You don't often hear a person describe the day he lost his job as, "one of the best days of my life." But that's exactly what it turned out to be for Joe McClellan who says that he almost had to contain his excitement when he received notice of his 2010 layoff.
"I knew I had to get out of that situation but it was a hard decision," said Joe. "When I lost my job, the decision was made for me."
After graduating from Drexel with a degree in both architectural and civil engineering in 1996, Joe moved from Pennsylvania to Colorado to begin his life as an engineer and to spend as much time as possible riding his bike, skiing, and enjoying the great outdoors.
"I've always been a huge ski bum and I just fell in love with the mountains," he said. "My whole focus was always to move out to Colorado someday."
Joe moved to Colorado in 1997 alone, without a job, and with about $500 to his name. Luckily, during the building boom of the late 90's, it wasn't hard for an engineer to find a job and Joe was employed within about 3 weeks.
Shortly after moving to Colorado, Joe met a friend who was a horsewomen and through her, he rekindled his childhood interest in everything equine. He began taking riding lessons and even purchased his lesson horse, Winston, who has become one of his best friends. Joe spent time learning about horses, specifically hoof care, from the unique viewpoint of an engineer.
Joe learned the basic nuts and bolts of how a healthy hoof works and began doing barefoot trims on Winston, and on friends' horses. Eventually he connected with a professional farrier named Rick Binger who agreed to take Joe on as an apprentice.
"Rick was an engineer before he became a professional farrier so we had that in common," said Joe.
It was when Joe was laid-off from his engineering job in 2010 that he decided to take his hobby as a farrier and turn it into a new career opportunity. Within a few months of training under Rick, Joe had enough skills to pass his certification in April 2011.
"The engineering background I had, and the fact that I was training under another engineer really helped me pass my certification on the first try," said Joe. "It is a grueling test that not many people pass the first time around."
Joe explained that the engineered approach to shoeing and trimming that his company, Iron Horse Hoof Care, LLC, provides, allows the hoof to functions as nature intended it too, taking full advantage of all of the built-in structural components of the hoof.
"Since the hoof is the foundation system and the skeletal system is nothing more than a frame, I'm able to use my skills as a structural engineer to help provide support to the horse," he said. "I can do the math and prove how a lot of strain is put on the hoof when it is distorted in a certain way. I never thought that my education and training as an engineer would become so useful and beneficial to our equine friends."
When asked what the hardest part of starting Iron Horse Hoof Care was, Joe replied, "The most challenging thing was getting my name out there and creating a good reputation for myself."
Since its inception just over a year ago, Joe's company has acquired hundreds of clients, keeping him very busy.
"I hope my business will keep growing," he said. "I'll do whatever I can to take on new clients because you never know who your next best client will be, or who you might lose." Joe said that he would also like to take on an apprentice, giving someone the same opportunity that Rick gave him.
Reflecting back on his journey to Iron Horse Hoof Care, Joe said that he had no idea he would someday be an entrepreneur.
"I just kind of fell into it," he said. "I'm definitely better off now than I have ever been because I do what I love."
To learn more about Joe's story and about Iron Horse Hoof Care, visit ironhorsehoofcare.com.
Alumni in the West Deptford, New Jersey area are invited to the Alumni Career Services program, "Enhancing Your Career Through Entrepreneurship," on October 3. Guest speaker and entrepreneur Chuck Sacco '96 will discuss how entrepreneurial thinking can assist you in your current career or how it can help you get started on developing ideas for the future. Register now!