SHOEING MENTOR. Bill Reed, right, talks over shoeing concepts with farriers Jeremy Condrey, left, and Travis Lefler. Reed is well known for his willingness to share his knowledge and skills with other shoers.
How many of us are lucky enough to be doing exactly what we’ve wanted to do since we were kids? Chances are we’ve had some distractions along the way, such as dreams of being astronauts, firemen, doctors or jockeys — or maybe the realities of having to do one job to pay bills while dreaming of another.
Not Bill Reed, a 21-year-veteran, show-horse shoer who lives in Columbus, N.C. This man has known what he wanted to do with his life ever since he was a fourth-grader watching a farrier shoe a horse for the first time. And he’s known he wanted to live in the North Carolina mountains ever since vacationing there as a kid from Largo, Fla.
Now he’s got a flourishing business doing exactly what he always dreamed of doing —shoeing top-end sport horses including show jumpers, hunter-jumpers, dressage and event horses in the Carolina foothills.
“People ask what I do for fun and I answer that I shoe horses,” he says with a grin. “I’m living my dream.”
Not only is he living his dream, he’s helping share it with other farriers. One of the biggest reasons fellow shoers recommended Reed for this article was because this natural teacher helped a lot of young shoers get started and also helped a lot of experienced farriers advance their skills. True to form, on the day we interviewed him he had two farriers riding with him to learn more.
“I help a lot of shoers, but a lot of guys don’t want to show you their tricks,” he says. “I decided a long time ago that I can’t shoe them all. I will help anyone who wants to shoe for the right reasons; that’s what it’s all about. You can’t do it for the money; you have to do it for the horse. You’ve got to give 100 percent every day. You can’t go out to shoe with a hangover or anything like that. You can take a good horseshoer giving 70 percent and a young shoer giving 100 percent, and that young shoer is a better shoer.”
So off we go to the Appalachian foothills along the North Carolina/South Carolina border on a beautiful, sunny spring day to see what we can learn about Bill Reed’s shoeing and teaching success.
8:10 a.m. Reed’s gassing up his 2003 diesel Ford F-450 (with a Stone Well body) for the day at a BP off Interstate 85 in South Carolina, and I introduce myself to Travis Lefler, a farrier from Tampa, Fla., who’s riding with Reed for a few days to learn new tricks. Reed’s on the phone with a client, so Lefler and I start getting to know each other.
HOT SHOER. Bill Reed hot fits a shoe during a shoeing day in North Carolina. The 21-year-veteran shoer may not hot fit every horse, but he is a big believer in hot shoeing, using his forging skills to modify and shape every shoe he uses.
“Bill showed me how to do sport horses,” he says. “I do a lot of barns at home and I get all the problem horses now. I call Bill with all my tough horses — thank God for camera phones!” he says with a laugh.
Reed’s phone call finishes, and he ambles back to the truck to shake hands. He’s a friendly, professional man with a quick smile and the air of someone who’s content with his life but always ready for a challenge. Today we have two stops and five horses on the schedule (three at the first barn and two at the second). All of the horses are sound, repeat customers, so we won’t see much in terms of watching them go and trying to optimize their gait.
“We’re not in a rush,” he says. “The more you hurry, the slower things go. Five horses, maybe six is a pretty normal non-clinic day for us. And every Thursday I do clinic work at Bonnie Brae Equine Hospital in Columbus, mostly for laminitis, club feet and just out-of-balance horses. Probably 70 percent of those clinic jobs just need good shoeing. We work off a lot of digital X-rays. We’ve had a lot of laminitic horses this year, maybe because it’s been a pretty cold winter and a warm spring. Usually we have the worst problems with that in the fall.
“Most of the laminitis cases are fat and maybe insulin-resistant. They need special shoeing and a special diet we call the WWW diet — wind, water and weeds,” he says with a smile.
The discussion turns to background, and Lefler relates how he got started shoeing with Reed, who used to go to Florida for winter shows even after moving to North Carolina. “Bill used to shoe my girlfriend’s horses when she was little,” he recalls. “I was always hearing ‘Bill Reed’ this and ‘Bill Reed’ that, but I didn’t know who he was. One day about 3 years ago I pulled up to a barn at the Tampa fairgrounds during a show and saw his truck, then saw the feet he’d finished, and said, ‘That’s what I want to be able to do.’ I introduced myself and he said he was Bill Reed, and I said, ‘You’re kidding! I know all about you!’
