From Bob’s Big Boy to sheet metal work: It all comes together
Mustad Rep Tim Shannon, CJF, AWCF likes to use the word “convergence” to describe his career. It’s spot on.
Before becoming a full-time farrier, Tim had some unexpectedly useful experiences. He’d been around horses since high school, he was showing jumpers, breaking out two-year-olds at a cutting horse ranch, and he had taken an introduction to horseshoeing course at Cal Poly Pomona. He was also doing some weekend shoeing.
But he’d picked up a few more skills in some unlikely places.
Tim worked at Bob’s Big Boy restaurants, starting at entry-level positions and working his way up to managing and then training managers. It may not have been clear at the time, but understanding how to run a business and how to talk to customers, would serve him well later on.
Ultimately, though, Tim was working at a sheet metal shop when everything just seemed to come together. Because he could do every job in the shop, Tim was making above scale. When a new owner asked him to take a significant pay cut or lose his job, it was clear that the time had come to make some hard decisions.
The ninth-month limit on unemployment comp at the time gave him a very specific window to change his life, reinforce his farrier skills, and build a sustainable business. He took it.
I realized I liked working. I just didn't like working where someone else was making decisions that could affect my life.
First, you build a practice. Then, you define one.
Tim found an apprenticeship and started focusing on earning his AFA Journeyman certification.
But certification was important for reasons that extended beyond skills. “You’re building your network. You’re all going to clinics together. You’re going through successes and failures together. You’re seeing who’s resilient and gravitating toward them.”
With a handful of accounts he picked up when his mentor moved to Texas, and his own hard work, Tim developed a book of business. Motivated by a new marriage, a new family, and new bills to pay, he doubled down even more.
Then he realized, having built his business, he still needed to define the kind of service he offered. If he didn’t manage his business, it would manage him. So he thought about what he wanted his clientele to look like and what kind of work he wanted to do: as someone who always welcomed a challenge, he hoped to work with world-class competitors.
When a client moved her horse to a training facility for three-day eventers, he saw his opportunity. Tim had both the skills and the know-how to seize it. And it certainly didn’t hurt that he also had the manners to thank her for trusting in him.
You can say no. You can say yes. You can define who you want to be.
“I was a part of a team again.”
Horseshoeing has its own demands. Horseshoeing for competitive eventers adds a few more.
Besides high-level horseshoeing skills and solid business practices, biomechanics are more important than ever. Communication and teamwork are indispensable. In a three-day, multi-discipline event bracketed with vet inspections and drug tests, time is of the essence. There’s no margin for error.
Consider just one example, involving a horse that wasn’t even a regular client. At a national qualifying event at Galway Downs in Southern California, an FEI four-star horse had struck its hind hoof, leaving a nasty star-shaped wound. It simply couldn’t put weight on the back of its hoof.
After consulting with the vet to make sure there was no structural damage, Tim built a custom package to shift the animal’s weight bearing. A bodyworker then iced the leg, and Tim checked it again at four in the morning. Just a few hours later, a rider warmed the horse up with some easy movements, leaving everyone waiting to see if this 11th-hour strategy would pay off.
And, unbelievably, the horse was able to jog sound in front of judges, which meant it could compete. With another rounding of icing, the horse was able to jump competitively—and even qualify for the nationals.
'If it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ doesn’t apply at the highest levels of competition. There it’s, 'it ain’t broke, but how can I make this better?'
After a setback, a leap forward.
Tim has continued to grow, both professionally and personally. Interestingly, one of his biggest breakthroughs didn’t feel like one at the time.
“When I first tried to get my Associates with the Worshipful Company of Farriers, I could not finish the practical shoeing. I got out of sync, and I started thinking that I’d squandered 18 months of time, education, and family treasure. I was able to regroup for the remaining tests but I’d failed. Of course, I was gung-ho and wanted to try again right away, even if it meant flying to England. But, they said, no, wait a year. That was humbling.”
“When re-testing the following year, I met one of the judges, and I told him I’d competed at WCB events to get ready. He asked which ones. I said, ‘All of them.’”
“Frankly, even if I hadn’t passed, the preparation would have been worth it. I learned so much about forging and commitment to craft and generosity from competing. It made me a better man. Craig Trnka and another farrier both helped me forge for hours at a clinic in New Mexico, taking the time to teach me sectioning. They also taught me what it meant to give back to the craft.”
Those hard-earned insights have pushed him to study how people learn—and how he can best share what he knows. And that’s led to more learning, presentations at conferences and clinics, and even a teaching gig in India with the Flying Anvil Foundation.
Someone I respected told me, ‘There are people who can do this as well as you can.’ Once I accepted that, I could see how collaboration could make us all better.
Q&A with Tim Shannon CJF, AWCF
Mustad is excited to have Tim on its team. In addition to his own practice, which includes many FEI Eventer and Endurance horses (which have competed at world games as well as the Olympics), he has competed at WCB events, presented at conferences, taught clinics and classes, and served on the board of the Northeastern Association of Equine Practitioners. Besides his certifications, he holds a Graduate Diploma of Equine Locomotor Research from the Royal Veterinary College of London. We asked Tim, author of the popular presentation, “The Modern Professional Farrier,” about his career and approach to farriery.
Do you have a particular client that sticks out to you?
"I was the Farrier for Disneyland for ten years. It was a weekly stop, with 20-35 horses in total. I shod the Main Street draft horses that pulled the streetcar. I made some copper shoes for Prince Charming’s horse while I was there. I was also the Farrier for Medieval Times for five years. I took care of about 30 of the Knights’ horses; they were also in the Rose Parade."
You were the world’s fastest mule shoer in 2008? What’s the story there?
Lee Green is a Hall of Fame farrier who I learned a lot from. He and his son Porter put on a mule shoeing contest at Mule Days in Bishop, California. I’d attend—mule people are fun people—and I watched Lee compete and win. Porter was also fast and won many times, but I beat him once by four seconds.
You’re just starting as a rep. But you’re not new to Mustad. Can you tell us about that?
I’ve always loved the nails and rasps, especially the endura-coated Slim Blade 5s, and endura-coated Concave nails. I use the St.Croix Forge Eventer Plus for my competitive horses and the Mustad TS8s and Delta Wides. I’ve always respected the company, and I’m thrilled to join the team.
What are you looking forward to in your new role?
Again, it’s a great convergence and a great partnership. I can offer my knowledge and my skills in teaching and communications. The position offers an opportunity to meet even more farriers and to work with younger farriers. And I think I complement the rest of the sales team really well. Todd Walker is a world-class forger, and I can offer insights into biomechanics. Rob, Kris, and David each have distinctive strengths as well.
What do you do for fun?
Living in Riverside, I’m an only hour away from the beach or fishing in alpine lakes.
You can connect with Tim on Facebook or on his Mustad Rep page and see more about him on YouTube.