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Feet First For Female Farrier


2015/07/03



By Tommy Brannon

Rachelle Wilcox gets down and dirty in her job – sometimes on her hands and knees in a dusty corral; sometimes hunched over under a horse in the barn. She enjoys her profession and it shows.  Rachelle is a BWFA (Brotherhood of Working Farriers) certified farrier, and a graduate of Casey and Sons Horseshoeing School in Georgia. She has been shoeing horses throughout west Tennessee for the past two years. In the world of professional farriers she is an exception, since there are few women farriers. She was the only woman in her horse shoeing class. 

Professional hoof care is her career, and she calls her previous employments “just jobs.” Rachelle explained how she came to this profession: “I have always loved animals. I couldn’t be a vet. [As a farrier] I still get to work with animals, but don’t have to do the sad parts. That is the fun of this. I could not be a horse trader because I would like to have all of the ponies in the word. I could not sell any of them.”

She lives in Regan, Tennessee, but works all over west Tennessee. On any day she may be in Humboldt, Gibson, or Parkers Crossroads. “If they can tell me how to get to them, then I will probably be there,” she said.

“I do a lot more trimming than shoeing, but that’s OK. Not all horses need shoes. It depends on the load they carry.”  She owns two Quarter Horses, a Paint and a Tennessee Walking horse and none of them are shod.

At present she does not specialize in any particular horse breed or type of shoeing, but said that her future plans are to be a “go-to expert” for corrective shoeing of foundered horses.

Rachelle has been married to her husband Tim for 26 years and has one grown daughter. Nether her husband or daughter are horse people, but Rachelle has been around horses all of her life. She said that her mother would put her on one of her dad’s horses when she was a baby

Her gender has not been a negative factor in her career. Many of her customers are women. “The women owners appreciate my gentler approach to their horses. I prefer that the shoeing and trimming be a good experience for the horse. If it is a good experience, then the horse will be relaxed and comfortable. I like loving on them and becoming their friend. I do not want to knock on them. I am not being paid to beat on their horse. If a horse is being disagreeable and hard to work with, I want to evaluate why he is behaving this way. If you beat on them, it makes them afraid of you and everyone else. It is better to have them respect you out of love.” 

She has a special headstall that she can use on fractious horses, if needed. It has a metal bar that works like a chain. She said, “Not every horse will respond to it and I prefer not to need it.” She added, “Donkeys are quick learners; if you make friends with them they are easier. Minis can sometimes require two people to trim them.”

Rachelle said that some men think that a woman is not strong enough to do farrier work, but “I’m not holding the horse up” she explained. “Men can hurt their backs doing this and if a horse kicks, it hurts a man just as much as it does me.”
Some of her customers work during the day and cannot be at the barn when she works on their horses; but she will only work by herself if she knows and trusts the horse.  She has had some injuries, though. One horse surprised her by biting her, leaving a wound that required 26 stitches.

Asked for some advice about hoof care, Rachelle said that she recommends regular hoof cleaning, applying Thrush Buster for thrush in the wet season, and using hoof dressing in the dry summer. She also recommends letting pasture water troughs overflow in the summer, so that the horses will have to walk through the soft mud to get a drink, thus moisturizing their dry feet.

Asked for advice about pursuing a farrier career, she recommends attending a good, accredited farrier school, and keeping up with the latest science and studies about hoof care.

Rachelle owns Happy Trails Farrier Service, 11785 Hwy. 100E in Regan, TN 38638. She can be reached at 731-431-6924.

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