When horse owners call up Sam Gubera, they expect to hear a man on the other end of the phone. In this case, Sam is a woman and a farrier. At 27, she’s one of the few women in the job field in the San Francisco Bay area. Having taken horseback riding lessons since she was a kid, Gubera’s break from horses in college made her miss being around them. After a quick call to the farrier who serviced her childhood horse — also a woman — Gubera enrolled in the Pacific Coast Horseshoeing School in Plymouth, Calif.
After horseshoeing school, Gubera apprenticed under Steve Wiberg, a well-known farrier in the Woodside area. It wasn’t long before she set out on her own and began her own horseshoeing business several months later. One downside has been the long drive between clients, with one as long as 5 hours between barns. But that doesn’t deter her dedication to the horses.
“It’s generally a pedicure plus podiatry,” Gubera tells the San Francisco Chronicle. “Even a simple trim without shoeing adjusts the angle of the hoof, which affects the way they walk or stand or their mechanics.”
She understands the importance hooves play in overall horse health. It can be painful for horses to walk with long hooves, and it can create issues further up the leg if they are left untrimmed. Furthermore, hooves that are left to grow out can cause disease and other complications for the horse.
After 5 years in her own business, Gubera’s confidence and knowledge has grown. “The better you get, the less you screw up!” she says.
Gubera works hard to ensure the shoe matches the hoof correctly and doesn’t just nail any shoe on. Ill-fitting shoes can create issues like that of untrimmed hooves. Often different shoes are required on different feet of the same horse since their feet, like ours, can each be slightly different from each other.
To fit the shoe to the horse, Gubera uses the forge in her rig to heat pre-shaped shoes so she can better shape them to the horse’s feet. Then Gubera presses the red-hot shoe to the horse’s hoof to see if it’s a match. Smoke billows from the contact of hot metal on horse hoof, but it doesn’t hurt the horse.
“It smells like burning hair and horse—,” Gubera says. Even though the smoke smells bad, Gubera can still crack a joke and smile after a long day.
Although Gubera might be one of the few women farriers in the San Francisco area, she is not “one of the few” in the industry. For decades, farriery has been a career field mostly filled by men. In recent years, the number of women entering the industry has increased significantly, and shows no sign of decreasing. Gubera notes that this change is even reflected in the shoeing school she attended, saying she “saw on Facebook that the class now is all women. First time that it’s ever happened that the entire class is all chicks, no dudes!”