At age 20, Jake Kraus is most likely one of the youngest farriers in Franklin County.
A farrier is a specialist in equine hoof care, including the trimming and balancing of horses’ hooves and the placing of shoes on their hooves, if necessary. A farrier combines some blacksmith’s skills with some veterinarian’s skills to care for horses’ feet.
Kraus grew up around the business. He started helping his father, Dusty Kraus, when he was 12 and shod his first horse when he was 15, under the direction of his father.
“It’s all I’ve ever done,” he said. “I have an extra vertebra in my back. I guess you could say I was born to do it.”
Kraus, of Pacific, is a third-generation farrier, hence the name for his business, Legacy Horseshoeing, which he started not long after graduating from high school.
Kraus said he is one of a handful in Franklin County who does “hot shoeing,” a practice akin to old-fashioned blacksmithing. He has a forge on the back of his pickup truck that he uses to heat the shoes so he can shape them for a more exact fit to the horse’s hoof.
He also can forge custom shoes for a horse from a flat strip of iron.
Kraus shoes every type of horse, from huge draft horses to little ponies, from high strung to the docile old dobbin. But no matter how experienced the farrier or gentle the horse, the job does come with its hazards.
“I’ve been kicked and bitten, just look at my arm,” he said pointing to a bandage around his wrist made of vet wrap for horses. “It probably happens at least once a day.”
Some breeds are easier to shoe, but he thinks Paso Finos are among the toughest because they “are like lightning and their legs go all over the place.”
“I got sucked under one one time,” he said. “I was working on a front foot and he raked me right under him. It looked like a thousand feet going everywhere, so I just did what everybody does and got in a fetal position.
“I had him tied with a piece of baling twine and it broke and he flipped right over me. I was so lucky.
Stuff like that happens.”
Likes the Challenge
Despite the hazards, Kraus said he has never met a horse he couldn’t shoe.
“It’s kind of a personal thing to me, I guess,” he said. “I like the challenge.”
Kraus learned much of the trade from his father and grandfather, but went to Heartland Farrier School in Lamar where he earned his basic farrier certification from the American Farriers Association (AFA).
He is working toward his journeyman’s certification, the highest level of certification through the organization.
Kraus said a higher certification level doesn’t necessarily mean a higher salary or more clients.
“It’s mainly just a personal thing,” he said.
One person who has had a big influence on Kraus and has inspired him to go to higher levels in the farrier certification is Chris Gregory, one of the founders of Heartland Horseshoeing School.
Gregory earned the title of Fellow of the Worshipful Company of Farriers (FWCF) at the age of 30.
The Worshipful Company of Farriers (WCF) is a group founded in London in 1356 and regarded by many as stewards of horseshoeing’s highest standards.
Only 35 farriers currently hold this distinction, four of those who are Americans, Gregory being one of them.
In 2010, the Company named Gregory an examiner, becoming the first American to work as an examiner for a WCF exam.
According to the WCF, the idea of protecting horses’ feet with some sort of material has ancient origins. It is believed that migratory Eurasian tribes were using some sort of hoof protection as early as 200 years B.C.
An ancient custom of burying horses with their masters has revealed that the Celts were probably the first people to nail shoes to the bottom of a horse’s hoof.
There also is evidence that horseshoes were used in Britain prior to and during the Roman invasion and occupation in the first century A.D.
The Norman invasion of Great Britain in the 11th century brought with it Norman farriers, who greatly influenced the British farrier trade. When Edward II took his army to France in 1359, forges for making horseshoes were included in his equipment.
Kraus said today the shoeing community is huge, but then it’s “so tight that everybody kind of knows each other.” He said he knows people from England, Canada, Australia and South Africa. He also knows a few women farriers and said women are becoming more prominent in the industry.
“My class had eight girls,” he said. “There’s a lot of (women farriers), just not in the St. Louis area.
The tall, slender, sandy-haired horseshoer wears a leather farrier’s apron like most in his trade, but his is embossed with the name “Dr. Love,” a nickname he earned not for the reason people might think.
He was at a rodeo for the Missouri Rodeo Cowboys Association finals and had to fill out a questionnaire beforehand for the announcer.
“You’ve got to put things like your hobbies, sports, stuff like that,” he said. “I knew the announcer so I thought I’d mess with him. I put things like birdwatching, walking on the beach and then this Dr. Pepper commercial came on and it had that song, ‘They call me Dr. Love,’ and so I put that on there too.
“So the rodeo comes and I thought, ‘He’s not going to announce any of that stuff and then the announcer says, ‘We’re going to Pacific, Mo., right now with the cowboy we affectionately call, Dr. Love.’ ”
Kraus said his instructor at farrier school found out about it and the nickname stuck.
“I don’t tell girls that, though.”
What Kraus will tell you is that he doesn’t shoe just to make a living, but does it for the benefit of the horse.
“Most of us full-time horseshoers are doing it because we want the horse’s feet to be healthy,” he said.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, Kraus can be reached at 314-440-4029.