Today, I’m speaking with Ray Matthews. Before meeting Ray, I only knew him by his reputation of being the expert on trimming foals. This was because of his time spent as the resident farrier at Windfield’s Farm in Oshawa, Ontario. Windfield’s was a giant thoroughbred breeding operation that had over 700 horses at its peak. Through his time there, Ray’s focus was on improving the rotational and angular limb deformities that would inevitably come up in a breeding operation of that size. I finally got to meet Ray in person at a Foot for Thought clinic we held this spring where he imparted much of his wisdom on an engaged crowd of roughly 50 farriers and vets. I was so impressed with his presentation that I felt many other farriers needed to hear the lessons Ray shared with us so I approached him with my idea of doing an interview.
Several months later we found ourselves at the same horse show for a short window of time, so we quickly organized a sit-down. A great farrier and friend Mark Struthers and his partner Lauren Hunkin of Synergy Farm were gracious enough to lend us their dressing room, so please pardon all of the horse show noise is going on in the background. I think you will find that they added some great ambience to the conversation.
Ray started shoeing in 1970 and spent 12 years shoeing mixed breeds from quarter horses to gaited horses. Then he was hired on as the resident farrier at Windfields farm where he was responsible for up to 750 horses during each breeding season. His main focus was the foals through two yearlings for the sales. He became a CJF in 1984 and then an AFA examiner for about 12 years. After three years as the resident farrier at Windfield’s, he went back to private practice but still retained Windfields as a client at their request. In the mid-nineties, he moved to the U.S. for a year and then settled in the Hudson/St Lazare area of Quebec where he shod mostly dressage horses. He has done some lecturing, consulting and clinics over the years. He started to cut back on his workload about 15 years ago and now he was fully retired. As I suspected Ray had a lot of great advice to share in our conversation. Even the horse in the stall behind us seemed to get excited a time or two punctuating Ray’s good points with it loud whinny. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Most Gifted Book:
Favourite Work Boots: None
Favourite Rasp: Bellota Rasps
Dream Farrier Rig: Mercedes or Ram Van
Favourite Rounding Hammer: Homemade
Favourite Dog: Blue Heeler and German Shephard
Favourite Brand Of Keg Shoe: Kerckhaerts
Leather or Synthetic Pad: Leather
Favourite Type Of Horse To Work On: Thoroughbred and Warmbloods
Ideal # Of Horses To Shoe All Around In One Day: 4 or 5
Favourite Anvil: GE Anvil
Favourite Quote: “It’s better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than open it and remove all doubt” MARK TWAIN
Favourite Jeans: Lee and Levis
Favourite Way To Relieve Aches and Pains: Hot Tub
Favourite Drink: Iced Tea
Do You Have Injury Insurance? No
Do You Workout? Yes – Stretching
What would you have been if not a farrier? Physical Education Teacher
Who would you like to hear as a guest on the podcast: Yes – Larry Rumsby
So I’m sitting here today with Ray Matthews at the Ottawa horse show, so please pardon the announcements that’ll go on in the background and the golf carts driving by Ray was generous enough to donate his time today in between stops. I really appreciate you doing this Ray.
Thank you. No problem. Glad to do it.
So our first question, how did you get introduced to the horse world?
My grandfather and my uncle were horse traders. They dealt in heavy horses, sort of the logging industry in northern and New England. And so I started driving graft horses in logging when I could walk basically. And, then we had a small farm, so we always had a horse or two on the farm in that. So I started riding and then getting interested in horses and still am today.
Okay. So did you grow up in the US?
No, no, in Quebec, but we were right near the Vermont borders, they went across the border freely back then and so sold a lot of horses. Logging horses started off with.
Oh Wow. And then how did you end up getting started shoeing? When did that interest?
I went to university to be a physical education teacher and I, after a year and a half, I decided I really didn’t want to sit in the classroom and back then that was kind of the only option for physical education and I’d always loved horses and I wanted to stay and the veterinary college and biology courses didn’t really excite me. And being a trainer back then meant that you starved and you didn’t have anything to rely on. So my farrier was showing up about three weeks late and charging me what I thought was a lot of money back then. I thought, geez, if he can do that and show up three weeks late, I should be able to make a living at this. So that’s how I got started.
And how did your education start shoeing wise?
I went down to Oklahoma farriers college and spent three months there and in 1969 70 then I, I was in limbo for about five, six years shoeing on my own and I realized I was either going to quit or I was going to learn to shoe betters. So fortunately Bruce Daniel started giving courses in the winter and so I went down and my board money went down and spent a month with him the first year. And then I went back for a week or two every year after
for five or six years. And he basically saved or resurrected my career because I was really frustrated and back then there weren’t really apprenticeships and everything was really hidden. Nobody would share knowledge with you. So it was kind of a closed door and I was going to quit if I didn’t get better. And so Bruce saved my ass.
And how did you find him?
Through the AFA probably and the journal and that, you know, or just word of mouth, but I found them and so I’d go down and spend a lot of time with them. Bruce was really generous and really good for all of us. He saved a lot of careers back then I think.
Oh, that’s great.
And where was he based out of?
He was in Mullica Hill, New Jersey.
It was a far drive in that, but I met a lot of people who turned out to be pretty influential in the industry. And, the guy, I’m going down to play golf with the today in New York. I met him down there forty years ago and we’re still best friends.
Yeah, it was pretty interesting.
That’s incredible. And so what were some of the key learning moments or experiences that you had maybe working with him actually? How did you first realize that you needed to know more?
Just frustration. Like I didn’t see improvement in the feet and probably in some cases they were going backwards and I didn’t really understand when you leave school, it’s probably the most intelligent you’re going to be for about 20 years. And I was certainly indicative of that. I thought I was pretty smart until I worked for a few years and everything that they told me I couldn’t relate to the foot I was looking at in most cases. And I didn’t know why it wasn’t improving, why the horse wasn’t getting better, I just knew there had to be a better way of doing things and I was more connected to the horse then I was the owner. And when I didn’t see an improvement, even if the owner was happy, I wasn’t. So, I was searching. Fortunately, Bruce came along for us. Yeah.
And then was he your inspiration to go through the certification process?
To some extent yes, but when they started certifying, I just felt it was another step that I needed to take for my own value, my own values, and to try and improve again. And I thought that was probably a means to get there. So I wanted to do it. Yeah.
You have your CJF, right?
And where did you end up doing that?
I did that down at Cornell with Buster Conklin and Steve Kraus. They were both working there at the time and they were examiners. So, I drove down there. I think I took one of my apprentices with me. He did a CF and I did my CJF the same day.
Okay. Wow. And then did you compete at all?
I didn’t do it by intention, but Mel Livingston, who was the instructor at Seneca, he was down there with me and he came by and informed me
that he’d entered me in some way. Awesome. Um, well thanks a lot Matt. And they were using coke and I’d never used coke. I’d use coal, but I never used coke. And so it was, we had to make a bar shoe for the competition. I didn’t want to do it, but it through the steel in then I promptly burned it up and so I made another one and a little while later Mel came by, all the heavy hitters, Bruce and all those guys were there. And Mel comes by and he says, Oh, you’ve, you got third? And I go, yeah, sure. He said, no, I’m serious. And sure enough, I got third. So I retired then I never want to get better. I was the top of my game. Yeah.
Then how did you practice for the actual certifications? Did you have somebody you could work with and prepare for that or was that just at home?
No, it was probably stuff that I’d done down in Bruce Daniel’s in the winter, over the years, you know, and I went to every clinic that was available. Bob
Marshall was a good mentor. He was one of the better instructors I ever saw in foraging. And so we always had clinics at Seneca. So just from that and, and I had a shop at Windfields and so I’d go over there and practice a little bit back then the quality of shooing at competition level compared with what you see today was a little bit immature.
It wasn’t the quality of today, but it was certainly, you know, acceptable back then. I got through with no trouble making shoes and the time limit was pretty easy for me. Okay. I didn’t find it that stressful or that limiting by any means. Okay. Gotcha. Yeah. And that’s a good segue. So how did you end up at Windfields? That was a bit of a challenge. Politics in Quebec at the time were getting kind of harsh, uh, for English minorities and we had two young children and we thought that we were gonna have a better chance or they would have a better chance in Ontario. So we were looking to move and I knew the stallion manager at Windfields sure. Contacts. I had heard that they were probably looking for somebody to replace the guy they had. And so I went and I was talking to my friend who was stallion manager.
