A group of veterans in Plymouth have found peace and purpose as farriers, specialists in equine hoof care. And for two decades, they’ve been passing on the skills to fellow veterans.
“Vets with PTSD gravitate toward horseshoeing,” said Bob Smith, owner of Pacific Coast Horseshoeing School. “They do better working out in the field, working with animals, not working in a cubicle.”
After finding this out for himself, Smith opened the school. A Vietnam veteran, he took a “senior class trip to Southeast Asia” in 1968-’69. Following his tour, he went to college and then spent a year as a police officer. But he found his calling as a farrier.
Smith opened Pacific Coast Horseshoeing School in 1991 and has never looked back.
Joined by Chuck Presnail, a fellow Vietnam vet of 1966-’67, the two created a school that is the only California state licensed farrier school, attracting students from as far away as Canada, Israel, South America, New Zealand and throughout the U.S.
By 1994, Smith – loving the aspect of the freedom of the work and the healing power of horses – wanted to reach out to other veterans.
He approached the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs for approval.
“There was paperwork involved, certification of instructors and on-site inspections,” he said.
He jumped through the hoops and can now proudly say he has been a V.A. recognized vocational school for 20 years.
“Some may qualify on the GI Bill, some on disability,” he said. “Those who suffer a mental disability I work with much longer than our eight-week intensive program. I run a year-long externship for those vets that need it, allowing them one week at a time field experience. It may take longer, but it is worth the reward of enabling the vet to work at a job he loves.”
In Smith’s current class of 12 students, one Navy veteran, Jack Hancock, attends with funding from the V.A.
Hancock served from 2005-’07, when he was struck by a drunk driver. When Hancock successfully came out of a multiple month coma, he was left with a traumatic brain injury that caused seizures. He worried about his future.
Upon recovery, Hancock traveled to his aunt’s ranch in Hollister where he worked at Ford Cattle Co. While there, he became friends with the farrier who cared for his aunt’s horses.
That farrier had attended Pacific Coast Horseshoeing School.
His friend’s job – which enabled him to work outdoors, with animals and on his own schedule – resonated with Hancock.
After contacting the V.A. and filing the proper paperwork, Hancock became enrolled in Smith’s school with 100 percent financial support from the V.A.
“I love it,” he said. “It’s going to be a great career. I get to work around horses and stay on the ranch.”
Someday, he said he hopes to own his own cow-calf operation. The training from the school would help not only in the near future but also for when his dream becomes a reality.
Smith said he believes wholeheartedly that being a farrier is a wonderful career choice for vets, especially those suffering with PTSD. He extends an invitation to any veterans who would like to learn more about the job by visiting his ranch, as his guest, for one week prior to any enrollment commitment.
For more information about the school, visit farrierschool.com.