantel’s Farrier Service owner Shane Marcantel said farriers will be necessary as long as people own horses. However, Marcantel said it may seem that the industry is “fading” because the tough economy can preclude recreational horse owners from seeking out the services of a professional farrier, limiting farrier clientele to those who earn a living from owning horses.

“It doesn’t mean they care less about their horses; it’s just getting hard for the everyday horseman to afford it,” he said.

But professional farriers are still a mainstay for those who make a living on horses used for racing or otherwise. Marcantel said amateur farriers lack the expertise necessary to properly shoe a horse, which can lead to devastating consequence like a hoof infection.

Marcantel, who now helps prevent and treat those infections, said he became a journeyman farrier after years of working around horses. His equine interest was first ignited when he was eight. His father was into race horses, and the only way Marcantel was allowed to be near the horses was by helping the shoer.

Marcantel became a shoer himself, and about five years ago became certified as a farrier at a Georgia school. Like many trades, farriers must apprentice under someone more experienced before becoming certified themselves.

Since earning his certification through coursework and apprenticing, Marcantel has passed along his expertise and love for horses to three of his own apprentices.

He said training new farriers is especially important because the almost literally back-breaking work usually limits a farrier to a 20 year career. The intensely physical job of properly shoeing a single horse can take up to two hours, putting immense strain on the farrier’s back and legs.

“Most farriers start in their 20s and have to retire by the time they reach 40,” he said.

Despite the poor economy which Marcantel said contributes to a lessened customer base, many people earn a farrier certification as a way to ensure stable employment, Marcantel said. “Being a farrier means being self-employed and not having to worry about losing your job,” he said.

While some horse owners may not initially seek out a farrier, Marcantel said they usually don’t hesitate when the horse develops and injury from improper shoeing.

“Most veterinarians won’t touch a hoof problem,” Marcantel said. “They’ll refer them to a farrier or work alongside the farrier to try to get the horse back on its feet.”

Improper shoeing can lead to infection, which could cripple or even kill a horse by cutting off blood flow to a hoof or putting excess strain on the horse’s legs and spine, he said. Obviously dangerous to the horse, improper shoeing also endangers riders who can be seriously injured if the improperly shoed horse trips while being ridden.

So as long as horses need proper shoeing farriers will be around, Marcantel said as he filed the hoof of a nearly 1,800 pound Belgian horse named Tiny. Despite the hard work and irregular hours, Marcantel will continue in his delicate craft—like treating Tiny’s hoof abscess--for as long as he can, he said.

“When you get a horse that comes in crippled and suffering and you bring it relief, it’s a good feeling,” Marcantel said. “It almost pays for itself to see (the owners) so happy.”

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