ROBERTS – Every day, Riley and Ashtyn Mickelsen cowboy up and teach students how to become farriers at the Idaho Horseshoeing School.
At this point, you may be asking, “What’s a farrier?”
“A farrier is a blacksmith, meaning we work with hot metal … but a blacksmith is not a farrier because a farrier does all the blacksmithing for a horse (specifically),” Riley tells EastIdahoNews.com.
The school operates out of a farmhouse on 25 acres in Roberts. A group of five to seven students is trained in the art of trimming and shoeing a horse’s feet. The course lasts between eight and 16 weeks, depending on the level of certification being pursued. When completed, each student walks away certified as a farrier.
“It’s an intense course. You’re kind of drinking out of a firehose for the eight weeks you’re here,” Riley says.
The purpose of the Idaho Horseshoeing school, Riley says, is to give students “a sound understanding of the whole horse.” The main focus is to teach students to be competent horsemen, to be efficient with their tools and to be skilled blacksmiths.
Room and board are included in the tuition price. Students live on the property while they’re enrolled. Ashtyn provides breakfast and lunch for the students during their time there.
Each day begins with classroom instruction.
“We talk about the anatomy of the horse from the knee down. There are different types of correctional and therapeutic shoeing we go over,” Riley says.
From there, they head to the stable where they work directly with real horses, which are supplied by local horse owners who need their horses’ feet shod.
“We charge half price for trims and shoes. The main difference is it takes students a little longer to do the work. A professional farrier could shoe a horse in 45 minutes. For a student, it’ll take around four hours,” Riley says.
See what it’s like in the video player above.
Completion of the course depends upon a student’s ability to shoe a horse with shoes built from scratch. They must also complete a written test.
Students who graduate can find farrier work in various capacities, whether it’s opening up their own shop or working at race tracks for professional riders.
Farriery is an unregulated field, Riley says, and many people who do not have any official training are skilled in it, but there is a big difference between someone who is certified and someone who is not.
“The old saying is ‘no hoof, no horse.’ There are a lot of farriers in the United States who do not have the right training, and they cripple a lot of horses,” Riley says. “If they’re certified … their career’s are just longer and better than if they never get educated.”
The current crop of students comes from all over the country.
Kiana Roylance is from Montana. She grew up around horses and says knowing how to shoe your own horse is a good skill to have. That’s why she decided to enroll.
“As a farrier, I never thought I was going to blacksmith. I never planned on blacksmithing, but I’m actually learning that it’s important and that it’s not too bad once you learn how to do it,” Roylance says.
Opening a farrier school in Roberts
Riley and his wife opened the school in March after spending three years running the Oklahoma Horseshoeing School.
They both grew up in eastern Idaho and dreamed of opening a school here.
“We were just waiting for the right place to come up for sale. This place in Roberts was perfect, so we jumped on the opportunity,” he says.
The freedom to be self-employed by doing something he loves is what Riley finds most rewarding about the Idaho Horseshoeing School.
“There’s a lot of rewarding parts to it. Being able to work and building something with your hands and see it be functional — that’s pretty cool,” Riley says. “Horses are an awesome animal. They do a lot for us. They work pretty hard and never complain.”