The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

  • Snow.2
    FIRST SNOW—Heavy, wet flakes piled deep on tree branches—and windshields—as the area received its first significant snowfall of the season. “Usually it begins with a dusting or two,” said George Isobar, Morenci’s observer for the National Weather Service, “but this time it came with a vengeance.” By the end of the day Saturday, a little over four inches of snow was on the ground. Now comes the thaw with temperatures in the 40s and 50s for three days.
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    SKEWERS, gumdrops, and marshmallows are all that’s needed to create interesting shapes and designs for Layla McDowell Saturday at Stair District Library’s “Sculptamania!” Open House. The program featuring design games and materials is one part of a larger project funded by a $7,500 Curiosity Creates grant from Disney and the American Library Association. Additional photos are on page 7.
    Morenci marching band members took to the field Friday night dressed for Halloween during the Bulldog’s first playoff game. Morenci fans had a bit of a scare until the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs scored 30 points to leave Lenawee Christian School behind. Whiteford visits Morenci this Friday for the district championship game. From the left is Clayton Borton, Morgan Merillat and James O’Brien.
    DNA PUZZLE—Mitchell Storrs and Wyatt Mohr tackle a puzzle representing the structure of DNA. There’s only one correct way for all the pieces to fit. It’s one of the new materials that can be used in both biology and chemistry classes, said teacher Loretta Cox.
  • Front.tar.wide
    A TRAFFIC control worker stands in the middle of Morenci’s Main Street Tuesday morning, waiting for the next flow of vehicles to be let through from the west. The dusty gravel surface was sealed with a layer of tar, leaving only the application of paint for new striping. The project was completed in conjunction with county road commission work west of Morenci.
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    JUNIORS Jazmin Smith and Trevor Corkle struggle against a team from the sophomore class Friday during the annual tug of war at the Homecoming Games pep rally. Even the seniors struggled against the sophomores who won the competition. At the main course of the day, the Bulldog football team struggled against Whiteford in a homecoming loss.
    YOUNG soccer players surived a chilly morning Saturday in Morenci’s PTO league. From the left is Emma Cordts, Wayne Corser, Carter and Levi Seitz, Briella York and Drew Joughin. Two more weeks of soccer remain for this season.
  • Front.ropes
    BOWEN BAUMGARTNER of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge constructed by the Tecumseh Boy Scout troop Sunday at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The bridge was one of many challenges, displays and games set up for the annual Youth Jamboree by the Michigan DNR. Additional photos on are the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.homecoming Court
    One of four senior candidates will be crowned the fall homecoming queen during half-time of this week’s Morenci-Whiteford football game. In the back row (left to right) is exchange student Kinga Vidor (her escort will be Caylob Alcock), seniors Alli VanBrandt (escorted by Sam Cool), Larissa Elliott (escorted by Clayton Borton), Samantha Wright (escorted by JJ Elarton) and Justis McCowan (escorted by Austin Gilson), and exchange student Rebecca Rosenberger (escorted by Garrett Smith). Front row freshman court member Allie Kaiser (escorted by Anthony Thomas), sophomore Marlee Blaker (escorted by Nate Elarton) and junior Cheyenne Stone (escorted by Dominick Sell).
  • Front.park.lights
    GETTING READY—Jerad Gleckler pounds nails to secure a string of holiday lights on the side of the Wakefield Park concession stand while other members of the Volunteer Club and others hold them in place. The volunteers showed up Sunday afternoon to string lights at the park. The decorating project will continue this Sunday. Denise Walsh is in charge of the effort this year.
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Penny Sutton: Farrier 2009.07.29

Written by David Green.


When Penny Sutton approaches her client, Cruiser, she looks him in the eye and says a few kind words. She reaches up to take his halter and moves in close for a little smooch.penny.sutton.jpg

This woman loves horses—such amazing creatures, she says—and she’s here to serve them.

The tools of her trade are lodged in the many pockets of her farrier’s apron or stuck fast against magnets on the side of her hoof jack.

She slides a hand down the tendons at the back of Cruiser’s leg and pauses a moment. Then she lifts the foot up to view the bottom of the hoof and turns herself around to straddle the leg.

Now the work begins.

Cruiser is a special case. While many of Penny’s clients go “barefoot” without a horseshoe nailed to the bottom, Cruiser has a pair of shoes.

“The only reason Cruiser has shoes is because he has a problem with cracking,” Penny said. “If we didn’t address it, he could develop some serious problems.”