And he said, oh no, he said they would never change. You know, they have the best farrier in the world. And that was kind of a challenge to me. So I went down to see the manager in his office and I said, I heard you might be looking for a farrier. And he says, how’d you hear about that? And I said, oh, I don’t want to say, but I said, I heard. And he said, well, might be. He said, are you interested? And I said, could be. So he had to vet interview me briefly and then we started negotiating over three months because they weren’t offering anywhere near what I was making freelance. And I thought, this is crazy. Then he said, well, you’re asking more than what we paid for the vets. And I said, well, that’s not really my issue. Yeah. And so anyway, finally they kept bringing me back up for more interviews and finally we agreed. And so I took the job in that and it turned out to be probably the best move I made. It wasn’t financially the best move at the time, but learning wise I probably improved by 100% just working with the folds and understanding growth patterns and everything. It was probably the best thing I could’ve ever done. You must’ve learned so much. Yeah. As usual, the horses are your best teachers, but the folds were really good teachers. You could sabotage afoot in one trim or you could improve them dramatically. The changes were significant and you had to be blind not to see the changes, good or bad, and I showed you that when you make mistakes, you learn from them and those foals could show you pretty quickly what you’re doing probably in a shorter cycle.
Now just for the guests, if you could explain sort of the size of the operation that Windfields was when Phil had to, they had a Maryland farm, which I wasn’t involved in heavily, and then they had the Canadian farm in Oshawa in our Schwab from January till the end of May. We would probably be running somewhere around 700 750 horses on the farm and we would probably fall out a couple of hundred mares. And then we had a lot of mares coming in to be bred that we were dealing with their foals and then we would keep some of their foals, through the yearling sales. So I got a chance to follow them through, but it was a big operation and they would send me down to Maryland to look at the sales yearlings before they went to sale to see if there was anything that needed to be done.
So I did work a little bit down there and I got to be involved watching the stallions and the breeding operation down there. So I did get down there a bit, but Windfields was about 700 to 750 horses for the bulk of the breeding season. Wow. So were you there everyday kind of thing? Was it a full-time job or could you freelance? No, I was a resident farrier for the first three years and then I decided that I wanted to increase my revenue. So I told him I was going to quit and go out on my own and they asked me to keep them as a client. So I ended up keeping all of the account as a client, but I was doing outside work, so I was just freelancing at that point. Okay. Yup. And then so what sort of lessons did those foals teach you?
What were some of the key takeaways that you’ve discovered working with them? One of the big faults, with foals is over trimming, being too aggressive. You’ll learn that a lot of the issues would take care of themselves. If you studied confirmation and learned more about the growth process in that and going to conferences that Bennett, who’s a paleontologist and world-renowned now writes a lot of articles for magazines. She said, if you want to crack the fold that toes out, the best thing you could do is push his elbows out. Well, you’ll learn in time their own growth pattern will pushed her elbows out. So you’ll learn in time you want these folds the toe out and stuff like that. That is pretty basic. But unless you’re doing it and repeating it and watching them, you don’t really grasp it. And you see people, you know, they look at a folded toes out and they go, my God, I got to fix it.
Right? The last thing I want is a straight foal or a foal that toes in because he’s only going to get worse. That foal that toes out. It’s only gonna get better. So you learned to wait for conformation. You panic at first and then after you watch them for two or three years you go, this is normal, they’re going to be fine. So you learn to panic a lot less than you learn to be less aggressive with them in a lot of cases. But you also learned that there’s a really strict time frame for doing things because of growth
plate closures and stuff like that and you learn that if you don’t get it done
before they closed, you’re only going to cause arthritis trying to change it
Okay, and you also learned that you can’t, at least, I don’t believe you can use the foot as a lever. That foot is too immature and is not capable of being a lever, especially when you’re dealing with new your hockey shoes. You’re going to change the joints further down drastically before you ever, ever affected joints higher up. So you’ll learn not to use the foot as a lever. You can use a shoe, you can use a platform, but you don’t want to use wedges or tilt or just trimmed the foot out of balance to crack something else. Because you’re only going to cause yourself more problems down the road.
And when you’re trimming a foot on a foal, are you still using the long axis as your medial lateral balance, or is it just you want a flat plane with the heels even?
I think one thing that you have to really focus on is keeping the foot balanced with the leg. So if the knee is rotated out, you want the foot to follow the whole access to follow that. Uh, you don’t want to look at the foot as an individual piece of the whole thing. It’s gotta be joined higher up. So I want it to line up with the face, then the, and I want the hairline to be parallel to the ground, looking at it from that position, not looking at it from the middle of the false chest or something. Right. Okay. So I’ll line myself up with a knee, and then as long as everything lines up with that, I’m happy. I’m waiting for the confirmation to help, or if I need to surgery or shooting glue on shoes or something, you know? Okay. Yeah. And then for the hind, do you want them slightly cow hocks, slightly pointing out or straight foal behind? In most cases they can be a lot of irregularities and they’ll straighten themselves out much more than they will in the front glue on shoes, or surgeries in the hind leg are pretty minimal compared to the front. I’d say, you know, three to 5% of what you do in the front and they do regulate, you deal with a lot of ligament laxity, 10 little activities in the hind end, and they’ll be walking on their bulbs and three days later, a week later they’re up and they just keep improving. So I don’t pan it nearly as much on the high end and it surprisingly helps itself a lot. Okay. And then when would you make the decision that I do need to put an extension on?
Surprisingly, you make it pretty quick. I mean, you don’t panic. You’re talking days a week, you’re not talking months. When I say I don’t panic, I mean with the front end, it’s about severities. I made up a chart where I graded these folds at a day or two old and then I would compare it every day or two, depending on the severity. Again, I’d go in and regrade
them and that they’re either improving or they’re going backwards or they’re
stagnant. And that was a big factor that influenced what I did. In some cases I would glue on a shoe at seven to 10 days and at that stage I would probably pull it off three days later because you’re restricting the expansion of that hoof capsule. If you leave it on for a week, you go back and you’ve got a foot that’s a lot smaller than the other foot. Okay. And as they get older, like two weeks, a month, three months, you really see big changes at that point. But even at 10 days, if you leave a glue on for very long, you can cause some pretty significant changes in the hoof capsule because they’re, they’re growing pretty rapidly and reacting to the ground by that point. Yes, exactly. Yeah.
So you worked with quite a team when you were at Windfields, right? Like with the vets and the other people involved, how did you guys come to their decision for surgery or something like that? Or was that somebody else’s call at Windfields?
They gave me a lot of latitude there. I probably was the one who recommended them, but I would do it through the bad or in conjunction with the vet. I would say, I really think this force needs more help than we can give it, have this way. I think it’s going to need to go to surgery and 95% of the time they would agree with me and we would send it, you know? But I would bring it to their attention. Anything to do with feet or legs. I pretty much had the control over and I was the one that would go to the veteran manager and say, I think we’ve got to send this one. You know? So we got along very well. The vets were very easy to work with there. Over time we developed a good working relationship, but they did give me a lot of freedom. Yeah, just you build that relationship of trust.
So, I saw clinic with you. Hence why we’re here today to, I thought there was a lot of information you shared that we all needed to hear. One of the other things you mentioned in the clinic was the use of braces, this splint. When would you use those?
Splints were used very early, like within a very short period, minutes, hours of, of birth. Oh Wow. In some cases these folds couldn’t stand up to nurse and that was usually a hind end. They were so windswept usually that they couldn’t stay up. So we would put a splint on them and in three to six hours with a splint most time they could stand up and nurse. The issue with splints is that I tried using them after I left Windfields on smaller farms, smaller operations and I would never do it again because the help wasn’t reliable via could really emphasize that these foals needed these splints off every three hours. At Windfields we would take them off, we would massage the leg, we would re-bandage them, would put lots of protection in under this plane and then we would splint them. And start over again but I had 24 hour staff.
