By BRYAN CORLISS
SNOHOMISH – Steve Redenbaugh is the only horseshoer in the Yellow Pages, but he’s far from the only farrier in Snohomish County.
Most of them don’t advertise, he said, as he measured a horse’s hoof for a new shoe. “You try to be anonymous so you don’t get so much work.”
There’s a shortage of trained farriers – horseshoers – here and nationwide, those in the industry say.
Older farriers are retiring faster than young ones are being trained, they say. And as this happens, the demand for them is rising, as the booming economy means more people can afford the cost of keeping a horse.
These days, there are as many horses between Woodinville and Bothell as there are in any part of Kentucky, Redenbaugh said. And Snohomish County is home to one of the biggest 4-H horse programs in the country.
As an adage heard around stables goes, “No hoof, no horse.” Since a horse’s hooves grow out like human nails, old shoes have to routinely be pulled off, the hooves trimmed and new shoes pounded into a perfect fit and put on. A bad shoeing can cripple a horse, while a good shoeing will help keep a horse sound and, in some cases, bring a lame horse back to service.
Folks pay top dollar – $65 to $170, every six to eight weeks – for a farrier who knows how to shoe correctly.
In California, farriers can make from $75,000 to $130,000 a year in gross income. Newcomers learning the trade say they are attracted to the idea of self-employment and working outside with animals.
Redenbaugh has been doing it more than a decade, and said he enjoys it more than his other jobs, which have included graphic design, construction and working with computers.
But it’s hard work, he added, and a job that carries the risk of injury. “You’ve got to want to do it.”
There are three training programs in Washington, based in Olympia, Walla Walla and Yakima.
Redenbaugh said his clients run the gamut from $100,000 show horses to animals people have given away. Those include the horses at EquiFriends, a Snohomish stable that provides horseback rides as part of a therapy program for children and adults with disabilities.
Redenbaugh shoes EquiFriends’ horses for free. It’s a worthwhile program, he said, and since many of the horses were rescued from bad owners or given away after suffering injuries, it’s a chance for him to work on corrective shoeing techniques, he said.
EquiFriends executive director Mel Thomas held the horses while Redenbaugh worked on their shoes, one breezy morning last week. The two horses he was shoeing have had foot and leg trouble, which makes the process uncomfortable for them. They squirm and stomp.
Redenbaugh said he’s been kicked around some, and lost a week’s work a while back when a horse fell on him. He won’t shoe draft horses.
“You get knocked around by them, it’s bad enough,” he said, indicating Sonny, a gimpy-kneed gelding once ridden by a calf roper. “You get knocked around by something weighing 2,000 pounds, it’s worse.”
But he stays with it because he loves horses, Redenbaugh said. A few minutes later, Sonny reached over to nuzzle his bald head.
“You’ve got to admit, though,” Thomas teased. “If your first six horses were bad, you probably wouldn’t have stayed with it.”