On a mid-September day, tinged with a touch of fall, at the Pettis Family Farm in Laurel Hill, the horses enjoyed their idea of ââthe good life.
Blacksmith Josh Lewandowski paid a visit.
âI grew up with horses,â Lewandowski said. âWe call him blacksmith in Michigan. Down here they call him the farrier.
Lewandowski moved from Michigan in 2001 to Florida, although at the time he had another career path in mind.
âI moved to Florida for the housing market. We were building houses, but in 2003 there was a big real estate crash, âhe said.
The decrease in construction gave him a chance to reassess, and he went to the Oklahoma State Horseshoeing School in Ardmore, Oklahoma.
âI enjoyed it – I got the best test scores in my class,â Lewandowski said.
Despite the test results, getting started in the profession took hard work.
“It is certainly not an easy job to pick up,” he said. “You should plan to be broke for at least the first 10 years.”
After those lean years, Lewandowski said his experience allows him to choose his clients.
âI only do performance horses and work horses,â he said, adding that they are corrected by their owners more often, so they sit still. âThere are a lot of horses that don’t hold up well. I don’t deal with them.
âThat’s the thing for fresh farriers – who are fresh out of school,â Lewandowski said with a laugh.
He added that he took care of his share of hooves on difficult horses during his younger years.
On that September day at Pettis Farm, his last two clients of the day were Fast Eddie and Jazz. Eddie transports owner Bacarra Pettis through his barrel races, while Jazz and 10-year-old Laynee Pettis compete in junior rodeos.
Both horses have specific hoof needs and both keep well. Jazz, in particular, suffers from a negative palmer angle, which requires a pad between the hoof and the shoe.
âIt’s when his heel gets too low, basically like when you wear the heel of your cowboy boots,â Lewandowski said, as he took off the old shoe, cleaned the foot, trimmed nail growth, added medicinal balm, then replaced the pad. and fitted shoe. Jazz is not its only special shoe customer.
âI do blacksmithing,â Lewandowski said. âI make therapeutic horseshoes and the like. “
Over the past year, he has extended his blacksmithing to making knives and other blades, simply because he felt like doing something a little different.
Lewandowski serves much of Northwest Florida. As the single parent of 14-year-old daughter Rylie, he cuts his work week to five days. His regular clients work a five or six week schedule.
For Lewandowski, it is about horses, but also about the way he approaches the profession.
âI don’t keep myself at the level of someone else,â he said. “I stand by the way it’s supposed to be.”