Like old-time physicians whose medical practice involved carrying a bag filled with medical instruments, Gassner, 40, travels to the horse. His pickup truck pulls a small trailer loaded with tools of his trade: hoove trimmers, rasps and files, knives, sledge and horseshoe nailing hammers and a sturdy anvil to use in shaping horseshoes to a perfect fit.
Gassner starts a typical house call by checking the horse’s overall condition, in particular the condition of the hooves.
“I’ll trim and balance the hooves and, if necessary, I shoe them,” he said. “Like a foundation of a church, if a horse’s feet are not in good condition it could go lame.”
A former truck driver who has five children ages 2 to 12, Gassner considered becoming a farrier in 1999 at the urging of his wife.
“I thought about it for a year and finally quit my job in 2000 and went to farrier school,” he said.
Gassner attended the Oklahoma Horseshoeing School in Purcell, Okla., earning certification as a journeyman farrier.
While he usually finds himself leaning into a horse to steady himself as he plies his craft, Gassner soon found his customers like to lean into him emotionally and share their life problems.
“I can be under the hoof, whittling or rasping away or tacking a shoe on and people will be asking questions. The customers tell me their problems and I listen to them. Sometimes I almost feel like a therapist,” Gassner said.
Gassner, a member of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Parish in Greenville, often turns to God for answers to people’s questions.
Your Catholic Neighbor
Name: Steve Gassner
Parish: St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception, Greenville
Favorite saint: Faustina
Words to live by: “Suffering is the greatest treasure on earth. It purifies the soul. …
“If a customer asks for advice I give it to them, a lot of times in a religious or spiritual fashion,” Gassner said. “I believe 100 percent in our Catholic faith, especially our relationship with the Blessed Mother, St. Faustina and the other saints.”
Gassner said his Catholic faith has helped him deal with challenges in his own life.
“I can relate to a lot of people I meet that have those same challenges, but don’t have the faith,” Gassner said. “I try to explain to them how Christ is in our lives and how that can make it a little easier to get through the challenges of life. You have to have that trust in God. The Blessed Mother and St. Faustina, even though they didn’t know where they were going, they put their trust in God.”
Gassner said his customers are receptive to his suggestions.
“Most of it is being honest, up front and truly genuine with the customers,” he said. “They just keep asking questions. When questions of faith come into it they seem to hunger for answers.”
Gassner said he feels like God put him into his life as a farrier in order to use his skills and interest in horses to bond with horse owners.
“It’s a vocation,” Gassner said. “It’s almost like being called to the priesthood or religious life. It’s a separate vocation within my work life.”
Oftentimes, conversation turns to prayer, he said.
“In particular there’s one woman, a customer and fallen-away Catholic,” Gassner said. “We’ve prayed a lot. She’s currently going through phases where she is slowly returning to her Catholic faith. We are whittling away at questions she’s had about her faith, like why we do what we do or what we believe in. It’s just a little baby step here and there.”
Gassner gave the woman of copy of “Rediscovering Catholicism,” by author Matthew Kelly.
“It seems to be bringing her closer to, maybe even back to her faith,” he said.
Conversing with customers has an added benefit: It soothes nervous horses at a time Gassner is trying to steady the leg and foot of a 500-plus pound animal in order to trim, rasp or shoe a hoof with a mouth full of nails.
Gassner said he feels God presents him opportunities to share his faith.
“It’s a grace. God is always presenting us with a grace,” Gassner said. “Any opportunity I have with a customer who is even thinking about coming back to the faith I feel I have an obligation to sow the seed.”