The program was previously not available for a few years after its former instructor Steve Stephenson retired. When Powell, Wyo., Northwest College’s farrier professor also retired, the last local farrier courses went away, too.
“A lot of us were bummed out to see the program go,” Gonzales told American Farriers Journal.
In November 2018, official plans to restart the Sheridan, Wyo., farrier program for the spring were put into motion. Mae Smith, the head of the agricultural department at Sheridan College, began seeking candidates to teach the farrier science courses. A few farriers, including Gonzales, applied for the farrier position. On Jan. 21, 2019, Gonzales began teaching two of the three farrier science courses, the Introduction to Farriery course and the Practical Farrier Science course.
In high school, Gonzales worked for an outfitter and helped lead fishing trips and trail rides. A friend of his was a farrier and sparked his interest in hoof care. Gonzales attended Northwest College where he received an associate’s degree in farrier agriculture business. While he found the material interesting, he wanted to learn even more. His instructor suggested that Gonzales attend the Kentucky Horseshoeing School (KHS) when it was located in Mt. Eden, Ky. KHS has since relocated to Richmond.
In 2002, Gonzales completed his farrier education at KHS with Mitch Taylor and stayed on as a teaching assistant. While helping out at the school, Gonzales worked under Conrad Trow and gained a lot more hands on experience. In 2003, Gonzales became a certified journeyman farrier and moved back home to Wyoming. There, he built up his clientele and worked on creating a business so he could make a living doing what he loves. He worked with farrier Troy Ehrmantraut, who founded the Wyoming Professional Farriers Association (WPFA), of which Gonzales is currently the president.
Since returning home, Gonzales has stayed in close contact with the farrier world by competing in numerous competitions and participating in many clinics, including the American Farrier’s Association (AFA) annual convention, Don King Days, part of the World Championship Blacksmiths Competition (WCBC), Colorado clinics, Montana Professional Horseshoer’s Association (MPHA) events and many others.
Now as farrier instructor, Gonzales works with his students by applying their anatomy course to what they learn in the forge. He begins his class by building connections between the structures of the horse and the shoe that supports those structures. He believes in hands-on forge work to build forging skills. In 4-5 weeks, Gonzales will introduce live horses to the class, so they can apply what they’ve learned to real-life cases.
“I’m excited to take it over, but a little nervous,” Gonzales says. “Steve Stephenson was my mentor, so these are big shoes to fill.”
Teaching isn’t all Gonzales is doing. He still shoes horses full-time for his own business. While the winter months are little slower for business, he saw this as an excellent opportunity to not only preserve the farrier craft by educating young farriers but to also keep up on his own skills. The farrier program will end in early May 2019, just in time for Gonzales’ business to keep him busy. There won’t be an autumn farrier program due to the difficulty new farriers often encounter while trying to find work during the winter months.
Sheridan College introduced its farrier science program as part of an associate degree in 2012. The courses are designed to be taken in the spring semester, resulting in completion of the certificate in a few months’ time.