“We shod together all day the next day, and now with any problems I have, he’s the first one I call,” he says. “My first case of pedal osteitis, he told me how to shoe it over the phone and the horse went sound. He’s an unbelievable teacher. He’s an urban legend in Florida; everyone knows him down there.”
Jeremy Condrey, a local shoer who’s also been riding with Reed, arrives and we’re off to breakfast at McDonald’s. “I’ve been shoeing 2 years, and my work has turned 180 degrees since working with Bill,” he says as we ride.
“The first time I saw him clinch a shoe — which was a lot smaller than I clinched — I said to myself, ‘How the heck will that stay on?’ But it does. His shoes fit so right that each nail is in the exact same spot around the white line. A lot of people just use shoes out of the box and that’s why a lot of horses have round feet—they end up changing to fit those round shoes. Bill shapes the shoe to the foot instead.”
GETTING CENTERED. When fitting his shoes, Reed believes in centering the shoe on the “true center” of the foot. He also believes in fitting the toe of the shoe before he brings the branches in.
“Shoe shaping is very critical,” Reed states. “Some shoers assume that the basic shape of the shoe is what the hoof should look like. I’ve only had one horse in all the horses I’ve shod that I didn’t have to touch the shoes. You have to shape each shoe individually; that means don’t put a round quarter on a straight quarter or a round toe on a flatter toe. Look at the white line and make the shoe look like that. It takes a little longer but the horse really benefits. I’ve burnt up a lot of forges and I go through about 11 gallons of propane in a week to 10 days, but it’s the right way. If you leave too much toe, you’re just going to make him break over one way or another and that will cause problems.”
“Once he fits that shoe, a blind man could drive it and not stick the horse,” Lefler comments.
9:22 a.m. As we pull into Field Stone Farm, Reed comments on the smaller paddocks, “A lot of horses in this region get upper suspensory injuries from running and playing in the fields. The ground here is really hard (mostly clay), and unless a horse is super fit, he doesn’t need to be out in big fields. Smaller paddocks are OK.”
9:25 a.m. Once Reed has the truck parked, the three farriers go into setup mode like a well-oiled machine. Power cords are routed from the truck up over stall doors to stay out of the way, tools are unpacked, aprons go on, water’s brought for quenching shoes, a rubber-bristled broom is brought out for cleanup and the vise and anvil support arms are extended out and braced.
“I had Stone Well custom extend those arms,” Reed comments. “That gives me room to move all around them.”
9:30 a.m. Jesús, the farm’s groom, leads out a dapple gray Thoroughbred gelding named Elmo for new shoes all around. Lefler pulls the shoes while Reed discusses the plan. “He’s one of the few Thoroughbreds we shoe; most of them are big warmbloods,” he says. “He’s young (3 or 4) and kind of awkward still; we have to shoe him pretty tight so he doesn’t pull anything.”
9:37 a.m. Reed trims Elmo’s front feet, noting that he doesn’t like trimming the frog excessively. “You have to clean the edges, but you don’t need to take down the top,” he notes.
9:44 a.m. Reed starts hot fitting the new right front shoe, a Kerckhaert SX7. “I only work one shoe at a time,” he says as he fits the toe. “You have to get the first nail holes (nearest the toe) fit before you can do the heels in separate steps. Fit one nail hole at a time if that’s what you need to do.”
9:47 a.m. Reed fits the heels of the first shoe. “It’s so much easier on your body to hot shape,” comments Lefler as he watches Bill work. “I used to be scared of the forge and I’d cold shape shoes, then heat them to check, then nail them on. Once I started hot shoeing, my elbow pain started going away. Now I feel naked without a forge.”
LEARN FROM THE BURN. Reed says the burn pattern on the lateral heel of this shoe turns in more than the heel of the shoe itself. That tells him he needs to curve the heel in more.
“I finish all my heels in the fire as well as broadening the toes,” notes Reed. “I want everything centered. If you just cold shoe and want to learn to hot shoe, start with only one horse a day so you don’t get frustrated. Don’t hot shoe all day or you’re setting yourself up for failure, and nobody likes that.”
