Meet the female farrier who started at 16

Jamie Westland Wandell excels in a field dominated by men. She is a farrier and travels to stables around Kane and DuPage counties, where she fits horses with shoes, trims their hoofs and forges horseshoes.

Westland Wandell, 31, has had her own business since age 16 and is a third-generation farrier.

“There wasn't a time in my life I remember not having horses or ponies,” she said.

During one summer vacation when she was 15, her dad got her up out of bed and put her to work helping him shoe horses, and she's been at it ever since.

Traditionally it's a male-dominated field, but Westland Wandell says more and more women are getting into it, especially in northern Illinois.

“Women are built a little bit more for it because the best horseshoers are short and stocky,” she said.

Westland Wandell specializes in corrective shoeing.

“They say no foot, no horse because it is the foundation of the horse.”

When a horse has problems in the hoof it can cause other problems throughout the whole body.

“If you have a good farrier, you can avoid those problems,” she said.

She thought about going to veterinary school but opted to be a farrier instead. She likes that she can be around animals every day and help them stay healthy without having to take emergency calls at night.

The job of a farrier is very physical and Westland Wandell says the biggest mistake young people make is going to trade school without becoming an apprentice.

“You have to do it the way they did it 100 years ago. You have to go apprentice with someone,” she said.

People can then find out if they like it and are able to do it physically, she said.

Westland Wandell went to shoeing school for advanced blacksmithing and she keeps up with the changes in the business and the anatomy of the horse by doing a lot of reading.

“Things get debunked and change all the time and I keep up with that. I actually change the way I do things,” she said.

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