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Teacher, farrier, survivor: Patience is the key in Eklund’s dual passions

By Molly Miron, Special to the Pioneer

Amy Eklund is a woman who excels in seemingly disparate life callings. During the school year, she teaches kindergarten at Horace May Elementary School. Summers, evenings and weekends, as a professional farrier she trims horses’ hooves and nails on their iron shoes.

“Patience is key for being a kindergarten teacher. If something doesn’t work, try something else,” Eklund said.

The same qualities of patience and understanding apply to managing horses, she said. “There’s a lot more to it than just cutting off hoof,” she said. “I just want to help horses and people to understand the importance of a healthy foot.”

Because, of course, without sound feet, a horse is useless.

Eklund, now in her ninth year as a kindergarten teacher, graduated from Bemidji State University and then went on to earn a Master of Elementary Education from Walden University online. “I grew up here and never left,” she said.

Teacher Amy Eklund works with some of her kindergarten students at Horace May Elementary. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

“It was really fun – better myself as a teacher so I’m doing the best for my students,” she said of attaining the advanced degree. “As with anything you do, there’s always more to learn.”

Eklund said she now teaches the siblings of children who were kindergartners in years past. She also keeps in touch with middle schoolers who were her students when they were 5 or 6 years old.

“It’s really fun to see them,” she said. “I joke with my kids, I’m so lucky. I get to go back to kindergarten every year.”

The same attitude of bettering herself applied to her decision in 2000 to enroll in the 12-week advanced farrier course at the Minnesota School of Horseshoeing in Anoka. A horse lover and equestrienne from the age of 4 or 5, and competitive barrel racer with the Minnesota Rodeo Association, Eklund said the horseshoeing techniques she learned ranged from equine anatomy to trimming feet, shoeing and working at a forge to create horseshoes from basic iron bar stock.

A curious cat stands guard as Eklund as she works on a quarter horse. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

Eklund said both of her professions bring fulfillment. And she shares some of her horseshoeing experiences with her students, many of whom have never thought of horse hooves. Eklund said they ask if nailing shoes on hurts the horses. She said she explains that the edges of the hooves are like the tips of the children’s toenails – hard and unfeeling.

“I truly love both of my jobs. I like the challenge. I like the busyness. Every day is a new adventure,” she said.

An unexpected challenge in Eklund’s life arose three years ago. She and her husband, Seth, a mechanic working for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, had a 2-year-old daughter, Alexa, at the time. But Eklund said she recognized that something was wrong with her body. The diagnosis was Hodgkin’s lymphoma, cancer requiring chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

Eklund uses a rasp to file the bottom of a horse’s hoof. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

She said she maintained a positive attitude and tried to keep up with teaching and her farrier work during cancer treatment, but it was a difficult time. She said another concern when she went into remission was whether she and Seth could have more children. The answer – and the blessing to their family – turned out to be yes. Their son, Luke, is now 18 months old.

“Seth and I were (Bemidji) high school sweethearts,” Eklund said.

Eklund said her experiences with horses, students and cancer have taught her important life lessons.

“It’s made me a stronger person, and my faith in God – He has a reason for everything,” she said. “I don’t give up on anything in life.”