The Fire of Youth
Aug 31, 2015 05:38PM
It’s a career that started with the kind of all-consuming impatience that only a teenager can have. Lindsey Waltz was so tired of waiting.
“As a junior or senior in high school, I took the day off to meet a farrier, who didn’t show. I decided to learn to do it for myself...” and, upon graduation, enrolled in the North Carolina School of Horseshoeing & Lameness. There, she found a hands-on program on both shoeing and correcting lameness. What began as a quest to acquire the skill to shoe her own horse led to a passion for helping many horses and the people who love to ride. At the end of the four- month program she was asked to stay on as an assistant instructor for another three months, both teaching others and expanding her skills. She never thought that it would become her profession. But shoeing horses is indeed what Lindsey Waltz has done for the past thirteen years.
Shoeing horses and starting a business take both physical and mental strength, qualities Lindsey Waltz has in abundance. “At first, I took night jobs and shoed horses in the daytime.” In the very beginning, people were afraid that she couldn’t do this hot, heavy job. But anyone watching Lindsey in action can feel the confidence and strength she brings to her work. She is an experienced horsewoman, and the horses sense this immediately. For Lindsey, getting the horse into cross ties (tying a horse using short ropes or chains to a solid surface) is part of calming and communicating with the horse, and preparing to work with an animal that often weighs over 1,000 pounds.
The once impatient girl moves smoothly and without rushing, in a process that is simple and rhythmic. Once settled, she removes the shoe from a hoof and trims the hoof. “If you don’t trim a hoof, the toe gets long and can bow a tendon.” This will make a horse lame and unrideable. After the trim, Lindsey files the hoof, and, if the old shoe is to be reused, will inspect it and adjust it so the horse’s hoof is level. Then, the shoe is reattached with special horseshoe nails that cant outward through the hoof wall and are secured, or “clinched.” Then, it’s on to the next hoof. The entire process usually takes about twenty to thirty minutes per horse. If the horse is a “show horse,” the hooves get polished, but that makes the hoof wall thinner. For trail riding horses, Lindsey usually leaves that extra hoof thickness. Most people want to be with their horse during the procedure, but Lindsey can do it alone. Either way, the entire job is built on the trust that both the owner and the horse have for the slight woman in the big leather apron. It wasn’t long before she had a full-time farrier practice, with over 200 horse clients. She works in Lycoming, Clinton, and Sullivan counties, and will travel farther for large jobs. She is also the farrier for the Lycoming County SPCA. For Lindsey, “85 percent of my work is shoeing and 15 percent hoof trims for older horses and ponies.” She also has a couple of “corrective shoe” clients, where the shoes help the horse to have level hooves.
In this kind of work there are plenty of surprises, and mishaps can happen. It takes the ability to both see a problem developing and to be able to literally move out of the way to avoid those mishaps. And not all horses like the process of shoeing. The horses are not sedated, and, even in cross ties, a horse can kick explosively or bite if given the opportunity. So the act of shoeing becomes a dance of flexibility and strength, often outside in the elements. And it’s a process that, once started, must be finished. On one occasion, Lindsey hammered her own finger working on the first shoe. The solution was to wrap that hand with waterproof vet wrap to contain the bleeding so she could continue—for a horse cannot be left with one hoof done and the others unfinished. Once in a great while, a horse will get “nailed.” A horse’s hoof has several sensitive areas, and a nail can accidently hit one of those areas. If it happens, Lindsey can’t use that hole to attach the new shoe, and she must also calm a horse that is now feeling a bit of discomfort.
Sometimes the farrier is actually correcting for disease or injury. One of Lindsey’s clients had a horse who had navicular disease, which is a painful condition that affects a horse’s “heel” and is a major cause of lameness. This horse needed special care but, at the same time, was very agitated when anyone touched his hooves. Like many horse owners, this client lived in an area where Lindsey could not call someone if there was a problem, and there was an aggressive dog who would keep her away from the owner’s house. Lindsey always took extra precautions when working there.
Perhaps the most extreme correction was a horse with a crack that separated his heel from his hoof. Lindsey took him to a sawdust stall, dried out the hoof, removed the damage, and then rebuilt his foot. In six months the separation healed to a small “V” where the former crack was. This horse is still alive and healthy today.
As Lindsey’s clients, business, and reputation grew, Marc Schefsky, the general manager at Williamsport’s Genetti Hotel, found the woman with the forge, and realized that she was the solution to one of his long- overdue projects. This vintage hotel had six large cast iron lanterns adorning the exterior, but the lights were broken, with one light completely missing. In 2012, the Genetti received a small grant from the Main Street program in Williamsport to restore these lights to their former glory. A former employee of the Genetti suggested Lindsey for iron restoration and fabrication.
It was something Lindsey had never done before, but she felt she had developed the skill to do the work. An engineer, Tom Boatman, made the blueprints of the lamps, and Lindsey went to the forge. She refurbished four of the existing lanterns and made two reproductions of the originals to grace the Genetti. The job took three months of design, fabrication, and finishing. According to Marc Schefsky, “I didn’t think they would be able to reconstruct these vintage lights...but they did!”
Now Lindsey’s work lights one of the main street corners of Williamsport—and enhances a landmark. That work has led her in a new direction, as Lindsey has begun developing a trade in wrought iron furniture, coffee tables, pot racks, and sconces...in short, anything that needs hard iron, a hot forge, and an eye for beauty. A far-removed harvest for a craftswoman who started as an impatient young girl.