They could go in every three hours all night long and change these splints for me. And we never had sores, we never had issues. But on smaller farms, I’d go back a couple of days later, splints had never been taken off. You had them digging into the leg as the lake shifted, you had pressure points and that. So it was a complete disaster and I would never again
tried in those situations because you’re causing the horse more problems and you’re helping a, but it went fields that work. Great. This actually leads
quite well. And another question I had for you, you had mentioned at the clinic that after you left Windfields that when you tried to take care of foals in these smaller accounts, often you were quite frustrated because they weren’t as attentive or didn’t follow the instructions you had given as well that you’ve mentioned one time putting on some extensions, medial lateral extensions on one and they’d left them for a month or something.
Yeah. Because a lot of us run into the small accounts where they’ll start their own breeding program or something. Is there some advice you could give us on how to educate the client or is it something that you should just recommend that they send their foals to a place that can be
more attentive? Unless you’re really familiar with the account and you have a lot of faith in them, I would not attempt it. I would have them send the foal to a clinic or something where they are going to be attentive, where they do have 24 hour staff and where they are knowledgeable about it. But honestly, hearing Canada, especially eastern Canada probably, I’m not sure where I would send them for that because even vet schools, they aren’t dealing with 200 foals a year or 400 foals a year. Like they would be in Kentucky or other places.
Okay. And so even their experiences very lacking. Just because they have a vet college doesn’t mean they deal in a hundred foals or 200 foals where they’re learning and they’re seeing the negatives as well as the positives. Right now, I would walk in most cases after the experiences I’ve had, because it’s like a horse. You go in and you’re there for an hour or two hours, you’re trimming it, you’re shooting at, you’re doing whatever. It’s the owner who’s going to make or break that whole proposition. Once you’re gone, they’re there for the next week, two weeks before you get back again. If they don’t do their job, what you did in that hour or two is, is a moot point. It’s not gonna help, right. To any degree. So yeah, I would walk, I would say you’re putting your name on that, whether it’s a success or a failure, and I don’t want to put my name on any more failures than I have to. I can create them myself. I don’t need somebody doing it for me. Right. And when it’s completely out of your control. Yes. So at the clinic, we learned through having Dr. Patrick Hearn in the crowd. He started asking questions and it was interesting because I guess you had both worked together at Windfields. Were there ever times where you came across situations where you both kind of were in disagreement?
Not really because like I said, management gave me a lot of latitude. I pretty much had control over the feet and legs and chewing a, I didn’t have to clear anything in most cases of vets would come and say, or the management would come and say, where we’re a little concerned about this, what do you think? And they would ask me if I thought I could do more or change something, you know? But as far as them suggesting, that was never a very seldom the case. And I can’t ever remember having a disagreement where we both walked away and said, I’m not doing that, or they’re not going to agree with me. You know? I can’t remember doing that. Dr De Gannes was there for the bulk of my time. Patrick came in a little later. I worked with him probably for four or five years. But Dr De Ganne’s I worked with for a long time and it was the same with Dr De Gannes. It was pretty much my baby. If there was a screw up, I was responsible for that. Yeah. I had full ownership. I couldn’t blame them, but it was a good working relationship. We always had a good working relationship.
Well that’s great. Now in your private practice, did you
ever run across situations where you didn’t have as good of a relationship with
When I was at Windfields, I worked with a few vet clinics.
They would call me in to look at x-rays and deal with founder’s horses and
different issues. Uh, I did some Standardbreds shoeing for Yvette. I had a
really good working relationship with and that and I never really had any bad
experiences whatsoever with them. Once I left there and moved back to get back,
I had a lot more issues dealing with fats who I felt were, their knowledge was
outdated and I would lock horns with them probably because of my age and my
experience. It was easy for me to walk. I would just say, no, I won’t do that.
And I would leave and the client had to make a choice out of it was, which I
felt bad about. But they were often left with the choice, do I listen to ray or
do I listen to the vet? And I, again, I felt that was uncomfortable for them
and not really very good situation, but I refuse to put my name on something
that I couldn’t agree with and so I would basically walk or else they would
have to go with my shooing and I would have to take the credit for it or the
blame for it.
Right. Yup. That makes sense. When you say like the
knowledge that they had was outdated, did you find that there were some that
you could eventually educate through conversations with them?
There was one clinic who I felt they were more current and
though I could align myself easily with that I worked with and there is a bad
in New York state who I take my horses to and who I work with some, uh, but
there were the majority of the vets in that area. I really did have some issues
with, I think, and this is my personal opinion, but I think in Quebec, a
language issue is a big thing with farriers and vets because it’s hard for them
to go, wait, we used to take some of the younger farriers down to the states,
to the AFA conventions and that, and they went for a year or two and then they
quit because they just didn’t feel they were getting enough out of the language
issues. And it was, I felt it was the same with a vet, say kind of were
And I would spend a lot of money every year going to
conventions and clinics and that, and I would come back with the knowledge and
I couldn’t use the knowledge because, you know, I would suggest, uh, a
checklist on my desk ma to me. And they look at me like I was crazy and say,
you can’t do that. The horse won’t be able to walk. And I’m going like, ah,
we’ve been doing this for a decade. I think it works. And so it was very
frustrating and it was a big deterrent for me. Uh, it kind of killed my
enthusiasm at times because I knew we could do more for the horses, but I felt
like I was locked right or blocked at every turn. And so it was very
frustrating. And I think anytime you set up your practice, location is
everything about when you’re lucky enough or you can work your way into a good
working relationship with vets.
It’s so stimulating because you’re throwing knowledge back
and forth. You’re arguing, you’re disputing, but you’re learning. And my friend
who I’m going down to play golf with, we’d be up at midnight years ago and we’d
be arguing like crazy and no, you’re crazy. That won’t work. And we would go at
it and we couldn’t, I mean, it’d be midnight, two o’clock and we’d still be
arguing over some dumb point. But it helped, you know, because you had to stop
and think, and my apprentices were always mine, one of my greatest tools for
learning because they would say, well, why do you do that? And I go, well, why
do I do that? Right. And, you know, they’d make you think and you had to
explain it to them so you couldn’t just walk from it. And so I would stop and
think, well, why do I do it that way?
And I always told my apprentices, spend a year or two with me the most because I said, I’m going to teach you everything good. I know, but also gonna teach you the bad things. I, I do. So I said, go and work with somebody else. And if you take the best from each of us, you’ll be better than all of us. You know, it was the same with vets and horses. You know, you get into ruts with them and sometimes you’re so focused on one thing and somebody else comes along and looks at it and goes, well, what about this? And you go, Oh shit, I never even thought of that. You know, cause I’m so focused that sheared heel or something else and that’s not what my problem is today. It’s something else. Yep. Yeah. I think, uh, getting into a good working relationship with vets is so stimulating and so critical, especially today we’re dealing with athletes that we weren’t dealing with 40 years ago.
You know, they, the jumps were four foot, now they’re six foot, you know, the cutting horses, we’re working at this level now, they’re working at that level. Horses were 15 hands and they could be a quarter horse or anything. You know, now everything is so finely tuned and that, that it’s much more critical. And athletes are trained like and treated like athletes. I mean, they have massage, they have chiropractors, they have everything. And we’re a part of that team. And if we aren’t working with that team where we’re working against the, basically, yeah. So it’s really important to have that relationship. But in areas, you know, you’re dealing with vets who work cattle, they work sheep, they workhorses, you know, so it’s a little tougher than where you’re in a specialty area, but there’s not that many areas, uh, you know, other than Toronto, you’re obviously in a much better area. You get down to Kentucky, you get down to Florida, you’re dealing with a lot of really top EC wine vets and horseshoers farriers. So the stimulus is there. You, you can get excited again because you go, yeah, we can help this, you know and learn as you go. So because you came up with that generation before you, they were hoarding their secrets and not willing to share it. What about it made you decide that you wanted to approach it differently like that you would take on apprentices?
Well, I guess Bruce Daniels probably was the stimulus for
that because he was so willing to share. I mean, he practically paid you to
learn. Like I said, my apprentices taught me a lot just by asking questions and that, so you could see that exchanging ideas, arguing about ideas. It was all for the good of the horse. And it was all for our good because we did learn, I mean, like we said for years, you know, you go to a convention and you sit and listen to lectures for eight or 10 hours and then you go to the bar and sometimes the learning process really started, you know, because you’re somebody who throws some stupid thing out and you’d go, are you crazy? And then you’d think about it and you go, it might be some merit to that, you know? Yep. And so the AFA, all the associations have done so much for all of us.
