Michigan’s first female Journeyman farrier has fashioned a career that keeps horses and their owners happy.
Jennifer Horn understands the importance of properly fit shoes, whether they’re for herself or the horses she cares for.”Keeping the hooves trimmed is very important not only to the horse’s health, but its overall well-being,” says Jennifer. Her passion for horses happened by chance on a family vacation when she was eight years old. “I never had any exposure to horses prior to our visit to the Kentucky Horse Park. There was one little pasture with a miniature horse. I remember crawling on my hands and knees all the way around the white fence surrounding it, just trying to get to that pony and get its attention. I just had to have something to do with horses after that,” explains Jennifer.
For the past 12 years, Jennifer has made a career of trimming hooves, making shoes and caring for horses. Her schedule is busy and her list of clients long. And, despite her hectic schedule, she manages to squeeze in time to attend farrier workshops and a few competitions throughout the year.
To help others learn key aspects of her craft, the Cloverland Electric member enjoys giving presentations to local 4 H clubs. Inside her freezer, Jennifer keeps a supply of equine limbs that she practices on and also uses for her presentations. Jennifer chuckles, “I don’t let anyone get ice cream from the freezer anymore!”According to local horse owner Dawn Atherton, a farrier has to be knowledgeable. “The farrier has to know their business. The hoof is the most important feature on a horse and the trim can influence everything from the way that the horse moves, to its health and even right down to its personality. Jennifer fully understands how a horse’s hoof works in correlation to the rest of its body.”
“It’s not only an art, but a science,” says Jennifer. As a farrier, you rely on your knowledge and skill to guide you through some of the more challenging situations. Although most of her clients consist of horses patiently lined up and waiting for her in a barn or pasture, there have been a few occasions where she ended up working on some pretty interesting animals in some very unconventional settings. “One day, I was asked to trim the hooves of a pot belly pig. I went to the owners’ home and found the pet pig laying on the bed. As I tried to get a hold on a hoof, it began to slide off the bed, onto the floor, and into the closet.
And there we were, the pet owners, a squealing 100 pound pot belly pig and me trying to trim its hooves in a closet!” On another occasion, and with a different pet owner, she found herself trimming the hooves of a pig in a doghouse! Although she readily admits she’s been presented with some challenging situations, she has also pursued some on her own. In 2000, she began a personal quest for certification as a Journeyman Farrier with the American Farriers Association (AFA).
The certification program for the Journeyman level is intense and requires the farrier to successfully pass both a written and practical examination within two years. The written portion tests the farrier’s grasp of the horse’s anatomy and the associated medical terminology. The farrier needs to know everything from the structure of the hoof and common leg ailments to the specific features of both normal and corrective horseshoes.
Of the 2,575 AFA members, 800 have successfully achieved the journeyman status level. Only 25 of them are women and only one is in Michigan: Jennifer Horn. (Note: Jennifer Horn, is the first woman in Michigan to achieve Journeyman Farrier Status. She is now a Certified Journeyman Farrier, Accredited Professional Farrier)
In preparing for the practical examination, she says, “I practiced every single day. I even practiced on Thanksgiving. All the effort I put into it was required, and then some. ” “During the first part of the practical exam, you have two hours to shoe all four feet with handmade horseshoes,” says Jennifer. Then, during the second part, you have only thirty-five minutes to forge and fire-weld a straight bar shoe into a specific pattern.
For many farriers, obtaining this certification is the ultimate goal. But as AFA president, Craig Trinka, explains, “It’s not the final destination, but the beginning of a journey. There is more to learn and more people to help you do it.” Jennifer agrees, and is committed to advancing her education by attending farrier workshops and participating in regional com petitions. Glancing around her living room, it’s easy to tell that she excels in her field and is proud of her achievements. Looking at a colorful array of ribbons, plaques and trophies that fill her wall, Jennifer says, ” You have to put the effort into it. You have to try. You have to want it.”
In about 20 minutes, Jennifer Horn can forge a shoe for a draft horse from a stock bar to an 18-inch custom shoe.”No two feet have the same shape. Every foot is a custom fit,” she says. Bottom: Similar to humans cleaning under their toenails, Jennifer cleans the under-side of the Icelandic horse’s hoof. Of all the awards she has earned so far, she is most proud of two: a plaque that hangs on her wall and a buckle that she wears on her waist. Recently, the AFA presented her with the plaque for having achieved the highest written score on the journeyman level exam for the year 2002. As for the one she wears on her waist, it’s the brass buckle presented to a journeyman farrier after successfully completing the certification process. Jennifer smiles and chuckles, “I have a plaque that says I’m smart and belt buckle that says I’m good.” But most all,Jennifer has a career that offers her the perfect fit and the knowledge that gives her clients comfort and happy hooves.
To contact Jennifer Horn call (906) 632 3041 or visit her online at www. jenniferhorn.com. To learn more about programs offered by theAmerican Farriers Association, call (859) 233-7411 or visit their Web siteatwww.americanforriers.org. May 2003