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Jerry Matthews leads a Thoroughbred to the cross-ties and stands still for a moment before snapping a rope to each side of the halter. Matthews is tall, but would have trouble peering over the withers of this big hunter.
Here at White Oak, the premier hunter/jumper barn in the Kansas City, Mo., area, Matthews is set up to work all day. He’s been shoeing here since 1979.
His two dogs, boxers Jake and Maggie, wander nearby, so mellow you’d think they were home. Nowhere are there signs of mental or physical stress. That’s the way Matthews likes it.
He feels that a proper frame of mind is as important as shoeing skill to the success and longevity of a farrier’s career.
The horse’s mind set is also important. “They can read your emotions so much better than you can read theirs,” Matthews says. “If you’re in a bad mood, they’re going to know it. You can’t hide it.” He heads off trouble by taking his time and making sure the horses are comfortable and not rushed.
He says some farriers bring a horse in, cross-tie it, pick up a foot and start shoeing as soon as the last snap hits the halter. “This doesn’t give the horse a chance to look around, see where he is and see that his surroundings are OK,” he says.
Giving the horse more time often heads off any fussiness. Matthews keeps a horse calm by letting it stand for 3 or…