And especially the guys coming up constantly now. You
know, they’ve got advantages we never had by any remote idea. And I think that, you know, the more we share, the camaraderie in, in the farrier industry is second to none. I mean, the things the guys do for each other. And, you know, I’m down in Florida and you know, guys have guys helping me shoe my horses, you know, and we’re, we’re talking about it, we’re discussing it. And you know, three months later I look at my horse feet and I go, Geez, they’re looking better than when I was doing them, you know, but we, we exchanged some ideas, you know, and, and he’s, he’s telling me, you know, I’m using stuff you taught me, you know, you told me about, he said, I never heard of, you know, but some of these old, uh, remedies and all methods issuing, I forgot about them.
And then something would trigger it. And I go, you know what, we used to do this and it worked and I’m doing it again and it’s still working. But you know, you go through cycles and somebody comes up with what
you think is a better idea. It’s like Dr Redden and God bless him. You know,
when he started out with a laminitis symposium, he took us all on a tour with him and five or 10 years later, a lot of fun. This is where we were 10 years ago, and we went on a full road trip with him to get back to that point. You know, he was brilliant and he had a lot of good ideas, but he was growing where we were growing 10 years previous. And because of his stature, we got sucked into his world. And we went back through the cycle again.
And then 10 years later we realized we were already here.
What were we thinking? You know? But you did learn some stuff along the way. It wasn’t totally negative, but you know, you, you, you got to be careful because cycles and people’s ideas aren’t always, just because they’re at the podium doesn’t mean they’re right, right? There’s a lot of guys in the hall of fame and there’s guys out there in the back 40 that can teach you tricks that they can’t teach you. You know? So just because you have stature doesn’t mean you’re right. And just because you’re some old farrier out there in the woods doesn’t mean you’re wrong. You know, some of these old guys are really, really great farriers they just didn’t pursue stardom. You know, I guess part of that process is just distilling it down in your own mind whether or not you think it’s going to work.
Then trying it and seeing what the results are. Yeah. A lot of times after years of experience you can eliminate stuff pretty quickly
because you’ve been there probably and tried it and failed and probably some of it is just the artistry because I mean Farrier work is probably 75 80% artistry and 20% science or whatever. Some of it is just the fact that as an artist you view things differently and it doesn’t mean he was wrong, but it’s not working for your concept, for your vision of it. So some things, like I said, you eliminate because you’ve tried it and it didn’t work for you. Other times you do go through the cycle a little bit and you go, this is not working. You know, and then you start to apply the signs too and you go, well it’s not working because it shouldn’t work.
You know? And somebody didn’t think it through really carefully. So they proposed it and maybe they were at the podium and you thought, well, if they’re there, they must be right. I can remember articles in the journal and I would call up Frank Lesner and I’d say, Frank, how can you let people like this write articles? You know, this is the official magazine of the farriers. And I said, these people are, you know, writing articles that are totally, totally outdated and false. We’ve learned better. You know, I can remember a couple of, uh, people who wrote articles on a regular basis and it was like, oh my God, you know, this is such a disservice to young Fairuz that are coming up. You know, that’s changed quite a bit. It’s a lot better. But at the time, like most magazines, they need fodder to put in the magazine, the fill the pan. If you’re willing to write or capable of writing, guess what? Your article’s going to appear probably. It’s not any different, probably in any trade magazine or you know, you go to the horse magazines and there’s all kinds of stuff you have to sort through it. But when it’s official word or an official voice of the farrier industry, I think you have to be a little more careful. Right. And I thought that was a disservice and I always brought it up to Frank’s attention, you know, thinking like this is not right.
Yeah. Yeah. Leading a lot of people down there. Oh yeah. I thought so. Yeah. Yeah. Now you mentioned that the clinic, that you are semi-retiring or you’re heading towards retirement.
I’m fully retired at this point. Yes. Yeah. I was started
in 70 and uh, had a few heart issues though. I’ve got a pacemaker now and my hip and my knee are bothering me and I haven’t needed to shoot, I mean for a few years, but I still enjoyed it and I still enjoy my clients and I thoroughly enjoyed the horses. The last 10 years I’ve really tried to improve my horsemanship, my riding and horsemanship in general. And I’ve really enjoyed that aspect of it. So I’ve spent more time and focus there. I don’t feel the need to get up every morning and go shoeing horses and uh, I’m fortunate enough that I don’t have to. So yeah, I’m fully retired and I still communicate with farriers and offer help. When, when they asked for it, my friend who I’m going
down to play golf with, he’s 78 and he retired about 10 years ago and he said, if you don’t retire, the only thing you’re going to regret about it is that you didn’t do it sooner. And he might’ve been right. I’m not sure.
What do you think you did differently? Because we’ve all known that farrier who, well beyond their capability physically to do the job
that they used to who are still working and because they have to. What do you think you did differently? Like what advice could you give people that would set them up so that they could retire?
The business aspect is probably one thing. Just like in high school or university or Farriers, education that isn’t brought out to the forefront enough. A lot of guys are really good shoers but they’re terrible business people. I’ve been shoeing horses for 45 years, the biggest issue that owners have is the lack of business sense. Either farriers don’t show up on time, they, you know, they show up and they look like they’re hungover or whatever. But as much as I love horses and I love my clients, it was a business and I was there to make a living and I was there to feed my family and my kids and give them an education. And so I always looked at it as a business and everything had to make sense financially.
My ego entered into it. I didn’t need to go and shoe the top dressage horse or top jumper horse. I wanted to keep my business in a tight circle. From the time I started out, my business never exceeded a 20 mile range, probably other than maybe one or two clients here and there. And I just kept narrowing that down. The last 25 years, my clientele was probably in a five mile range. Oh Wow. Location is everything. And I mean, you can beat the bushes at, because that’s where your, you were raised or that’s where you want to live. But if you’re going to make a living and you’re going to be able to retire, location is everything. Like any business. So you go to the, where the Horse Center is, you go where, where the money is. If you’re going to shoe in northern Ontario, me not probably going to retire because you’re only gonna have 10 horses here and one there and one there. So I always wanted location. When I left Windfields I went to North Carolina and then when I came back to Canada, I scouted out areas. I didn’t go where I wanted to go. I scouted areas. I went to Colona because of vet clinic there, asked me to move out there. They had way too much traveling in their business. I went to red deer in Calgary, looked at that. It was very interesting. But there were a lot of Farriers, a lot of western horses that don’t pay as much as the English horses. My friends talked me into coming down to St Louis our, I checked Hudson, I checked it out. There was a ton of horses in close proximity. There was good money there. So I moved there. And again, it wasn’t because I want it to be there, but it made sense to be there. Right?
So I think that’s a big thing. The other thing is running a good business, showing up on time, uh, making yourself worse, worse than money. Uh, I think today more than ever, but even then, I think a lot of my clients probably kept me for the knowledge I passed on to them. Not only about shoeing, but horses in general. Physical, not veterinary, but health. You know, I’d see a horse that was probably a little heavey that was overweight. I would point it out. And often clients will say, oh, I’m so glad you’re here. I’m having this problem. And they would rely on me. And I mean, when you look at these studies and the Poles, farriers are number one for clients when it comes to sharing information in that or withdrawing information from the, even more than the vets. We see them on a regular basis.
The vet might only be in once a month, once or twice a year, but they trust us if you build up that relationship. So I think they
relied on me a lot for that. And I probably in some cases, that’s why they kept me in was because they, well they wanted the knowledge that I would share it with them. You know, and today owners aren’t educated like they were years ago. The barn help isn’t educated at all in a lot of cases. And a lot of the young professionals farriers bets come from the city. They don’t have the animal background, so they don’t have the knowledge of how to handle the horse. And I think that’s a big detriment to a lot of people. And I think it gets a lot of the young guys in trouble, both physically and the client and see that they’re not getting along with the horse.
