You might imagine a horse farrier to be a big, burly, tough guy, flannel sleeves rolled up, muscling the great animal to fit on a horseshoe, all while giving the horse occasional digs when it plays up.
As a woman, Jocelyn Warren has had to learn to do things differently.
Munruben local Jocelyn practises a form of holistic horse care known as Equine Podiotherapy, a relatively small industry in Queensland.
Her range of care goes way beyond the aspect of horse-foot treatment implied in her job title.
Jocelyn is also a horse trainer and animal communicator, whose knowledge extends from horse anatomy and behaviour to nutrition and classical dressage.
She knows how to build a relationship with a horse, keep it calm, manage its behaviour, and protect herself while helping the animals.
Jocelyn also understands just how important a horse can be to its owner.
‘It became a real passion of mine,’ she explains. ‘When you fix a lame horse, you fix the psyche of the owner. That horse is everything to that person.’
An Equine Podiotherapist is a relatively new phenomena in the horse-care industry, and Jocelyn is one of few in Queensland.
‘We are an alternative for people who don’t want shoes on their horse,’ Jocelyn explains. ‘There’s a whole load of reason why it’s not really healthy to shoe horses.’
To shoe or not to shoe your horse? It’s a contentious topic among farriers and carers, but the trend appears to be leaning towards the natural, shoe-less option.
Jocelyn admits that this can come with its own set of potential issues, especially in the hot, humid Queensland climate.
‘To find the people who can create barefoot sound horses are few and far between, especially in Queensland,’ she says.
Being a woman also has its challenges in a physically tough profession and it has shaped the way that Jocelyn has approached her career.
‘Once you hit fifty you’re kind of invisible, so you’ve got to be really good at something,’ she explains.
‘To be as good as your farrier, or your big tough guy that comes along and can manhandle the horse, you’ve got to be smarter, because we don’t have the muscle to manhandle four to five hundred kilos of animal.’
‘We have to learn to liaise with the horse as a sentient being,’ Jocelyn says, ‘not just yank on them and say “here, we’re going to put the shoes on.”’
While her day primarily revolves around taking care of the horse’s health, Jocelyn also works with interested owners about improving their relationship with their horse.
She’s found that owners sometimes express surprise and curiosity when observing her in action, because of the positive and willing responses she often gets from their horses.
Part of building this connection involves understanding the horses’ behaviour and instincts, which Jocelyn says are geared for fight or flight.
‘The horse is fight or flight, they’re a prey animal. They know it, you will never take that away from the horse.’
Jocelyn knows horses, and she knows people as well. She says that when it comes to a horses’ health, the two can’t be separated.
‘You don’t really need to train horses,’ she explains. ‘You need to train people.’
‘I can get really blunt, I can get pretty tough,’ she admits.
Jocelyn has had her fair share of difficult life experiences, but says that when it comes to horses, grief has to be left at the door.
She’s worked with clients before who she could tell were experiencing tough times.
‘It’s about letting go and being there for your horse, and being mentally fit enough to be able to go, “I’m going to leave this at the door, build a relationship with my horse, because this is all I’ve got left.”’
‘Especially if someone is really sad and you can feel that coming from them, you don’t want their whole life story but you do want them to know that “Hey, I’m here for you, and your horse, and I’m here to make your life a little better.”’
‘I’m certainly here to make your horses life a little better, and you can’t help but be dragged along.’
Jocelyn’s formula for running a successful business is simple: be useful, and care about your clients.
‘I look after my clients because I’m available. I put myself out, but only when I want to, only when I need to, I make sure I have plenty of time for my clients.’
‘I get to know them, I get to know where they work, what time they’re home, I get to know whose birthdays are whose.’
Her valuable education, which she often imparts to owners for free, makes Jocelyn a much sought after podiotherapist in the area.
‘We become the people they can’t do without, and that is great for business. If you can be useful, then you are in business.’
‘I want to be looked at as someone approachable, because someone’s not going to listen to you if you’re not real.’
She offers a fair-priced service to clients who take care of their animals properly, but admits that her blunt approach doesn’t always sit well with some owners.
‘Sometimes they’ll walk away, but mostly they won’t, because I’ve already done two hours of training in the past couple of months, and they’ve seen how good the horses become. That’s another part of being useful in business.’
Jocelyn has been at it for fifteen years and is passionate about what she does, but she admits it wasn’t always that way.
‘To be honest, I didn’t want to do this job, I didn’t want to be here, as in farrier, horse carer, because it’s a hard job.’
It all began in Esperence, Western Australia, when circumstances forced Jocelyn and a number of other women to take their horses’ care into their own hands.
‘There were thousands of horses, and one farrier,’ Jocelyn explains. ‘Our horses were always lame.’
‘They should have been healthy, the feet should have been dry, it should have been beautiful, but it wasn’t.’
Without proper care, the horse’s feet overgrew and became ineffective in carrying their weight.
‘That’s where we come in and push the feet back where they belong – that takes specialist care.’
‘It takes a lot of skill and knowledge not just to trim the feet, it’s more about the angles, angles of the shoulders and the knees.’
The locals in Esperance hired a teacher to educate them on how to better care for their horse’s feet.
‘He would come every month and teach us ladies, about twenty of us, how to manage feet, how to do it the way his forefathers taught him.’
‘That’s where it started.’
He taught them how to ride too, but Jocelyn admits that she was too impatient to make a good rider.
‘I didn’t want to learn how to do feet,’ she says. ‘But there was no one else.’
‘I realised, we either learn it and how to handle the horse and create a willing horse, or we don’t, and they go lame.’
‘A lot of them get euthanised because of bad feet.’
‘This is an amazing job for young girls,’ Jocelyn says, but she admits that the work is hard and physically taxing.
Jocelyn invests a great deal in her health and work tools, spending thousands on high-quality equipment and chiropracting.
Part of her experience involves four years of Russian Martial Arts training, which gives her the knowledge to work without damaging her body.
Despite the physical hardships, Jocelyn can’t see herself doing anything different.
‘I just hope this lasts as long as I do.’