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January 26, 2013

From shoes and soot to stitches, traditional vocations thrive

Local practitioners talk about their careers


Tessier knew he had to find a new profession. But even more, he said, he wanted to “totally change my life.”

For Tessier, deciding to become a blacksmith farrier was a natural transition. He owned one horse, and had become enthralled with horses as a young boy, when his older sister worked summers at a dude ranch and had taken him trail riding. According to Tessier, his own farrier indicated that he was retiring, and told Tessier that he saw a need for farriers and blacksmiths. 

Tessier enrolled in a horse breaking and training school in Oklahoma, and then attended Montana State University for blacksmithing and farrier education. He also studied horse anatomy and foot flight biomechanics to learn how to most effectively correct faults in a horse’s gait. 

Tessier said his professor at Montana State told students, “To be a farrier, you need the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Samson, and the patience of Job.”

“It’s absolutely true,” Tessier said, laughing.

Tessier said that, while out West, he encountered the “Cowboy Code of Ethics,” which led to a kind of spiritual renewal within himself. According to Tessier, the cowboy code of ethics provides the “common working man” with a set of guidelines for living “with integrity and character.” 

Following the cowboy code requires that a farrier or any other worker “present to the client a good attitude about what you’re doing and (give) more than a fair day’s work,” Tessier said. “I want to give that client more than they expect. I give them the best I’m capable of giving.”

Tessier predicts his career as a blacksmith farrier will most likely last only a few more years. “It’s demanding physically,” he said. An average length farrier career is 12½ years, he said. Tessier has endured 14 pairs of broken ribs, multiple concussions, hernias and other broken bones in his work with horses.

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