I think that horsemanship is one part of it that needs to be improved a lot. You know, everybody, not everybody, but a lot of people go in as just a horse. You know, you’ve grabbed a leg and you pick it up and the
down worse won’t pick it up. Of course isn’t dumb. The horse has to be treated with respect. He’s got a brain. If you teach him to cooperate, you’ve got a good client for life. But if you’re going to have spend time arguing with them and fighting with him, you’re going to have a bad horse for life and you’re going to probably lose a client eventually. Are you going to wish you’d lost a client because it’s going to be healthy. So those things. And then, you know, as far as competition goes, I never got involved with it because I’d showed horses and I found out I could buy the ribbon a lot cheaper than I could when the ribbon and there’s so much physical stress and so much time involved with competition.
And I know it helps farriers a lot in learning the mechanics of making a good shoe and addressing the way it’s put on. But factory
shoes are so good. Uh, today if you learn to work with that piece of steel as
opposed to a bar of steel, I think you can get a lot more done early on in your career especially, and do a better job of it. I think that way more time needs to be spent on learning conformation, learning the anatomy and learning a form to function and the dynamics of it. I, that’s where I wanted to focus because I could see the changes and I always felt I could get the job done with the factory made shoe early on, 48 years ago, you had to make shoes in a lot of cases, diamonds and you were lucky to get without back punching. You couldn’t get the nail up more than half an inch in the
foot because of the way they were punched, so it’d have to do a lot of work,
but today factory made shoes are so good you can make the adjustments you need so quickly that I can’t justify going to competitions myself and spending the time it would take to win at competitions today as opposed to spending that time andthe horse and really studying what that horse needs. That was where I got my enjoyment. I used to show horses and compete. I can understand the competitive level and that he’s hired to compete. But for me to support my family and to look forward to a retirement, I found that I needed to be under the horses and learning from the horses. And I really liked the idea of looking at what I was doing wrong and trying to improve it, you know, as opposed to spending time in other places.
But that was just me. I really enjoyed seeing if I could make courses better as true studying their confirmation, their anatomy. And like I said to false taught me so much about that from zero to two year olds
that that just fascinated me. And I would go to conventions and I would say
that every clinic I could get to that day, every, every clinician I was
fascinated with and the competitions just didn’t excite me. I mean, I would go
and I would marvel at the work they could do, but it wasn’t something that
appealed to me. And again, I tell a lot of guys come out with rotator cuff
injuries, elbow or injuries from pounding steel and practicing, you know, and I just couldn’t justify it because I felt like I needed to make a better living, make more money. When I say that, I don’t mean just throwing out work because you can certainly do that.
You can do 20 horses and just, you’re just nailing on shoes. You’re not helping the horse. But I really enjoyed servicing the horse and I used to tell clients when they would suggest I do something because I bet or somebody else had told them something to do. I would say, listen, I’m shoeing your horse and I’m not shoeing you. I said I’m trying to make the horse happy. If you’re not happy, then you can fire me. But I said I’m not going to do that just to satisfy you. I’m going to do it. I think the horse needs it was like, you know, I would fit a shoe full because the horse needed it and the shoe would fall off and they’d say, well, this or that. I’d say I put it where it needs to be. If it falls off tomorrow, that’s your problem, not mine.
Right. The same thing with that. I mean, if a shoe came off next day, the next week I charge for it. I can’t be running back and forth putting on shoes because if I do that once I’ve lost a profit margin on my original shooing, you know, so everything was year towards making money. I, everything had to be justified. I couldn’t keep going back. And Statistics I’ve read, you know, is that 10 or 15% of your clients make you money. There’s another percentage that you break even on and then there’s that big percentage where you lose money because you’re travelling. They’re never happy. So you’re back and forth, back and forth and there lost to you. And Davey Duckett was probably, you know, years ago, he said, I put on for open shoes, he said if it takes anything else, I referred and David Duckett was the premier competitor. I mean he could make shoes faster and better than anybody who won every competition going for years.
And he never made a shoe. And he never put on bar shoes.
He never put on way. It just, he never did orthopedic work. He said, I shoe
horses to make a living. And he said, I put four open shoes on. He said, if I
need bars, shoes, I need orthopedic shoes. He said, I refer them to you or
somebody else. And that stuck with me, you know, because as much as you love it, if there’s somebody else who wants to specialize in it and can charge three times what I charge, let them do it. But I can put on for open shoes or I can reset for shoes and make a very good living. I don’t need to get into the
specialty work where I, in my area or with my clientele, I can only get to a
certain limit and then I’m done.
Yes. And then you maybe take a hit. Yes and I profit. And
you have clients who, you know at first time you’re going to charge him four or five or $600 for a job. I don’t care what it costs, I just want it done about the third trip in. It’s like, can you give me a break on this? It’s getting a little expensive and you’re going like, we’re really at a critical stage now
and you want me to stop? Yeah. So yeah, I got David Duckets point very well
and, and I did keep always keep that in mind, you know, because I see guys
running around doing foundered horses and spending three, four or five, six hours doing it and charging somebody 400 bucks. And I’m going like, I could have reset six horses in that time. You know, I just can’t justify it. There’s a lot of, uh, truth to what you said about young guys and a lot of farriers having to work till they die because they just never got it.
You can make a lot of money but you aren’t taking home
much. You know? And I think a lot of guys have a real trouble with gross and net income, you know, and they go home with $600 at the end of the day or $1,000 and they think, wow, I really cleaned up. But they don’t realize that they’ve got a truck that they just drove 400 miles that day from client to client. And at the end of the day they probably got 60 bucks, not at 1000 bucks, you know, made less than minimum wage. Yes. Yeah. And a lot of young guys, I think their ego gets in your way because they see guys driving all over the country from Toronto to Quebec City to New York and you know, they’re making a tremendous amount of growth, but they’re buying a new truck every two years. Right. And they’re never home with their family and they’re paying motels, they’re paying meals on the road and they’re not charging enough for it.
If I can get $200 in my backyard and I drive a hundred
miles, I need $400 minimum. And I can remember going and miles down the road. And I said, who was your previous? Very early he came from, here I go, that’s like three hour drive. And, and when I headed the building, I, Oh, you charged
me way more than that guy and I’m going…you told me he drove three hours. Okay. But yeah, I think, you know, they needed a business course and a lot of sense, a lot of ways. And I think that if they invest some money, instead of spending a lot of money running the roads, you know, just running to clients where they’re not making much money. I think that if they start investing early on, like they always tell kids, you know, if you invest $100 a month or, or $10 a month when you’re 20 when you’re 60 you’ll be able to retire with 1 million bucks or whatever.
You know, I think that holds true. But when you’re making
that kind of money and you’re working that hard and sweating that much, you always feel a little bit entitled. And on the way home with that thousand bucks, you stop and you go, you know what? I deserve that new whatever. And you buy it, you know? And then you’ve got all these toys and you’re working 12 hours a day and you don’t have time to play with the toys. And at the end of the two years you sell the toys for 10th to what you paid for them without getting any enjoyment. Yeah, yeah, yeah. All of that is would have fallen under this question. What other advice would you give somebody just starting out?
Like other than choose your location and plan ahead basically. Yeah, to share location. By all means apprentice, if you can. I think sacrificing two, three, four years when you’re starting out is the best investment you’ll make.
I agree. I can remember when we had an apprentices exchange program, some of my apprentices were lucky enough to get on it and that, and those guys could travel Europe and the Europeans would come over to America and work six months over here going from farrier to farrier in the state and learning. And they’re making a good living today. So apprenticing would be a big thing and then location would be definitely number one or number two in my program because I think you can beat your head to a pulp. And if you’re not in the area where there’s money, there are horses in close proximity, you’re going to have a tough time getting that retirement package when you’re sick, right or really well. And you can be, you can be really good.
Uh, but it’s not like mail orders, not like your farrier
supply store where they can ship it, you can’t ship it, you actually have to go
to it. So if you’ve got to travel 50 miles here and 50 miles there, most cases
farriers aren’t getting paid to sit in their truck. They get paid once they get
onto the horse. In the odd case, have farriers have learned to put a travel
charge, but we’re not like the Maytag repairman where you walk in and the
bill’s already at $85 for the trip and now you start working. We don’t usually
see that too much in the theater industry. So location is probably the biggest
single thing. I think to me being successful, and you know from years ago, the adage was you had to work the east coast through, you worked the west coast, everything in between was tough sleds because the cowboys shoe, their own horses.
