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Eye On | Farrier Jimmy Brown — Best foot forward: Farrier finds his calling with horses

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While Shannon Sims holds her horse J.W., Farrier Jimmy Brown, Wenatchee, nails new shoes on it at their Cashmere home.

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Five days a week, certified farrier Jimmy Brown “hoofs” it out the door to make sure all of his equine customers in the area get the hoof care they need. He’s been working with horses in Wenatchee and the surrounding area for four years.

A farrier is a well-rounded professional. They have that certification and education which is really key,” Brown said. “A farrier is not just a horseshoeing. They work with the whole horse. They know how to work with that steel, they know how to pick a shoe for a horse, the riding discipline of the owner, and the environment they are being ridden in.”

Brown received his certification from Northwest Pacific Horseshoeing School in 2013, but his career took a very different path at first.

Initially, ironically enough, I worked for a telecom network as an engineer for about 13 years. I designed fiber-optic networks and what-not,” Brown said. “The market kind of fell out of it, and I was returning from the war in Iraq looking for work and I said ‘horseshoeing, that’s a real job.’ I liked the idea of being self-employed, and it allowed me to be outside. I was never a behind-the desk kind of guy. … It’s been pretty rewarding.”

Brown didn’t really take an interest in working with horses until he was in his 20s.

I was looking for a trade skill,” Brown said. “There are certainly quite a few horses in the valley so I thought things would work out. I worked with horses through my 20s more. I had a friend who invited me out riding with him and I really enjoyed that. That was initial introduction. It was just something that I enjoyed doing. Doing it in a work environment is pretty great.”

While his equine interests budded late, Brown seemed predisposed to the trade.

I’ve always had an interest in biology. Bone structure, and ligaments what-not. I was interested in working with metal, so it was the best of both worlds,” Brown said.

His interest paid off when he was studying to get his certification.

It was fitting that I was specialized in therapeutic shoeing as I tied for first in equine anatomy and was first in forge work in my class of 17 students,” Brown said. “One of the things I did early on was immediately meet the veterinarians in the valley. Since then, I’ve worked for all three of them in the field.”

While he enjoyed his newfound trade, it was tough to find work at first.

It was challenging trying to start up after just leaving trade school,” Brown said. “Being new to the valley itself was hard, too. The first season was pretty slow. I started doing some side work in conjunction with being a farrier. The second year, it was what I was doing five days a week. Ninety-five percent of my new business is through referral. Eventually I would get a call from a customer and do two or three horses for her. The next day, I would get a call from her neighbor and I would do a few horses. Then they would call a buddy, and it just snowballed through word-of mouth.”

Using his knowledge of the habits of local horse riders, Brown picked a schedule that works for his customers.

I chose to work a Tuesday to Saturday schedule. Most horse owners are Monday through Friday people, and they are often only available on the weekends. I work Saturday, and so my weekend becomes Sunday and Monday,” Brown said. “There’s something gratifying to be able to take care of people’s horses, and talking to horse owners. There is always follow up care as well, which the horse owner can always do, so I can help get them more involved with their own horse … it’s rewarding to bring a horse back sound, which of course makes the owner ecstatic.”

Brown took his customers’ feedback about their experiences so that he could develop business practices that would best serve his base.

A few common complaints I’ve heard from customers about some horseshoers is a failure to return phone calls or meet time commitments. I can see that being exceptionally aggravating, especially if you’ve had to take off your work to take care of your horse,” Brown said. “Taking that into consideration, I attempt to call back all customers within a 24-hour period. That doesn’t mean I can accommodate them in 24 hours, but I can at least give them a courtesy call and try to work something out.”

There are some situations where his expertise isn’t quite enough, and Brown has to work with the horse owner as well as a veterinarian to take care of the horse.

There are some occasions where I have to call a veterinarian out before I can start working with a horse,” Brown said. “We have to learn the language that vets speak so when we talk on the phone or in person we can communicate effectively. Working with those professionals is something I really enjoy as well.”

The farriering business fluctuates with the weather, as some seasons are more popular for riding.

Early spring is my busiest season. In this valley with our seasons, there isn’t much work in the wintertime. There are a few draft horses, but it really slows down,” Brown said. “When springs comes around, the weather gets warmer, and everyone wants to go riding. That’s when the phone is ringing a lot. Sometimes I’ll be booked two to three weeks in advance. I work an extensive area from Leavenworth to Quincy, and as far north as Chelan. I try to organize all my work geographically, taking care of all my Chelan horses one day, and all my Quincy horses another day.”

The seasonal aspect made it hard for Brown to make ends meet — especially the first season when he was still trying to build a customer base.

It was tough. It was exceptionally tough. I ate a lot of Top Ramen the first season,” Brown said. “These seasonal jobs can be difficult. At one point going into my first season, it was going so slow that I volunteered to go on another combat tour in Afghanistan. They got more than enough people volunteering, so I was cut prior to the deployment. I came back in the wintertime with not much work, but the following spring it really picked up.”

Brown’s experience makes him a valuable resource for horse owners, no matter what their horse is primarily used for.

It varies geographically from area to area. There’s a lot of pleasure-riding in this valley, but there’s other varieties too. There’s barrel jumpers and ropers,” Brown said. “One of the fun aspects of working in this field is diversifying the kinds of horses you work with. I work the broad spectrum. It gives me a broader understanding and appreciation for the industry.”

Brown can be reached at (509) 885-6738.