Casper farrier keeps on learningWritten by Christy Hemken
Thirty-two years later, McCants now operates a full-time farrier service out of Casper and says it’s the best job he’s ever had, despite several high-paying mining industry gigs in his past. “I enjoy getting up and going to work every day. I may not always get along with the customer, but I always get along with the horse, and that’s a plus,” he says of the job.
“I started shoeing for the neighbors, and it snowballed from there,” he says of his full schedule. Customers haul their horses to McCants from as far away as Jeffrey City and Gillette.
McCants gives the late Don Burgess credit for starting him in the business by teaching him everything he knew. Now every year McCants attends several clinics and symposiums around the U.S. to stay abreast of new technologies, products and treatment methods for conditions like navicular and laminitis.
“I never thought I’d see a glued-on horseshoe, but now there are several horses that run in the Kentucky Derby with glued shoes,” he says as an example. “With those shoes you don’t weaken the hoof wall, and it’s less invasive – you don’t take the chance on getting a hot nail.”
McCants says ten one-thousandths of an inch on a nail can mean the difference between a lame horse and a sound horse.
He also explains a new material used to rebuild hoof wall. “You can build a complete hoof from it and nail to it and it’s the same consistency as the hoof wall,” he says. The new products he’s learned to use in his travels are added to his trailer and are available for customers.
“The term ‘corrective shoeing’ is actually a misnomer,” explains McCants. “Twenty-five years ago that term came out, but it’s not actually corrective shoeing – it’s shoeing correctly.”
He says most times a horse travels a certain way and if you shoed him to look like a picture you’d cripple him. “You shoe him the way he travels, and if you look at the bottom of the foot it’ll tell you everything you need to know. You shoe him the way he travels and there won’t be any problem.”
After over three decades trimming and shoeing horses, McCants says his back problem, which involves calcium build-up in the spinal column, is actually helped by shoeing. “It doesn’t bother me to bend over all day long,” he says.
“I’ve never advertised, and if a person does a good job then word-of-mouth advertising is the best you can get, and competition’s good for business, too,” says McCants of his farriery standards.
McCants says he’d love to have an apprentice begin to help him on his rounds, but he hasn’t found anybody that really wants to do it. He says the first thing a person needs to figure out when considering the horseshoeing trade is whether or not they can get along with horses. “If you can’t, there’s no need to go any farther,” he says.
Not all that he shoes are “pieces of cake,” says McCants of some customers’ horses. “I have a vet give some horses a sedating shot, like broodmares that aren’t handled much, but if you fight with a horse you’re going to lose.”
Contrary to the beliefs of some who enter the trade, McCants says one won’t make a lot of money right away. “There are a lot of young people in the trade who are good, but most around here want everything to happen right now. To be able to do this a person would have to serve at least a three-year apprenticeship under someone to get going.”
“I would love to have someone that wanted to learn the trade, and I’d teach them everything I know and take them to clinics with me,” emphasizes McCants, recommending those who want to start in the business join the American Farrier’s Association because it contains a lot of knowledge.
“I’ve been doing this 32 years and I don’t need any new customers. I get them, but I don’t need them,” says McCants of his thriving business, adding regarding his schedule, “I wish I could buy time, but I can’t.”