This week’s blog post is from guest-contributor, Elise Mayville-Umstead, founder of Umstead Farrier Service, Prince George, VA. Some entrepreneurs go into business because they have an idea they want to explore. Others, like Elise, go into it to explore a specific career or passion.
We have divided Elise’s guest-post into 6 key lessons.
A network of support is key
The simplest way to answer how I came to pursue my current skilled trade would be to state that it came to me as a natural progression of interest in horses.
I have always loved horses, from riding, to care, to learning about their behaviors, this passion of mine has been with me since I was in kindergarten drawing stick figure ponies. However, I would be remiss if I did not give credit to my mother for being an amazing role model and to my wonderful husband who has not only supported me every day but made going back to school possible. Both of these people have pushed me to continue to pursue my love of horses and helped me discover how to turn that passion into a career.
Entrepreneurship often starts at a young age
At age 11, as a young entrepreneur, I began my own pet sitting service complete with an advertising brochure. By 12, I turned my pet sitting business into a multi-service enterprise that included lawn mowing and babysitting. By 16, I had a part time job at a local grocery store and at 18, graduated from high school with enough money to cover my total college books and living expenses.
I attended the University of New Hampshire my freshman year, majoring in Equine Sciences. After a year, I changed my focus, and major, to large animal livestock and transferred to Colorado State University where I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Science.
Entrepreneurs often excel in other jobs before starting a business
My first job after graduating was in the Swine Industry, where I managed a breed-to-wean hog operation in Nebraska for The Maschhoffs, one of the top three pork producers in the U.S. As manager, I was in charge of 21 barns, 4000 sows and piglets and a team of 7. After a few short months, I was able to increase production by 25% and maintained that status, or more, each quarter for the length of time I was there.
I accomplished this against many obstacles, two of which were that I was the only female on location in a male-dominated industry and I had no prior hog management experience. The hard work never bothered me. From vaccinations, castrations, weaning and much more, I took it all in stride.
From there, I moved to Fort Wainwright, Alaska with my husband, an officer in the U.S. Army. Unfortunately, the Fairbanks area did not have large animal options and after a few years out of the industry I found myself feeling the hunger pangs of needing to be involved in the animal industry once again.
Once it becomes a passion, it’s hard to ignore its call
I remember talking to my mom about future career choices and during the course of our discussion, she suggested combining my love of horses with my science education and farrier work came to mind. At the time, I laughed it off thinking at that point of time in my life, going back to school and making a drastic career change was not in the cards. That all changed when I attended a conference with a friend who is a professional farrier.
After attending the conference, I was hooked. I fell in love with the science; the puzzle to solve and treat the major foot issues a horse can have which affect not only the foot, but the entire body of the animal. The adage, ‘no hoof, no horse’ became my mantra. Once I decided that becoming a farrier was the next step, I began doing research of my own to discover what being a farrier truly meant.
I discovered that a farrier is a “forger, a welder, a toolmaker, and a shoemaker. He/she is an anatomist and a physiologist and treats the symptoms of lameness by developing a forward-thinking plan of action” (The Farrier Guide). I also (not surprisingly) discovered that it is a heavily male-dominated industry.
Know your market opportunity before you begin
I have been around horses most of my life but wanted to know if there were enough horses to be able to make a career for myself and was shocked to discover that according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there are over 9.2 million pleasure and commercially used horses in the U.S. That’s a lot of feet that require trimming or shoeing every 4-6 weeks.
In May of 2017, I took the leap and applied to an intense 9-month farrier program at Meredith Manor International Equestrian Centre. Short term ‘shoeing’ schools and on-the-job apprenticeships for this career exist, but I needed and craved more and the theory, the experience, the certification, and the heavy forge work that this program offered, was exactly what I was looking for. I’ve had up to 140 animals available to work with, from companion animals to high performance competitors and not only pushed myself in the shop but pushed myself in the classroom. I started study groups and routinely instructed younger classmates, with 100 hours of volunteer time logged in support of my peers and an even greater understanding of my profession.
Understand the problem you are solving at the deepest levels
My efforts to gain a deeper understanding in my profession have yielded many results. I have played critical roles in correcting complex issues with lame or unsound horses, despite having only having 9 months training and experience. During my schooling, I also attended clinics to further my education and network with other farriers. I’ve learned to trim, balance, shoe horses, forge and more. More importantly, I have developed my skills around and under horses, learning more than I ever thought possible about their behaviors, how to care for them and how to educate my peers and clients.
I have finally discovered a career that I love and I am so thankful for my mother and husband for their continued support. Without them, I would not be where I am today.