Mother, daughter duo tackles horse care one hoof at a time
PLATTEVILLE – When Eli Hoyt started her farrier business – she shoes horses for a living – 20 years ago, she knew her given name of Elizabeth probably wouldn’t work on a business card.
“So I shortened to the first three letters,” she said while working on three horses belonging to Travis Conklin, who lives east of here.
“It was a marketing thing,” Hoyt explained. “I knew if I had Elizabeth on my business card, chances were good I probably wouldn’t be getting many calls.” But even now, 20 years later, she’ll show up at a new client’s home, climb down out of her GMC pickup and the first words out of the client’s mouth might be, “where’s your husband?”
Well, she doesn’t have one. But she does have her youngest daughter, Rachel, 14, who is now a partner in the business, Diamond E Horseshoeing.
“She’s been riding with me to jobs since she was born. But then since I’m a single mom, she didn’t have much of a choice,” Eli said. “We have a lot of fun together.”
That became quickly evident as they worked on Conklin’s three horses, a paint gelding called Hollywood, a 19-year-old gelding, a former roping horse he calls Tater, and a pretty little mare that answers to Shilo. On that day recently, all three got new shoes, which Conklin said he has done every six weeks to two months during the summer and about twice during the winter, when the hooves of horses don’t grow as much.
Hoyt, he added, has been his farrier since he lived near Milliken about six years ago. He moved to his present home a couple of years ago.
“But she’s more than a farrier. She also a friend, a physiologist and a vet. She’s saved me a bunch of money over the years (on veterinary calls),” Conklin said, who added that he grew up in Wyoming but didn’t get interested in horses until later in life. Now, he said, he uses them for pleasure riding and on hunting trips.
“I’ve never used anyone else and I don’t intend to use anyone else,” he said. “But then how many guys get to stand around and watch a woman work?”
Eli and Rachel laughed at that, then Eli added, “If you think a barber hears things, you ought to hang around and listen to things a horseshoer hears.”
Eli said she got started in the business when she decided to go to the Oklahoma Horseshoeing School in Oklahoma City, and after finishing, she student taught at the school for a year before starting Diamond E Horseshoeing.
“I’m a diamond in the rough,” she said with a laugh when asked about the business name. Rachel just rolled her eyes.
She and her youngest daughter – an older daughter Brittany, 20, attends a community college in Virginia – work as a team with Eli removing the old shoes, trimming hooves, putting on the new shoes, then turning things over to Rachel who does the finishing work.
“She does the important part, making sure they stay on once I put them (shoes) on,” Eli said. While both daughters grew up around horses – Eli has two horses of her own – the elder of the two girls didn’t show much interest, although now that Rachel is working with her mom, Eli said Brittany feels like she may have missed something. Rachel has been working with her mother for the past two years.
“I’ve been riding horses since I was born, but then I really didn’t have much choice,” Rachel said.
“She’s working on a business degree and may, at some point, open her own horse boarding business, so I guess something rubbed off,” Eli said of the older of her two girls. Rachel, on the other hand, said she’s saving her money “to buy a truck,” adding, off-hand, a better one that her mother drives.
It’s that kind of banter that flies between the two as they work on the horses, who, Eli said, can get less than cooperative at times.
But with her daughter at her side, they can handle twice the number of horses in a day than she can working alone.
“It used to take me an hour to do a horse, but with Rachel, it takes half that time,” Eli siad.
On a good day, she said, they are able to put new shoes on 13 horses, and, with each animal, that includes checking for other problems an animal might have in addition to a new for new shoes. That, she said, saves clients some veterinary bills, “which veterinarians might not like, but that’s just me.”
It’s not easy every time, however. Over the years, she’s suffered broken fingers, broken ribs, more than a few bruises, and even a skull fracture. She even works, on occasions, with stallions, who she said can be “very tempermental” and she will not work on a stallion late in the day, particularly if she’s been around a mare. “They smell that mare on me and just go nuts.”
But she’s learned, over the years, tricks to the trade.
“It’s all in the way you approach them. Approaching is all important, with animals as well as humans,” she said as she removed the shoes off Shilo. Working with clients in Boulder County, she added, is not the same as working with those in Weld or other rural areas.
Old shoes, she said, she gives to clients, many of whom use them in arts and crafts such as coat racks, table lamps and the such. She gets her supply of new shoes and other items required for her job from a farrier supply company in Berthoud. In the trailer she pulls behind her pickup, she may carry as many as 50 different styles and sizes of horseshoes, which she hammers into the shape needed for a particular hoof.
“You just never know what you might run into,” she said.
Hoyt said she has clients from Grand Junction in western Colorado to southwest Nebraska and from Lusk, Wyo., to south-central Colorado. She does volunteer work for Donkey Rescue, based in Bennett, and is on call to help with abused donkeys and horses.
“I look at this as being a God-given gift that I don’t intend to waste,” Hoyt said.