He grinds off the square edges all the way around the outside foot and ground surfaces of each shoe to ease breakover in all directions. “It kind of breaks in the shoe for them,” he comments. “And it makes it harder for them to pull it off.”
“If you look, you see that the foot comes just to the (shoe’s) ground edge,” Condrey points out.
9:53 a.m. Reed hot fits the left front shoe. “See this?” he asks as he sights down the medial wall to see the shoe fitting a little full. “Most people miss the heel quarters by fitting them too tight and when the foot overgrows, it does so just at the heel quarter. But if you fit the medial heel too full, lots of horses lose shoes this way.”
9:56 a.m. After the third fit on the left front shoe, Reed stands up in satisfaction. “We’re good now to the last nail hole,” he says as he goes on to finish fitting the ends of the heels. “The heels are the most important part of the shoe. Lots of horses have chronic heel pain. I think that’s the No. 1 lameness. When you put the shoe on, you should have an even burn pattern with a nickel’s worth of shoe or whatever you like all around.
“When you look at the shoe with the foot picked up, and you move the shoe forward, the shoe and hoof heels should have the same shape. Austin Eden (a member of the American Farrier’s Team from Dripping Springs, Texas) said the heels should be at the center of the stock, and I think that’s a good way of looking at it.”
10:05 a.m. Reed starts nailing the left front shoe on after grinding its edges. “I always rework factory-made clips a bit when forging so they seat on the foot a little better,” he notes, as he gets ready to hammer the clips against the wall. “I don’t like to burn clips into the wall. A lot of people do, but I think when you’re in an area where the feet get wet and dry, the feet move a lot and they tend to work against the clip. The clip is too rigid for that mobile foot. I see a lot of feet breaking up around the clips, so I start down low and just slightly put the top in.”
10:09 a.m. The right front shoe gets nailed on. “I’m always feeling around the shoe and foot for placement; I was told a long time ago to see with my fingers,” Reed says while seating the shoe. Condrey holds up the left front so Elmo won’t move while Reed sets the clips on the right front.
MATCHING HEELS. Reed wants the heels of his front shoes to be the same length. He doesn’t want a horse rocking from one side to the other when landing because of a difference in heel length.
10:16 a.m. Both front feet have been pulled forward and sanded smooth, with a fast-drying lacquer applied to the entire wall on each foot. “I dress all my feet,” says Reed. “Some say you shouldn’t, but I think that if you smooth them out, the nails come out cleaner.
“I use Gemini GemCoat High Build Gloss Lacquer to seal them after sanding; it dries in about 45 seconds and lasts a long time. That’s something I learned from my late friend Bill Crowder in Alpharetta, Ga. When I strip the foot down, it loses some of its moisture barrier, and if you take it off you should put it back. Plus it looks good for the clients.”
When asked if he polishes all feet this way or only those on horses like Elmo going to a show later in the day, Reed says, “I shoe a trail horse the same way. They all get the same treatment.”
10:19 a.m. “These are typical Thoroughbred feet — delicate,” Reed says while trimming Elmo’s right hind foot. “He tends to hit hard on the outside of this foot and gets this flare. I’ll match up his walls a bit before fitting the shoe.”
10:22 a.m. He trims the left hind, commenting, “This foot has no lateral flare; every one’s a little different. You have to shoe what they are, not what you want them to be. You need to learn where the center of the true hoof is and shoe around that. If you don’t know where the center of the foot is, you just can’t shoe it. When you’re done shoeing that horse, ask yourself if you’d want to walk on those shoes for 5 weeks?”
As he shapes the first shoe, he recalls: “A friend of mine used to buy every brand of egg bars in every size because he said he could always find one that fit close, since he wasn’t skilled at shaping them. So I showed him how to shape them, and now he doesn’t have to carry all those shoes. Probably gets better gas mileage too.
“I love shaping shoes; it’s my favorite thing to do,” he adds.
10:28 a.m. While hot-fitting the right hind shoe (a Kerckhaert SX8), he reflects on the shoers who have apprenticed with him. “I’m not taking guys from scratch anymore because it slows me down too much, but if they have a foundation and they want to ride with me, then they have the drive to learn,” he notes. “It’s fun to watch them evolve. But if they don’t want to learn, the horse pays.”
10:33 a.m. A veterinarian and assistant from Bonnie Brae arrive to look at Peter, a big bay hunter gelding who apparently went slightly lame just before a potential buyer looked at him recently. Murphy’s law… He’s the third horse on our schedule.
