I chose to interview a 24-year-old young lady who runs her own mobile farrier business. Her name is Misty Whitehouse. She happens to be my daughter's best friend since elementary school. She came into the ownership of two horses when she was young about the same time that my daughter, Meghan, bought her first horse. As the young lady has grown in a dysfunctional family situation, she has persevered, and I feel she is an ideal mentor for my daughter to look to for inspiration. She has helped and taught my daughter how to take care of her two horses. She is a very energetic professional lady who is passionate about her profession. She took her love of equine and turned it into a successful business. She specializes in natural hoof care, which is keeping the hooves of horses and donkeys trimmed without putting on metal shoes. She chose this profession because when she was young, her first horse showed anxiety when it was getting shod, which is the term used for applying shoes to a horse or a donkey. She felt that there had to be a better way, which is why she started looking into alternative methods of taking care of the hooves. Her business has been so successful that she has recently been able to purchase 30 acres of land with her fiance out in the country of Munfordville. She travels all over the region working with any equine. She's been known to have done a few goats as well. I want my daughter to know that she can be successful in whatever she chooses to do with hard work and dedication to doing something you love.
Wendy: When did you recognize the need for this profession?
Misty: I recognized the need for this profession in the very beginning. This is Kentucky, horse capital of the world. There are farriers all over, but many follow a different paradigm that doesn't usually set the horse up for success. Prevention is key to many problems like laminitis, navicular syndrome, as well as behavior problems. I work with a lot of horses and donkeys with behavior issues because I am good with them. I can get in their head and gain their trust. There is a need for farriers who follow the natural hoof care philosophy and who are willing to work with the animals.
Wendy: How did you get started in the business?
Misty: I got my start in natural hoof care when a dear friend loaned me a book that completely changed the way that I look at a horses hoof. I was intrigued by this different way of managing horses and their foot care. I found every article and book I could find to learn more about natural hoof care. I pulled the shoes off my own horses and started doing a barefoot trim. Once I seen the health benefits, I was hooked and started pursuing an education in farriery.
Wendy: How did you learn your profession? Was there schooling or hands on?
Misty: I got my start with reading every book I could find about natural hoof care, searched the internet and found a wealth of information there. Pete Ramey is the top hoof rehabilitation specialist in the country, and he has multiple books and DVD's. I worked with a couple other farriers in the beginning, as well as a veterinarian with an interest in podiatry. I have attended clinics and studied with the Association for the Advancement of Natural Horse Care Practices (AANHCP). I attended the International Hoof Care Summit in Cincinnati in 2017, as well as a Pete Ramey clinic and Tomas Teskey clinic in 2018. Continuing education is very important to me as we are making great strides in technology and continue to learn more every day.
Wendy: How long have you had your own business?
Misty: I've been operating as a full-time farrier for the last three years. Prior to that, I worked a full-time factory job and trimmed after work and on the weekends. I was so happy when I quit my "real" job and went full time into this work. I have a fulfilling career that I am very passionate about. I am literally living the dream.
Wendy: What is the difference between shoeing and natural foot care?
Misty: Natural hoof care is a trimming style that mimics the way that horses wear their hooves in the wild. Wild horses move anywhere from 10 - 15 miles per day across rough terrain in search of forage and water. This movement is what makes them so healthy and thriving. Our domestic horses rarely get enough movement to self maintain their hooves, so that's where I help them along. Barefoot hooves have natural shock absorption and energy dissipation, their hooves expand under load and contract during flight, helping to pump blood back up the leg.
Blacksmith farriers trim the hoof flat and nail either a steel, aluminum, or composite shoe to the bottom of the foot. The act of nailing a shoe on in the hoof's most contracted phase leads to problems limiting blood circulation throughout the hoof and the whole horse. Shod horses lose 60-80% of their natural shock absorption, leading to joint problems later in life. The lack of stimulation to the caudal hoof leads to pain and sensitivity, and the horse goes to a toe-first landing. The mechanics of a toe first landing cause lamellar separation and eventually laminitis. There are many reasons to transition from shod to barefoot, the research is out there.
Wendy: How hard was it to build your clientele?
Misty: My business really just took off on its own. I started with my own horses, took on a few friends horses and word of mouth spread quickly. I did put up some business cards at Tractor Supply and I get a lot of clients from social media. I have a business page, a website and I post pictures on my personal profile often.
Wendy: Where you treated differently by your peers since this a traditional male profession?
Misty: When I first started out, there were a few times that I was treated differently for being a female in the farrier industry. I have gotten a lot of comments about my size and wrestling horses. The thing is I don't fight with an animal. I gain their trust and respect, become friends with them, finding their favorite itchy spots. I think male farriers have a tendency to be a little rougher with the horses, and maybe not make that connection.
Wendy: When you care for your clients, do you also offer advice on how nutrition plays a role in better foot care?
Misty: Educating clients on proper nutrition and environment is a huge part of what I do. Natural hoof care isn't just about the trim, it is whole horse management. A forage based, low sugar diet that is properly balanced with vitamins and minerals makes for a healthier horse, and sound hooves.
Wendy: Without your care, what could happen to these horses?
Misty: Without proper farrier care, the horses hooves would continue to grow, eventually getting long enough they would break off in chunks, or they would get long curly toes like you see in neglect cases a lot of times. Some owners may be forced to sell their animal, or even euthanize. It sounds harsh, but these are owners who have had bad experiences with other farriers beating on their animals, hogtying them and throwing them to the ground. They never want to go back to that kind of treatment. I am honored to be a part of the farrier industry and work with these incredible animals. Being self employed is not easy, you never really stop working, you're always on call, but I do it for the love of the horse.
Wendy: Have you considering doing your own workshop to encourage other young women?
Misty: Honestly, I haven't given it much thought. I do like to educate my clients, but my focus right now is on the horses and donkeys. * * * * * * Interviewer’s Note: I have known Misty from a distance since her and my daughter were classmates in elementary school. At that time though, I knew her as Nicole. She was being raised by her Grandparents at the time and the girls attended a small private school. Although my daughter didn't continue through the private school, they did have a few years together to become the best of friends. Misty had a 40 hour a week regular job and worked extra doing the thing enjoyed, working with horses and donkeys. She slowly learned how to become a natural hoof farrier and has built a steady clientele to sustain purchasing a 30 acre farm and taking care of her many fur babies she has at home, plus her fiance, Jim. He is the one who keeps her on the road, he is quite the mechanic. With Misty's success as being a young business lady and independent young woman, she is an inspiration to all the young horse loving girls out there and my daughter is thankful to have her as a friend.]