I was at a ranch in Nebraska and the guy asked me what I
did for a living and I’d seen his yearlings and two-year-olds run up to the
fence every morning for three days. And he said, boy, he said, you’d have a
hard time making a living here. And I go, Yep, I can see that. And it’s true. I
mean, no blame to them. They’ve got a hundred of them, but it’s not the same mentality as on the east coast or the west coast where there’s a ton of money.
You know, everybody’s inherited millions from somebody and their horses are number one. You know, they’ll pay any price. Right. My niece just had her horse shot, thousand bucks, she’s got three shootings within nine weeks at 1000 bucks. That’s money. You know, you, you were in Nebraska or Manitoba, Eh, you might have a lot of trouble getting that, you know. So yeah, location.
And now for somebody who’s say five or 10 years in, would
you have any other advice? If they’re starting to feel stagnant or burnt out,
what would you tell them?
Keep spreading yourself out. Don’t be afraid to ask
somebody, can I come and work with you for a day or to keep going to clinics. I spent a fortune on clinics and conventions in my career and none of it was wasted money. I was frustrated sometimes because with vets in some areas I didn’t feel like I got to use my to its full extent, but I still had it in the back of my brain if I needed it. And some of my coworkers would always say, well, you have such an advantage because you can talk to the farriers on theirlevel. And I go, well, so can you, you know, just do the homework. And so yeah, you have to do your homework. I never would. I shouldn’t say never, but never that I can remember give myself up because a vet wanted me to do something or
I always felt confident enough from all the knowledge I had acquired that I could say, nope, I won’t go there. I’ve been there and it’s
not pretty and I refuse to go there and I could walk. That’s tough for somebody just coming out in establishing themselves. But if they have the education and they can back up their opinion with facts and sound intelligent while they’re doing it, you can usually come out on the upper side. And the only time I would give that up is I’d say, okay, I don’t agree with you, but I will do it. But when it doesn’t work, the next shooting, I do it my way. And if they would agree, then I would do it their way. But if they wouldn’t agree to that, then I’d walk anyway. Because like I said to somebody that day, my name is on every horse.
And when we were trimming horses at Windfields, they were
broodmares and foals. But I always told my apprentices, you don’t know where that horse is going to be. Tomorrow could be one of the best breeding facilities in Kentucky. And Our Name’s on it. So you don’t screw it up. You know, you look, make it look pretty and make it look good because you don’t know who’s looking at it. And farriers travel so much today that my clients go to Florida and some Dave Farley or somebody picks up a foot and goes, who the hell did this? I don’t want my name on that. You know? So you gotta be a little careful and you, and you want to have the respect of other fairs, your peers or your everything. To me anyway, I mean, when I work with Larry Rumsby, you know, we always had a great working relationship and I always admired his work by likewise, I didn’t want him to see my work and go, Oh my God, Ray did that.
Yeah, you gotta have a little pride in your workmanship. I would keep working with other fairies as much. Like I said, I used to go down to New York, work with my friend Jim Klein. I go down and spend three, four days with Larry. Any chance I had to work with other farriers who I respected, I would grab it. Because you know you’re doing a horse and you’re going, why aren’t you doing that? Or I’d say, well, I would do this, and they’d look at me and go, oh yeah, the exchange of ideas was always so important and learning. And I think some people struggle. They think that they’re taking a hit to their ego by doing that. From what I have seen, clients actually appreciate the fact that you are travelling with these other people. Yeah. I think we all have egos, but sometimes it’s worth the sacrifice in most cases.
I mean, if it’s somebody you’re willing to associate with, you probably have enough faith in them that they’re not going to put it on Youtube. That you know what this jerk said today when we were doing a horse.
You know, they’re not going to do that. They might chuckle that night when they go to bed, but you know what? It’s worth the sacrifice. I mean, if I’ve been embarrassed before because of lack of knowledge or saying something that wasn’t right, but again, it’s part of the learning process. It’s like most learning is from my mistake. Yes, for sure. And as long I don’t make the same mistake twice or say the same stupid thing twice. I’m okay with it. I can live with it.
That was really great. Thank you very much, Ray. We’ll step into the short answer portion and find out what you used to use and some little bits of advice here.
This portion of the podcast is called the stratum tutorial. These are the short answer surface stuff questions, but it’s okay if the guest wants to go deeper. The stratum tectorium is the outermost layer of the hoof wall, the thin layer of cells, also known as the hoof varnish or the stratum tectorium. Maybe you just learned a new word. Hope you learned some interesting facts about our guests to enjoy
The first question, your favourite book and is there a book that you gifted to others over the years?
No, I can’t honestly say that I have a favourite book or I do gift books or read gift books after I’ve read them. I have some favourite authors, but they wouldn’t be anybody famous or anything other than professional material. I’m reading, probably one of the best books I’ve read was referred to me by Dallas Morgan and Farrier from New York, and it was a silk road and it was the history from the beginning of time to practically current time. And it was fascinating. It was so, it was 560 pages or so, and it was so fact-filled that it drove me crazy. And after 25 pages I put it down and I go, no, I can’t do this. But then it was like showing, you know, now I’ve got to find out more. So I went back and I read all 560 pages and I was thoroughly fascinated by it.
If people like history, the Silk Road is a really good
book. Other than that, no. I read a lot of, do a lot of magazines. Like I said,
I’m really into horsemanship now, so I get a lot of magazines relating to that
book side. I read casually and when I’m in Florida and not working, I can read three books in a week that were really few years ago. I was working three days a week. I’d cut back and I could read three books a week. Then two I’d stay up to midnight reading the book of I fight. Enjoyed it. So yeah, I love reading but other than professionally magazines in that I just read anything that interests me. I have a few authors that I really like and I usually buy their books. Do you mind sharing those? There was an author in, uh, North Carolina who writes basically from that perspective any, it’s about game wardens and that I really enjoy him. And then there’s another author which like a lot of things doesn’t come to mind right now, but under private I’ve bought half of the, or probably a dozen of his books and I really find he’s a good writer and I can, you know, I can put the book down and then two minutes later I pick it up again cause I got to find out what happened at Chapter. You might be interested in Sapiens. Have you heard of that? I think sounds very similar to the Silk Road. It’s like a whole history
of homosapiens. It’s very interesting. Sometimes he takes it down paths where I’m not sure. I completely agree with him when he theorizes on a few things, but man, it’s incredible to learn that history. So I’m going to look that book up. That’s Silk Road. Silk Road. Yeah.
Okay. Your favorite brand of work boots? I used to use work boots and I used to use steel toes years ago until I had a horse hooked behind my steel cap with a cork and the dance with me for about 30 seconds and I never wore steel, the steel toed boots afterwards really? And in the latter years I shot mostly in a, in a shoe or even a sneaker in the summer. Oh yeah. After that incident I was never big on boots, but I certainly never wore steel toed boot again after that. Yeah. Did you still get stepped on quite a bit and no. That’s probably another reason I, there was a vet in our area who quit a few years ago and the reason he quit because he had lost his agility and his speed and he said he was aware that he was getting hurt more often because he couldn’t get out of the way fast enough.
I used probably horsemanship. I could kind of sense when a
horse was going to go off or something and now I can honestly say I ever got stepped on that much. I’ve been kicked a few times early on in my career.
Really. Again, like most business practices, I would only do a bad horse once
and then they’d find somebody else because you know for $50 a trim or $200 shoeing, it just doesn’t measure up. No, no. Your favorite make of rasp? That can depend on the month and the year. I’ve probably tried them all lately. I’ve used Ballotas for the last few years. Think that’s what I’m still using on my own horses that which is all I’m shoeing now. Okay. Yep. That’s testament to them. Then your dream farrier rate and did you own it? No, I’ve seen a lot of really, really cool rigs while now, especially 25 40 years ago, a dreamer was probably a cap on the back of a pickup if you could afford it.
