The words from his pony club instructor are forever etched in the memory of Spallumcheen farrier Adam Degenstein.
Attending the Blue Forest Pony Club with his sister in his native Shellbrook, Sask., located a half-hour west of Prince Albert, Degenstein told his instructor he was trimming his own horses’ hooves out of necessity.
“My instructor said I’d never be a farrier (one who trims and shoes horses’ hooves),” laughed Degenstein, 35, who operates his own mobile business, Adam Degenstein Farrier Services, with headquarters being a Spallumcheen farm he shares with his partner, Kelly MacIntosh.
“I started trimming my own horses when I was 14 out of necessity. We had a really hard time getting a farrier where we lived. The closest one was south of MacDowall, an hour away. So I started trimming my own and my pony club instructor got really mad at me. She was from England, where farriery originated. She got mad because I decided to start hacking off the foot myself.”
Since then, Degenstein attended college and gained a nearly six-year apprenticeship in Abbotsford before he and MacIntosh moved to the North Okanagan in 2010 and opened his business to become one of the best farriers on the planet.
Since 2002, Degenstein has been a member of the Canadian farrier team six times, qualifying at national competitions. He was the Canadian solo farrier champ in 2007. He has represented Canada internationally at the Farrier Focus and International Competition at Stoneleigh Park in England, the latest being in September, where he helped Canada finished fourth.
He’s been so impressive that Team Scotland asked him to compete for their team once because they couldn’t find anybody in their motherland to replace a teammate who had an anvil fall on his thumb.
In February, Degenstein helped Canada to a fifth-place finish at the World Horseshoeing Classic (shoeing horses, not pitching horseshoes) in Lexington, Kentucky.
“Competition is hard,” said Degenstein. “You have to trim a foot, build a shoe, fit the shoe, nail it on and clinch it in the allotted time, which, on average, is about an hour.
“You get a bunch of horseshoers together with OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) and nitpick each other’s work to death. It’s awesome.”
You can also throw in for good measure the fact Degenstein has won the last four Province Cup B.C. Ploughing Championships, driving Raymond and Lucas to provincial glory. Raymond and Lucas are two of the five Clydesdales he and MacIntosh own and drive (the others are Jack, Cody and Sunny).
Degenstein got into blacksmithing before becoming a farrier, taking a beginner’s course at the Western Development Museum in Saskatoon. He originally wanted to be a horse trainer.
“Every horse trainer I talked to said ‘get a second job’ or horse training would be my second job,” said Degenstein. “To me, blacksmithing and horse training equaled being a farrier.”
He went to farrier school at Olds College in Olds, Alta., then got the apprenticeship in Abbotsford, the most valuable part of his career, said Degenstein.
On an average day in the summer, his busiest season, Degenstein will wake up at 6 a.m., sharpen some tools, make a few horseshoes, check the Clydesdales and leave the farm by 7:30 a.m. He covers an area from Pritchard to Salmon Arm to Kelowna to Cherryville, along with Spallumcheen and Armstrong.
He tries to limit his work to five days a week.
“Ten-to-12 hour days are not uncommon but it’s brutal sometimes,” said MacIntosh. “He’s working in 38-degree temperatures in front of a forge (fire) sometimes in the open sun shoeing horses. He works in all conditions.”
“I love my job,” said Degenstein about one of the world’s oldest professions, and one, he said, that remains healthy with a lot of new farriers coming up.
The unhealthy part, he said, is people cutting corners and skipping the basics.
“They’re not learning properly before they try and start a business,” said Degenstein, adding that farriery requires no certification. “You and Kelly could go and buy tools, a fancy truck and start shoeing horses tomorrow. The dedication to learning the trade properly and doing it properly is part of the trade that is dying. It takes about 10 years before you’re comfortable dealing with any horse with any problem out there.”
Degenstein will take 2019 off from competitions to concentrate on business. He will also judge and conduct farrier clinics in Prince George, Alberta and Quebec.