Cheyenne Kostello Jeffords remembers exactly when she knew that she would spend the rest of her life shoeing horses for a living.
Growing up at Misty Meadows, a horse-boarding operation operated by her mother Dawn Kostello in Bayfield County’s town of Mason, she’s been around horses all her life. One day a woman farrier — a specialist who cares for the feet of hoofed animals like horses, donkeys and mules — paid a visit to the farm. Jeffords watched her intently, trimming the hoof, heating and shaping the shoes and seating the heated shoe on the hoof while still hot in a cloud of smoke.
“I told my mom ‘I want to be a horseshoer when I grow up, I want to be a farrier,’” Jeffords said.
There were other dreams along the way. At one point she thought she might like to be a veterinarian, but that came and went.
“I wasn’t sure about all the school you need, and I have a bit of a weaker stomach, so I knew that wasn’t the route for me,” she said.
That same farrier she watched at the age of 4 and who had worked on her mother’s horses for 20 years was her biggest influence. Whenever she would come over, Jeffords would hang around, observing and asking questions, soaking in all her wisdom and guidance.
In 2016, Jeffords graduated from Ashland High School a semester early. After taking a month off, she packed her bags and went off to the Midwest Horseshoeing School in Divernon, Ill.
For 16 weeks, she studied the painstaking craft of hoof trimming and care and shoeing equines of all sizes, from diminutive minis to giant Belgian plow horses. Being a farrier is a job that requires strength, and growing up as a farm kid, Jeffords was no stranger to hard work — and she has the biceps to prove it.
Handing minis is no problem, she said. But a one-ton Belgian draft horse, bred for centuries for maximum power, is something else entirely.
“I do a handful of draft horses. I can think of two in particular that were in a local barn. The first time I walked in, my jaw just dropped, I couldn’t see over their backs,” she said. “Their feet were dinner plates. But I said to myself, ‘I can do this.’”
Because of their cooperative dispositions, Jeffords was able to trim and shoe the two horses without incident — though it took all her concentration and muscle.
“After those two, I was pretty well ready for bed,” she said.
Despite the physical demands of being a farrier, it is a trade that is increasingly being taken up by women. Jeffords said there were only four males in her class of 12.
Once she completed her studies, Jeffords came back to Wisconsin and began building a list of clients until she was able to establish her own business last year.
She charges about $120 to trim and shoe all four feet, and with more than 9 million domestic horses in the United States, her services are in demand.
And those services are vital to an animal’s well-being. A horse’s hoof, like human nails, is constantly growing, and domesticated animals that don’t walk on rocks or terrain that will wear down their hoofs need constant attention. Without it, a hoof can grow outward and up and make walking difficult for the animal and can lead to leg and back problems.
Neglected animals are particularly prone to hoof problems.
“You hate to see it, but I love to work on them; it’s pretty rewarding to see the complete transformation,” Jeffords said.
Jeffords already has a list of loyal clients such as Susan Angster of Iron River, who has been impressed with the novice’s work,
“I have had a lot of farriers who were more experienced, but she knows what she is doing,” she said.
Another fan is husband Kevin Jeffords, who works as a maintenance technician at Washburn’s Northern Lights Healthcare. He’s so much of a fan, in fact, that about a year ago he bought her a horse.
That’s all the more remarkable because he freely admits that he hates horses.
“I don’t like the smell of them, I don’t like the look of them or the sound of them,” he said. “But I get that Cheyenne loves them.”
That love has encompassed her life and makes going to work every day easy for Cheyenne.
“My first time riding was when I was 6 months old. As soon as I could sit up my mom was trying to get me riding, and I guess I cold never get off a horse after that,” she said.