I had a trailer, a shoeing trailer, that I used and I really liked it. I think the new, vans, the Mercedes van, the dodge fan are really nice now is he a lot of really nice shops set up in them. The trailers are nice, but in winter conditions they do have drawbacks and depending on how much driving you’re doing, the axles only have a lifespan. So I would probably
go to one of those fans if I was setting up another rig. Okay. I really liked
them. I’ve seen some really nice ones, but there are some beautiful rigs out
there now compared to her compared to 45 years ago. But back then the cap was 400 bucks. Now those rigs are more like 40,000 bucks for just the box. Never mind the truck. Your favorite type of rounding him. You know what, I never really had a favorite.
I probably have like most guys that probably have six or
eight on the shelf more than you can add more than I can remember. And one of the best ones I ever had was one that we made at Bruce Daniels. He was always into making tools and that, and he could do a good job. Mine that used to come out that shiny. But uh, I used one for quite a few years, but it was one I made and I just, I think I used it because I made it certainly wouldn’t have been the best one or the prettiest one. But no, I never had as far as hammers and that go, I never really had a favor and I couldn’t really answer that with the name. I used a lot. They all seem to work and they did the job. It was like a golf club. It was the mechanic more than it was the tool.
Gas or diesel truck?
I’ve had both probably gas when diesel was cheaper, it made a little more sense. Mileage-Wise and of course you’re at, you’d get a lot more out of your engine. But now with the price of diesel, I’d probably stick to gas. And if I was starting over, I’d certainly haul and pull smaller rigs and I did most of my career, you know, I’d probably spend more time stocking up
every night as opposed to hauling my whole weeks or months supply. Right. Yeah. I’m pretty guilty of that myself. Favorite pastime after work today, it would probably be the riding. Uh, at times it was probably golfing. I sometimes had to have a really sore back and I’d go out and golf nine holes and just the movement of a, swinging the club in that I would loosen my body up and I could go home and get a good night’s sleep.
So I was found out was therapeutic plus an evening. I’d be
out there by myself, so I didn’t have any distractions. I could really unwind
and relax. Uh, so I’d have to say golf and riding my own horses. Yeah. Okay.
Yeah. Your favorite brand of Keg shoe? I guess in the latter years I’d probably have to say Kurtheart. Yeah.
If you had to use pads, leather or synthetic.
I wasnever a big fan of pads I use them was for a reason and it wasn’t something I’d put on the horse the whole year in most cases for sure. Probably leather most of the time. And why was that a, I just felt that they gave the horse more relief from concussion from shock. I thought they had more adaptability to different issues in that plastic pads got better for sure. They were brutal like the shoes they were inconsistent 40 years ago.
Okay. And uh, there was certainly no studies done on the
concussive values or anything else, you know, so you kind of assumed that they were helping in that. But overall I’d have to say I’d prefer leather over
plastic. Okay. Favorite type of horse to work on. The English horses were
easier when you got into the western disciplines. You had smaller horses, more heavily muscled and they worked Joe Lot harder. I think a reining horse will cripple a Perrier faster than any horse I can think of. A dressage. Horses are just about as bad, except that they’re taller and are a little more supple than a 14 hand quarterhorses it’s got muscles like he’s on steroids.
Hmm. So the thoroughbreds I’ll was, you know, people knocked her breads, but I never really had any issues with shoeing. The thoroughbreds, they were supple. They were like muscles. So they didn’t lean on you a lot. Uh, even the yearlings that I would shoot for sales once you got them worked with them, I was fortunate enough to work with them, a lot of them from birth, so we had a relationship and they didn’t fight with me or argue with me. Uh, so I, I would say thoroughbreds were pretty easy, but beyond that I would go to a warm blood just because they’re lighter muscle compared to their size. The during horses I always found were really tough on your body. Yeah, I find the same. Yeah.
Ideal number of horses to shoe all around in one day.
Uh, you know what, that’s changed a lot over time because of a dollar. You’re what you can charge. When I started shoeing, I think I was getting $4 for a trim, $8 for a reset or 12 and 16 for new shoes.
So you had to shoe some horses to make a living. And I
can’t remember, I’d be in a barn at 11 o’clock and they’d say, we’ve got one
more horse. Can you do one more from me? I go, yeah, bring it up. And so we shot a lot of horses. I mean, even years ago with an apprentice, you know, I could pull out 10 polo ponies in the morning with no sweat, you know, uh, today with the athletes, the value of the horses in that, I think it requires more time, more thought. I think there’s more, more knowledge. So we’re more aware of things. I think we deal with greater issues because of the stress that are put on horses. Back in the day, you know, most horses, their shoes were pulled in November and they didn’t see a shoe again till May. So their feet got a lot of chance to rejuvenate because it meant they weren’t working.
Now with arenas, with shows, with horses being hauled
thousands of miles a year, there is no relief. There is no let up and the value
of forces is increased a hundred fold in a lot of cases. So you do have to know a lot more. You do have to take a lot more time. You do have to study what you’re doing, look at things a lot harder today with the money you can charge and the quality that demanded. I think you, you’re looking at probably four or five horses on a good day. You know, if you’ve got to travel or throw something else in, you might only get three or four down, you know. But I don’t think you need to do what we did years ago, number wise to make a good living. And if you do, you’re probably doing something wrong. Right. So yeah, I would say four or five on a good day would be a good, good workload and I don’t think you need
more than that.
Yeah. To make a good living in, be happy with what you’ve
done. Exactly. Yeah. Did you have a favorite anvil years ago? When they came out with the aluminum cast on the bottom, you had to switch to it just for the noise level. And they were good anvils. Okay. And so that’s like the future that you’re talking about. Yes. Yeah. Do you have a favorite inspirational quote? There was one, and I can’t give it to you word for word, but this is getting a little stretch. But if you’re going to stand in the shade of the tree, you’re never going to learn much. If you go out and expose yourself to the sun or expose yourself to learning, that’s when the doors are going to open mentally and otherwise.
Uh, so yeah, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and expose yourself because you’re only going to get better for it. You know? The other thing is, you know, my, my dad always said, you’re better do shut up and
look like an idiot to open your mouth and prove it. You know? And that comes into play too. And I’ve, you know, I’ve been at clinics and that and people say, well, why don’t you say something? And I said, I’m here to learn. I already know what I’m gonna say. Yeah. So I don’t need to say it, you know, I don’t need to prove it or argue with somebody. I just want to learn, you know, so I’m just going to shut up and listen. Now if it’s one on one or if somebody puts a question to me, I’ll do my best to answer it. But I don’t feel the need to, you know, if there’s a clinician and I don’t agree with him, I don’t feel the need that I should, you know, say well that’s wrong, you know, in my opinion or whatever, you know. Right. So that I think would be the case where you might open your mouth and prove you’re an idiot.
That’s good. You came up with two from one question.
Favorite breed of dog. Did you have a shooting dog with you?
I never took a dog with me because I always found it a distraction. Like I’d have to worry about the dog. It’s the same as I never took a phone into a bar or I never took the phone out of the truck because I felt it was a disservice. I’m there to look at the horse to deal with the client. I don’t want the dog getting into a fight or running up the door and me worrying about where he went. So I never ever took a dog with me. I have a blue heeler now who I think is probably probably a dog, might be more intelligent than me, but she certainly is smart dog. So I really loved the blue heelers and I had a German shepherd prior to that.
That was really good dog too. Most dogs are like horses.
They’re probably way smarter than we give them credit for and they’re certainly a joy. But a dog is, there’s probably nothing better than a good dog and any breed will do. Uh, there’s certainly bad breeds and better breeds, but dogs are good. Good for the soul. Yes.
What brand of accounting software did you use?
I’m an antique. I never use software. I never used anything in my business. I was either paid when I went out the door or I was paid within 10 days. At some points in my career, depending on where I was working, I always had a policy that if I left an invoice and it wasn’t paid in 10 days, there was 10% added to the bill. I always had great clients. I never, I think in 48 years I probably lost $500 wow.
I was working to make a living. I wasn’t a game to me and
I insisted on getting paid. One time I thought I’d lost 500 because the guy
moved away and when I took him as a client, everybody said, oh, he’ll never pay you. He paid me for five years and then he moved and he owed me four or 500 when he left and I thought, oh, well I guess I lost that because I didn’t know where he’d moved. And then I was up at the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto and I’m walking down by the ring and I hear this guy yelling my name and I’m going, where is that? And then I see him and it’s male, the guy that owed me the money and come on up. So I went up and he says, I think I owe you some money. And I said, Yep, you’re right, you do. And I got my money.
