Scrolling through the mental Rolodex of farriers who I’ve had the privilege of meeting, several words come to mind that aptly describe each one — professional, knowledgeable, industrious, creative, talented. I could go on and on, yet there’s one adjective that comes to mind more often than any other: generous.
The eagerness to give back to the industry is remarkable. There are countless stories of farriers who have helped those in need. While I can’t possibly list each one, here are a few brief stories that highlight the generosity of farriers.
In the spring of 2014, the Oso, Wash., area received as much as 200% of its normal rainfall. That’s saying something considering they average 46.3 inches a year — a full inch more than the U.S. average.
At 10:37 a.m. on March 22, witnesses say the 4,400-foot wide “fast-moving wall of mud” surged 1,500 feet down the rain-soaked foothills of the Cascade Mountains. The site was buried under as much as 70 feet of mud and debris. It destroyed 49 homes and buildings, blocked State Route 530, dammed the Stillaguamish River and claimed the lives of 43 people, including Darrington farrier Summer Raffo.
The local fairgrounds were transformed into a staging area of sorts, where dozens of area horses were brought to avoid the flooding. Many of them were in need of hoof care. Just 2 weeks out of shoeing school, Kelsie Nickerson of Marysville, Wash., jumped at the chance to help.
Nickerson’s generosity is nothing new to her mentor Shane Westman.
“Kelsie is very passionate about horses and farrier work,” says the Bow, Wash., farrier. “She’s a real go-getter. It doesn’t surprise me in the least that she stepped right up to volunteer.”
Lifting Up Your Brothers And Sisters
Last December, farriers from across the country gathered in Hattiesburg, Miss., to help Eric Nygaard.
The Sarasota, Fla., farrier did what so many others have done — caught the business end of a hoof knife. Although the wound itself healed very nicely, Nygaard’s life will never be the same. You see, an infection set in that severely damaged his heart.
After attending the 2008 American Farrier’s Association convention, Nygaard fell ill and was rushed to the emergency room where he flat lined. Surgeons implanted a pacemaker, but the damage was done. He needs a new heart. Yet, Nygaard must meet several requirements before undergoing the life-saving surgery.
“Basically, I have to get sicker before I can get a heart,” he explains. “They need to make sure you’re financially secure before they can give away an organ like that.”
To help raise the necessary money, Robbie Hunziker of Seminole, Fla., and Hank Chisholm of Lucedale, Miss., organized a 3-day clinic and auction. Like other benefit auctions that I’ve had the privilege of attending, the industry did itself proud. Several tables were jammed with donated tools, products, handmade artwork and much more.
The generosity didn’t end there, though. The money flowed from wallets like water from a spigot. There were even an occasion or two when items were re-auctioned — but not before the original price was paid.
“It’s very humbling,” Nygaard says. “I don’t know of any other trade with a brotherhood like it is in the farriery industry. The guys always seem to get together and help somebody when they are down and out. I’m incredibly thankful. They’ve gone above and beyond.”
As we kick off National Farriers Week on Sunday, it’s these heartwarming stories that come to my mind. It’s the generosity of the American and Canadian Associations of Professional Farriers, who organized an auction to benefit the late Nick Russo and his family while the Florida farrier fought cancer. It’s the more than $11,000 that was raised in less than 2 weeks to help British Columbia farrier Mike Damen recover from the severe burns he suffered in a flash fire accident. It’s the guys who take the time out of their busy schedules to travel to far away places to shoe horses for injured farriers, as Illinois farrier Jeremiah Kemp did when he drove to Maine this past week.
My hat’s off to you all. Have a great week.