MERIDEN, Iowa | Dani Rueter gets her kicks out of being a farrier.
What's a farrier? Fair question. It's a person who fits horses with shoes.
A popular job a century or so ago when every farm had horses as part of the daily operation, farriers have seen their numbers drop dramatically as manufacturers like John Deere, Massey Ferguson, Oliver and Allis-Chalmers took over as "horsepower" suppliers across the United Staets.
Still, there are horse enthusiasts that dot Siouxland's landscape. And for every quarter horse running barrels and chasing calves on the rodeo circuit, there's a farrier standing behind.
Or, under them, as the case may be.
"You get kicked, stepped on and tossed," says Dani Rueter, a farrier who has worked in the trade part-time since 2007. "You have to be able to get up. I tore an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) shoeing a horse my first year. I had to have surgery."
Luckily, Rueter had a second job upon which to fall back. She still works for Foundation Analytical Lab in nearby Cherokee, Iowa, by day. She devotes weekends and some nights to trimming and shoeing horses.
It costs $80 to shoe a horse. Horses should be trimmed each eight weeks as their hooves grow like a human's fingernails. A horse should get new shoes every six to eight weeks.
Trimming, a practice whereupon Rueter uses a nipper and a rasp to level each hoof, takes 15 minutes. To shoe and trim a horse? It's an hour. An anvil is used to customize the shape of each shoe for the horse.
"Three horses is a good number in a day," said Rueter, explaining the time and physical constraints. "The most I've done is 19 in a day."
That's a lot, when you consider a mature quarter horse, like Rueter's Magnum, can top 1,200 pounds. Rueter races Magnum in barrels in the rodeo circuit.
"Magnum began having problems and I started thinking about becoming a farrier," Rueter said. "He wasn't running like he should, which caused problems."
Rueter, a Paullina, Iowa, native who studied animal science while attending South Dakota State University on a rodeo scholarship at the time, decided to take a one-semester trimming class. She followed that with a one-semester shoeing class.
"After that, I liked shoeing, so I took a six-week course at Butler Professional Farrier School in Chadron, Neb.," she said. "The class is eight hours per day."
Her sister, Madi Lange of Paullina, started at the school in Chadron in early January. She too, is intent on joining this trade.
Rueter, who said her younger sister plans to work outside the area, knows of three farriers within 40 miles of her home near Meriden, in Cherokee County.
She predicts there's enough demand -- and such scant supply -- that she could make a full-time go of it as a farrier. However, family demands right now are such that she can't. She and husband Eric Rueter have a 1-year-old daughter in Lexi.
"Last year I was pregnant with Lexi, so that cut back on my work a little. It's hard to shoe and be pregnant at the same time," Dani Rueter said. "It may take a few years to work up to this full time."