SHAPING METHOD. Reed shapes a shoe at the anvil behind his shoeing rig. Reed starts by broadening the toe and placing breakover where he thinks it should be. He then sets the toe and brings the branches in.
10:47 a.m. While fitting Elmo’s left hind shoe, Reed notes: “He’ll wear his hinds out first, and when the toe gets thin, the heels of the shoe can spread out past the heels of the foot. Then it takes the nails with it and breaks the feet up. All this clay is hard ground. From working in Tennessee and Georgia, I’d say their clay is red like ours, but not as abrasive on shoes as here. Concussion on the shoe is a big problem here too.”
10:56 a.m. The left hind is nailed and the right hind’s on its way. The farm owner, Martha Hall, has arrived and likes what she sees. “His feet look wonderful!” she says with a big grin. “He’s starting to get grown-up feet.”
Reed smiles and agrees, and goes back to nailing. “He’s really OK with four nails in the shoe; the third lateral nail is just insurance because the ground is so hard,” he notes. “We don’t get a lot of resets here because the shoes wear out pretty fast.”
Picking up a nail and pinching it nearly halfway down from the point with his fingers, he says, “Mike DeSalvo taught me once that if more than just the tip of the nail sticks out of the foot, it’s too low and you need to re-drive it.”
11:02 a.m. Both hinds are nailed and being sanded and lacquered by Lefler.
11:03 a.m. Elmo’s done, with four new shoes. Reed discusses with Hall the possibility of estrone injections for Elmo, as he seemed a little sore in his stifles (stretching his hind legs out behind and low for a few seconds before flexing them into the shoeing position). Since the vet’s there, albeit watching Peter lunge at the moment, the discussion is tabled for her input. Reed recommends long trotting workouts to get Elmo more fit.
All three farriers take a few moments to watch Peter lunge in the nearby dirt arena with Hall and veterinarian Anne Baskett, who has decided he just tweaked a fetlock when he hit a ground pole on landing a few days ago. Hall said he appeared better today than that day. She later reported he was even better the day after our interview, when he went to a show.
11:04 a.m. Elmo goes home and a bay Irish sport horse named Paddy comes out. His feet appear pretty solid, although narrow and a bit contracted. “I got this horse as a 4-year-old with the most contracted feet you’ve ever seen and thrush up to his pasterns,” Hall recalls as Lefler pulls the shoes. “He’s grown some good foot since then.” She heads back out to consult with Baskett.
TRIMMING FROM THE TOE. Reed prefers to begin trimming a hoof at the toe, and then moves toward the heels in half nips. He says this helps keep a straight line to the hoof wall and avoids dips in the quarters.
11:13 a.m. Paddy’s front feet are trimmed and dressed. As Reed examines the old front shoes, he looks up and says with the anticipation of a kid getting a new toy, “This shoe’s worn out. Let’s make a new one!”
As he reaches the truck, Hall returns from a consultation with the vet on estrone for Elmo. “Anne thinks the estrone’s a good idea too; I call you Dr. Bill for a reason!” she jokes. “She says you’re the best barometer for lameness.”
Hall and Reed also discuss turnout times to help preserve Elmo’s delicate Thoroughbred feet, and agree that turning out from 4 to 10 p.m., before most of the dew falls, will be best to avoid wet-dry cycling.
11:35 a.m. Reed hot fits the front shoes, grinding off the edges when he’s done. “This horse’s fetlocks are offset to the outsides of his feet, so we give him more support on his lateral sides,” he says. “The hoof is like a map; once you learn to read it, you know what to do with it.”
11:55 a.m. Both front shoes have been nailed on. While trimming the hind soles, Reed comments, “I’m just going to take out what wants to fall out. Warmbloods need some foot on them. If you get that sole bruised because it’s too thin, it will take a while to get better. This is a pretty healthy foot, maybe not ideal, but it’s maintained to be a healthy foot.”
11:57 a.m. Having finished trimming the hinds, Reed heads to the forge to shape the new hind shoes. As he goes back and forth from the forge to the foot for multiple fittings, he comments, “Some guys say they don’t like clients to see them keep going back and forth from the anvil to the horse, but it’s OK. With warmbloods, you have to hot shoe. I just don’t think you can do a good job on these heavier stock shoes without a hot forge.”
