Russ Sanders shoes horses throughout SLO County.
Photo by Jake Peterson / Special Contributor – Journalism 201A
By Jake Peterson
Russ Sanders, a veteran bull rider, shoes horses in San Luis Obispo county — including those from the top-ranking, national award winning Cuesta rodeo team.
A skillful horse shoer, like Sanders, can be the make it or break it factor for competitive rodeo horse, like Cuestaâ€™s.
Sanders rode bulls professionally until he was 27, when he decided to fully transition to just shoeing horses. Shoeing horses is a very physical job with a lot of varying hours, according to Sanders.
â€œMy back hurts everyday, but I am used to it,â€ Sanders said about the strain it takes on his body.
He travels to different towns across San Luis Obispo county to shoe his clients horses. Typically he travels in an 80 mile radius, but sometimes will travel farther for friends or special circumstances.
Sanders has many different clients, including those who enter their horses in competitions — much like the upcoming and popular Cal Poly Rodeo, which the prestigious Cuesta team dominated last year.
Sanders has been in the business since 2004. He initially started shoeing horses while he was rodeoing full time because it was the only job he could keep.
He estimated that he shoes around 25 horses in a typical week. Shoeing that many horses per week is a full time job. He said that entering into the horseshoeing business is fairly easy as a person can either attend a horseshoeing school or apprentice with a journeyman.
Sanders said the best thing about this type of work is that the hours are very flexible and the schedule is customizable.
The business faces some competition from other farriers around the area, but Sanders said:
â€œIf you keep your clients happy they will stay with you,â€ and he said around 80 percent of his clients are regulars.
Like many others, during the recession he faced a slight financial hardship as 90 percent of his clients have hobby horses, with only about 10 percent being working horses.
â€œItâ€™s a physically demanding job thatâ€™s hard on your body and has no benefits,â€ Sanders said. Though he has experienced many things in his job, this was his only complaint.
He plans on staying in this business for about 10 more years and then he will go into ranching and farming full time.
However, Sanders enjoys staying involved with the profession and especially giving pointers to members of Cuestaâ€™s rodeo team.