Northeast: The Life of a Farrier

Journeyman Farrier Jon Weiler preparing to remove the horses' shoes w=540 h=398]

Journeyman farrier Jon Weiler preparing to remove a horse's shoes.

Jon Weiler handles shoes–heavy stainless steel shoes–and he does custom fittings for his clients. But Weiler’s clients are huge–the horses at Pegasus Riding Academy in Bell’s Corner.

Weiler’s job title is journeyman farrier and he has been fitting horses for shoes for the past 12 years. Weiler has suffered from many injuries while on the job. While shoeing a draft horse, Weiler experienced a devastating injury that left him out of work for about six months.

“The horse spooked while I was in the shoeing position with her,” Weiler said. “Then she slipped with her other front foot and came down on the inside of my leg and it tore up all of the ligaments in my ankle.”

Draft horses can weigh anywhere from 1,400 pounds to one ton. Not to mention Weiler is self employed and must pay for his own hospital visits.

Away from shoeing horses, Weiler also rides his own horse, which has a level of danger if something unexpected happens.

“While riding in a park my horse tripped and fell on me,” Weiler said. “I already had an existing injury so it happened again and left me out of work for two or three more months.”

Within the past few years, Weiler has suffered ligament damage in his ankle and also a detached tendon between his bicep and forearm.

Weiler prying a shoe from the horse

A journeyman farrier can make between $30,000 and $40,000 a year. While the risk of these injuries would deter most, those committed to their work find a way to continue their passion.

It also helps when a farrier can find someone who knows exactly what his or her title means. For Weiler, he mentioned it to a friend and it was how he met his current girlfriend of eight years.

“I said I was a farrier in front of my now-girlfriend,” Weiler said. “She said ‘Hey I know what that is, I used to ride horses when I was younger.’”

And to Weiler it is more than just a career; it is a lifestyle. In order to be a successful farrier, someone needs to be comfortable around horses, not just someone who has a knack for banging nails into hooves.

“You basically have to get the horse to stand still and accept you handling it,” Weiler said. “The horse has to trust you, and there is a horse-handling talent that goes along with that.”

Not only do farriers like Weiler have to make horses comfortable, but they also have to spend most of their day in a half crouch with a horse leg fixed between their legs. The stress on the back and legs looks excruciating to the standers-by.

“I may plan a day off the next day just because I may be too tired to work the following day,” Weiler said. “It’s not for everybody, but I think I would miss it if I wasn’t doing it.”

But those committed to the job just cannot give in to the pain.

The shoe on the left has been worn for six weeks as compared to the new shoe on the right

“The horses don’t make it easy, but if they do let you do your shoeing job it’s more rewarding,” Weiler said. “Working as an accountant (previously), I never felt like my job was done. But with shoeing, I get feedback on the horses immediately and I feel like I’m completing the job every time.”

For information on The Pegasus Riding Academy in Northeast Philadelphia, see Nicole Dalrymple’s story here.

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