So you might not have even lost 500 in that. Well I probably did, but that would be probably the Max. What did you use as your planner or ah, I just said my yearly agenda book and I kept all my phone
numbers in it. I kept my daily accounts in it. And from the time I started,
pretty much I, I was the one who scheduled. So I would schedule my
appointments, rolled him over every five or six weeks, whatever I was doing. And if I had one that I had to switch to three or four, then I would just pop it in. I never left it with clients because I found I could call them two days before I went and I’d show up in the horse, would be out in the field and they’d say, Oh, I forgot you were coming.
So my history has always been, I call all my clients in
the night before and I give them a time. Probably my biggest mistake there was that I gave them a time as opposed to approximate time. And so that always put me under the gun. If I was doing it over, I would say I’ll be there between 10 and noon instead of at 10 oh five you know, I’d leave myself a little more leeway. But I always found that that worked great for me and my clients always had a pretty good idea that they didn’t want to screw up because I might not come back again, you know? And I was always pretty rigid on that. Maybe, maybe I was a little too rigid, but it worked for me, you know? And if somebody didn’t have their horses in the first time, I would charge them a fee, you know, second time I probably wouldn’t go back, you know, because it just screwed up my business, you know?
And I was there to make a living up to accommodate them solely, you know? Yeah. Favorite method of soothing aches and pain? Hot Tub. Yeah. Yup. I used the hot tub for years. I, when I started going to Florida a couple of years ago, I gave it to my son in law because I had to close it down every winter was, that was my prime time. Uh, so I, I got rid of it, but I had a hot tub for years and that was definitely my go-to method. Yeah. Would you start your day in it or finish it or both? I usually finish it because I would always start at my, I got up at five and I left the house at six 30 and I was under my first horse at seven. So getting up earlier to use the hot tub was a, I was going overboard a little bit, but I would get in it and soak for an hour at night with no trouble and sometimes more, you know, on a nice night I’d just sit there and go to sleep practically.
Did you have injury insurance when you were working? No, I
never did. Uh, I just never felt that it was valid. I don’t feel most
insurances are truly valid and I always remember talking to guys or reading
about guys that had insurance and it was the worst thing they ever did because
you pay the premium and then you have a wait time before you collect. I
couldn’t afford to take six weeks off to wait and collect. That wasn’t in my
plan. You know, and I can remember Remy Hula and old Standardbreds shoer he
broke his leg and he had a cast up to his hip and his insurance wasn’t gonna
kick in for six weeks. Remy, he says, I’m going to lose all my clients and I’m
going to lose a fortune in six weeks. He was back on two horses with one leg
stuck out to the side shoeing.
And I mean, he screwed up his back badly of course. And
then there was a guy over in Great Britain who a horse came down and tore off some
of his fingers or his hand or whatever, and he had to wait to collect and then
you collect a minimal amount every week. And then the insurance company sued
his client and took them to court. He ended up losing the client. He lost his
fingers and he never got enough out of his claim to be worthwhile, you know?
And he said, never again what I use insurance and based on those experiences
and my own feeling, like I said, I can’t wait six weeks to collect $150 a week.
Yeah. You know, I can find a way to shoot one horse or trims three and make the
$150 every week instead of waiting six weeks, you know, and most injuries
aren’t going to take six weeks before I’m back, you know, so I just couldn’t,
couldn’t justify it.
Probably, uh, insurance. Uh, or having a numbered company
so that you would protect yourself against lawsuits today would be more valid
to me because of the value of horses and sometimes a clientele you’re having to
deal with, uh, that might be more valid, you know, just in case you end up in a
lawsuit over a horse. Yes. Yup. Okay. Did you work out? Yeah, I did. I, I
wasn’t somebody who went to a gym, but I always stretched in the morning and
stretch at night. It was basically stretching. It wasn’t like lifting weights
or doing anything of that nature, but I always did a lot of stretching. I
always felt that it was important. Your favorite drink? I’m not a drinker, so
it would probably be a ice tea or a glass of water. I don’t, I don’t drink beer
and I never, I actually never drank anything until I probably the last 10
I got remarried about 15 years ago. My wife insisted I have a glass of wine when she had a glass of wine. So now I have a glass of wine, favourite brand of jeans to work. I used to be Lee’s years ago. Now it’s Levi’s. Yeah. Do you meditate? No, I don’t. What would you have been, if not a farrier? I might’ve been a physical education teacher. I don’t know. You know, I look back and I don’t know what I would’ve done. I probably would’ve continued on in university and become a physical education teacher. But I was really fascinated and loved horses my whole life. And it was hard to get away, but back in the day, all the trainers I knew were one step away from bankruptcy or they were under third bankruptcy. So I knew that wasn’t good and I wasn’t real good at biology.
So I knew vet school was going to be tough. Yeah. Looking back, I don’t regret anything about shoeing. It was a tough, tough way to make a living years ago because you had to shoot numbers and not a lot of money for each horse. But looking back, it was very stimulating. Very. I met some wonderful people in the, in my clients and other farriers in the industry. Uh, I’m so glad I became a farrier and I’m so glad I’m retiring as a farrier because it’s, it is a wonderful trade. Early is great. Yeah. And one last question. Is there anybody you would recommend that I interview in the future? Some of you think that their voice needs to be heard. You know what, there’s probably so many out there that none of us know about that would be fascinating interviews. A lot of the guys, as you know, probably better than I do. A lot of the guys that have been interviewed and quoted so many times, Larry Rumsby is a great farrier. He’s a worthy hall of fame member, which he is, Larry would be a great interview. He’s on my wishlist. I didn’t know if he would do one or not. Larry’s really good. Randy Lou Kart. He would fill your interview sheet many times over. Great Farrier, great clinician. Learned a lot from Randy locally in this area. I don’t know so many young farriers now after I left Toronto. I mean it just, everybody turned over right a dozen times probably, but I don’t know a lot of them, but a lot of them could be very good interviews. I would try and get Larry, he’d be a really good interview for you. He’s shod some of the world’s best, uh, horses and he’s travelled the globe shoeing horses. He’s been all over Europe many, many, many, many times and he’s got a wealth of expertise. I would certainly suggest Larry, I’ll pursue that. Yup. Well, thank you very much, Ray. I really appreciate it. You’re very welcome. A pleasure.
Before we finish, I would like to say a few words about
the often unsung heroes of our horse world. The grooms at good groom can make your day, have your back and even save your life at tortuously, overworked and underpaid. And yet the good ones make sure that the horses are clean with their legs, aren’t wet, that the ones you need are and that you know all of the details of the one that might be a bit off, that you’re aware of the nervou and quite possibly dangerous one. They coordinate the dates, make sure the
stiff ones get out for some pastor time before you work on them. They hold the finicky ones, they take away the ones who finished and bring you your next contestant on the shoes fit right and they may not always appreciate, but they always do tolerate your bad dad jokes.
There are many accounts on my books that wouldn’t be doable without the hard work of these super grooms that I speak of. I try to show my appreciation by sometimes bringing cookies or coffee, but I’ve often wanted to find another way to say thank you. Along came the grooms class endeavor by one of our local vet clinics, McKee-Pownall. Now. I was approached last year by one of its coordinators to sponsor it, so I donated some new farrier tools that would come in handy for those times when a horse pulls it shoe but doesn’t quite finish the job. A pair of crease nail pullers and a pair of pull offs can get any good groom out of the shoe is held on by three nails and the horse is stepping on the clips situation. Molly approached me again this year and they are making the prize list even bigger for the grooms classes.
The hunter one will be during the autumn classic series at
EMG and Palgrave, Ontario on the 14th of September. The jumper one will be during the Canadian Show jumping Tournament also at Palgrave on the 20th September. The Mullins Farrier podcast is proudly sponsoring these classes to say thank you to our allies in the trenches as a farrier. Maybe you could start a similar initiative in your area or just bring a box of cookies every once in a while to say thank you for doing what you do. That marks the end of this episode.
Thank you for listening. This podcast is made possible by the heart and tedious work of my friends at Twisted Spur Media, and I am forever grateful to them for all that they do. Until next time, take care of yourselves and each other right there.