Jim Quinn has been a full-time farrier in Arizona since 1984. He grew up in Lodgepole, Neb., and moved to Arizona in January 1980 because he could not stand the cold weather. Wondering what a farrier is? The dictionary defines a farrier as "a person who shoes horses." Quinn works with roughly 200 horses; he either trims their hooves or puts shoes on them. A farrier is an essential part of a horse's life, because the health of a horse's feet can affect other parts of its body. While many people may assume that being a farrier is a job of the past, Quinn believes farriers will be around for a long time to come. To contact Quinn, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How did you become a farrier?
I was raised on a ranch in Nebraska, and we had to shoe a few (horses) in the winter because of the ice. (Shoes for horses to keep them from falling on ice) are what they call "sharp shoes." They've got cleats on them for ice—and that's how I got started. And I just always liked it.
Many people see your profession as an old-fashioned job. What do you have to say about that?
I guess it all depends on the shoer. A lot of guys do a lot more hot work than I do. I've never liked it. And down here (in Southern Arizona), I think it's hot enough without having to stand in front of the forge. But I just don't think it's needed anymore, you know? I don't think you need a lot of hot work anymore with what you can buy.
What is hot work?
It's when you use the forge to change the shoes. You can also take a pair of tongs and burn (the shoes) on a horse's foot; you actually sear (the shoe) on the hoof to make it fit, and then you cool it and nail it on. And a forge is what heats and builds the shoe. You can heat the iron in the forge and then shape the shoe to fit the horse's foot.
Why do you think the horseshoeing business has lasted so long?
Because horses can't take going barefooted, (when someone is) riding them in this country, riding them with the rocks and the extra weight. The weight is from the saddle and the person, and then (there is) the bad country on their feet. Also, they have a higher chance of needing to be shoed if they're standing in pens, because they get wetter from the moisture of the manure. A lot of horses need the shoes to keep them sound.
What are some difficulties you face as farrier?
I think more and more nowadays, people are treating their horses like pets. They used to be considered like service animals, and horses used to be used a lot more, so they would behave a lot better, because they were (broken in). Now, they're not, so horses are a lot more unruly, I think, than they used to be. It makes the job harder when a horse won't stand or keeps moving around.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I like to see the horse get better when we're done, (to) travel better. (I like to) take a horse that's sore and make them be able to walk. If a horse has bad feet, it can make a lot of other stuff go wrong with him.
How do you think horseshoeing has changed through the years?
You know, they've got the factory shoes and stuff now that they never used to have. (Farriers) used to just make everything from bar stock. And the nails are better now, too. But you know what? I think it's changed as little as any other thing over the years. I think it is (similar today compared to the past) as a business, because you have to do it all by hand. I think it will stay pretty much the same. People used to use farriers, and they'll keep using them.
What do you think the biggest difference is between being a farrier and being a blacksmith?
A straight blacksmith just does ironwork. I guess that's the difference. Hell, I don't know; that's what I think.