Gilbert gives up hospital surgery for horse corrals
Larissa Gilbert carefully placed a soft rope around the hind leg of a cantankerous mare last month—a horse that didn’t want to be caught, much less have its hooves trimmed. Then Gilbert gently pulled up on the rope, pulling the hind leg toward her while preventing the mare from kicking out. After a couple of abortive attempts and much soothing talk to the horse, it finally allowed Gilbert to cradle the leg in her lap long enough to trim the hoof, without getting kicked in the process.
Not bad for a woman who completed farrier school in California just a couple months ago, at the age of 45. More than a few male farriers have given up the trade by then, tired of dealing with rambunctious horses or the injuries and back pain that too often plague people in the trade.
But Gilbert has always followed her own career paths.
A native of Colorado’s Front Range with deep family ties to Mesa County, Gilbert regularly visited her grandparents here as a child. She knew she eventually wanted to live her. Before that occurred, she became a U.S. Navy Corpsman trained in the medical field.
Later, she became a surgical technician, and she worked at the Grand Valley Surgical Center for 10 years.
But, she said, “I really wanted to get out of the operating room and do something with animals.” She began to move in that direction 14 years ago, when she started a part-time business called Leave it to Larissa, through which she did pet-sitting, livestock care and home care for people going on vacation or otherwise in need of assistance. That business grew enough that she soon had to hire additional people to assist her.
With her own animals to care for, and a tight budget, Gilbert said, “I started trimming (the hooves of) my own minis (miniature horses) about seven years ago.”
She found she had a talent for horse hoof care, and began apprenticing with Fruita farrier Brian Crandall about 18 months ago. She also began to develop a clientele of her own, which made her consider more training.
“I wanted to go to school because I didn’t think apprenticing would be enough for myself, for my clients or the horses I work on.”
So she enrolled in Pacific Coast Horseshoeing School near Sacramento, Calif., the same one Crandall attended when he decided to take up shoeing and one of the predominant farrier schools in the West. She completed the eight-week course early this year, then began working again with Crandall and Dwight Marney, another long-time and well-known farrier in the Grand Valley.
Much of that work involved assisting the two more-experienced farriers as they did corrective shoeing on horses with special problems. And it hasn’t been without incident.
“I got picked up and tossed a couple of weeks ago,” Gilbert said. Working with Crandall and veterinarian Braden Shafer, she recalled, “We had sedated a stallion, and I was taking pictures. He woke up and grabbed me by the lower back, and the next thing I know I was in the ground several feet away.”
She received a painful, but not serious, injury from the horse’s bite.
Most of Gilbert’s own clients to date have horses that just need their hooves trimmed, rather than having shoes put on. That was the case for Desert Edge Therapy near Palisade on east Orchard Mesa earlier this month, where these photos were shot. But Gilbert said she is gradually adding new clients, many of whom want their horses shod.
Because of her own experience with minis, Gilbert is also developing as a specialist with the tiny horses, something many other farriers are not as eager to do because the minis are so small it’s often hard for a farrier to get low enough to work on them.
Gilbert forged her own cradle for holding the hoofs of minis, as well as a hoof stand for them.
But she remains committed to providing hoof care for all types of horses and mules. It’s a tough and demanding job. But it is, after all, a way for her to work with animals.
Larissa Gilbert can be reached at 970-260-8336. Visit her website at http://www.l2lpetsitting.com.