Kim Lacey has been kicked and covered in blood, but she has never given up on her goal of being a “proper” farrier, preparing horse’s hooves for shoes and making her shoes from scratch so they fit “proper.”
Despite the challenges of the trade, Lacey, who lives outside of Sylvan Lake on a farm, discovered she just wanted to keep going and developing her own style in the trade. This past summer, the American Farriers Association paid for her to travel to the United Kingdom for work experience.
Lacey loves it all, the business and the artistry involved with creating shoes that fit a horse well.
“I just got passionate about it and didn’t want to quit,” she said. “I just really enjoyed it. I’ve always loved horses.”
She explained the farrier business isn’t just going out and slapping shoes on a horse. It’s a process that includes observing the horse as it walks toward her, assessing its anatomy and asking plenty of questions to understand what the rider is doing with the horse. She has to understand the job it’s about to do and know what the rider is doing with the horse.
“It’s a hard job and there are days when you want to throw in the towel and quit,” she admitted. But she said it’s like anything else people love that keep them coming back despite the challenges.
“It’s something that just kinda clicked for me,” Lacey said. She feels fortunate to be able to do what she does and feels lucky she figured out what she wanted to do early in life.
To make a shoe from scratch is a process part understanding the horse’s anatomy, part measurement, and part art. To master the trade takes years of practice and repetition.
“You just make shoes after shoes after shoes and after a while you figure out ‘if I have this much foot, I have to cut this much steel for it,’ ” she said while demonstrating how to prepare shoes she pre-made for one of her horses.
Depending on the size of the horse’s foot, and the event it is participating in, there is a wide range of variables that affect the shoe-making process. Lacey’s pride in what she does is evident in her detailed descriptions of what she’s doing as she prepares a horse for shoeing.
Lacey said it has taken her more than three years to feel comfortable with the process of assessing a horse, creating a shoe that meets the horse’s needs and attaching the shoe to the horse.
A farrier can choose between cold shoeing and hot shoeing. Lacey prefers hot shoeing as it sits more flush on the foot and creates a better seal that protects the foot from bacteria or microbes that could get in and cause damage. She also said it’s a lot harder on your body to bang on a piece of cold steel as opposed to heated.
Lacey has ruined “too many shoes to count” over the years.
“There’s no natural way of doing things. It’s just a lot of practice,” she said.
Once a farrier becomes good at what they do, the process becomes comparable to sculpting in that you start to see all the minute adjustments needed to create a shoe to fit seamlessly with the hoof. From her 4-H days until now, Lacey has developed an awareness of horses that serves her well in her job.
“You have to train your mind’s eye. It’s not just a physical demanding job,” Lacey said, explaining she’s drawn many pictures of hooves over the years to train herself to see more quickly what adjustments need to be made.
While in the United Kingdom, she had opportunities to work with other farriers at a variety of shows and contests, adding to her skill set. The Royal Highland Show was an experience that stands out most in her mind of her trip to Scotland.
“I’ve never worked so hard and drank so much in my life,” she said. Throughout the trip, she had the opportunity of working with a variety of masters in the trade including a family on the Scottish farrier team.
Lacey hopes the fact she’s pursued her passion so single mindedly will show younger kids they don’t have to close themselves into their comfort zone.
“Go find something that you like to do. You open up, and you blossom,” she said.