That’s only his front legs. When it gets to the rear, Penny will follow her usual routine:

She picks up the foot and cleans out debris, then sets it down and takes a good look at the shape of the hoof.

Penny draws a file across the flat surface of the hoof to remove the dead sole, then trades the file for a set of giant nippers to trim around the edge of the hoof. She uses a file to smooth away the rough edges.

Next she attends to the frog—the spongy center in the middle of the hoof.

“It’s known as the little heart of the horse,” Penny explains, since it helps circulate blood throughout a horse’s foot as it walks.

She shapes the frog to remove loose edges that could cause discomfort. Finally, she sights along the hoof one more time to see that it’s level. The hairline (coronet) will rise slightly in an unbalanced area.farrier.filing.jpg

Penny’s goal is to create an angle along the front of the hoof that matches the angle of the pastern—the pair of bones directly above the hoof. This is where the word “natural” comes into play in the name of her business, Penny’s Natural Horseshoeing.

“I wouldn’t want to do work that isn’t good for the horse,” she said.

For example, a showier, taller hoof changes the natural angle and it’s likely to result in ligament damage.

But how natural is all of this filing and trimming? A horse in the wild wouldn’t receive a visit from a farrier.

“Some people think [hoof care] doesn’t have to be done because horses in the wild don’t have it, but in the wild, horses are moving all the time,” Penny said, and that movement can help shape the hoof to some extent. A horse can do additional work on its own.

“Studies of wild mustangs have shown them filing their hooves on rocks,” Penny said.

That doesn’t mean horses in the wild are without foot problems. Only the strong survive, she said, and a horse like Cruiser wouldn’t make it. But he has Penny to help him out.

“I prefer to let my horses go barefoot if I can,” said Lisa Mynhier, Cruiser’s owner, “but he started having problems.”

“A good number of my clients go without shoes,” Penny said, “but when you run into certain issues, there’s no way around it.”

She’s pleased that Lisa understands the need.

“Lisa is the epitome of a good owner,” says Penny.

She keeps on schedule—trimming about every six weeks in the summer, every eight weeks in the spring and fall, and every 10 weeks in the winter—and she keeps in close contact with Penny.

“The communication between the owner and the farrier is so important,” Penny said. “People don’t communicate enough.”

The first step last week with Cruiser was to file off the clencher nails to release the horseshoe. Then the normal trimming process could get underway.

After that it was time to reshape the shoe by grinding off sharp angles. Penny tows a mobile workshop built by her husband. There’s a grinding wheel, drill press and other machines, tools and materials she’ll need on the road.

She pounds on the ends of a shoe to bring in the “heels,” then flattens it again to even it out. The goal is to avoid having an edge of the shoe catch on something and pull loose.

Horseshoes aren’t known to be one-size-fits-all, and it’s very rare for one to fit without some shaping. Each foot tells a story, Penny says.

And what about Penny’s story?

“I started riding when I was five years old,” she said, but there came a time when she drifted away from horses.

She became an EMT at age 18 and later earned paramedic certification. She liked the work, but the pay wasn’t going to allow her to own horses.

She enjoyed the challenges of the ambulance services for many years, but the four-legged giants remained in her heart.

“I finally went back to what my passion is—horses.”

Penny decided to attend the Michigan School of Horseshoeing and then traveled with two farriers from Jackson County to gain practical experience. She’s been on her own now for eight years.

“I love going to work,” she said. “You get to work with some amazing animals, from back yard lawn ornaments to $50,000 jumpers.”

She lives near Morenci and has clients in three counties other than Lenawee. She serves about 300 horses in all.

“It’s come to be a pretty challenging job. You learn something new about horses every time you go out.”

Just when she thinks she’s mastered the art, she’ll encounter a horse that will kick her back to reality. It was a kick—literally—that put her out of commission recently. A kick from a horse she’d never met before resulted in five broken ribs—the first injury of her career.

The episode proved to be both painful and aggravating, but she’s back on the job and enjoying every minute.

“You find out you’re a stronger person and that you can do some things you didn’t think you could do,” she said, stepping around Cruiser, sweat showing on her face from exertion.

Her career as a paramedic brought plenty of satisfaction, but life as a farrier is even better.

“The same satisfaction I got with a good outcome from helping a person, I feel it even more with a horse. To watch the healing as a horse goes from lame to well—it brings a euphoria.”

• Penny Sutton can be reached by calling 517/812-3247.

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