TAKING A SIGHT. Reed checks his fit on a left front foot by sighting down the medial wall. He’s particular about his fit in the quarters as well as leaving some room for expansion. The shoe is shaped and set so that the foot comes just to where the edge has been ground off.
12:11 p.m. Lefler finishes the front feet while Reed grinds a rear shoe.
12:25 p.m. Reed hot-fits the other rear shoe while Condrey taps stud holes in the other.
12:27 p.m. “It seems like the more heel they have (like Paddy), the more support they need,” Reed comments as he grinds the last rear shoe. “They have a shorter base of support with that upright foot.”
12:30 p.m. Reed reminisces about one of his mentors as he’s nailing the right hind shoe. “Mike DeSaleo was real good about building confidence,” he says. “After two years of apprenticeship in the school of hard knocks, Mike said he was kicking me out of the nest. He said I was as good as someone who’d been shoeing 20 to 25 years. Some guys will keep telling you you’re nothing to keep you from getting overconfident, but you have to have confidence. I would never look at a horse and say, ‘What will I do?’ I would say, ‘OK, I can figure this out.’ ”
12:35 p.m. Paddy’s done, and it’s Peter’s turn for new shoes.
12:40 p.m. As Reed trims a front foot, he notes that he prefers to start trimming a foot at the center of the toe, not at the heel or quarters taking half-nips at a time. “This helps you keep a nice, straight line,” he says. “A lot of young guys dip out their quarters.”
12:43 p.m. After finishing the front trims, Reed notes, “When you look at a horse with walls that are the same thickness all around and no stretch in the white line, he’s pretty much in balance. We won’t add a lot of weight to this horse as he’s a hunter.”
We discuss lame horses a bit, and he comments, “I tell people that when they buy a horse, especially an investment horse, that they should get it X-rayed not only so they can find any problems, but also so they have a baseline in case something goes wrong later.”
SPARKS FLY. Reed uses a grinder to safe a shoe before he nails it in place. He grinds off edges all the way around both the foot and ground surfaces of the shoe to ease breakover. He says it’s a way of “breaking in” the shoes for the horse.
12:51 p.m. Reed hot fits a front shoe, then heads back to the forge muttering, “3 and 3…” under his breath. “That means bring in the heels on both sides after the third nail hole,” he explains. “I call the medial first; it’s the easiest to do.
“I want the front heels to be the exact same length; I don’t want him to rock from one side to the other on landing (because one heel was longer than the other),” he adds.
12:56 p.m. After fitting the left front again, he comments: “Look at the hoof lines on this shoe. See how the lateral heel curves in more than the shoe? I need to curve that heel more.
“When I shape a shoe, I start by broadening the toe and putting breakover where I think it should be, setting the toe, then bringing in the branches as needed,” he explains as he waits for the shoe to heat up. “I shoe so they still look good at 3 to 4 weeks after shoeing. I don’t shoe for today, I shoe for down the road. If you shoe for today, the horse will be really out of whack in 4 to 5 weeks.”
1:08 p.m. As he fits another shoe, I ask why he carries both a tripod stand and a Hoofjack. “I learned on a tripod stand, but I don’t recommend it,” he explains. “If they tip over, they can be very dangerous. You have to stand on it. I recommend a Hoofjack for the younger guys.”
As Condrey heads to the truck for a new box of nails, Reed comments, “A Capewell 5 slim blade is about the only nail I use, and only out of a 100-count box. I think the 100-count drives better because it has a duller point and comes out better without going so high up the wall. I found that out by accident; I ran out of 500-count boxes once and bought a 100-count because I didn’t have much left to do, and when I used them I thought, ‘Wow, this is so much better!’ “
1:20 p.m. Condrey is drilling, countersinking and tapping stud holes in a finished shoe. Reed feels the countersinking makes it easier for clients to start studs in the shoe holes. As we head from the truck back to the horse, someone makes a comment about how it’s past time for lunch. “I like to do three horses before and three after lunch,” says Reed.
“Yeah, and three past dark,” rejoins Lefler with a laugh. “When I work with Bill I get home hungry unless I pack a lunch and a snack, but I’m anxious to get home to my clients to try what I’ve learned.”
WELL-EQUIPPED RIG. Reed shoes out of a 2003 Ford-450 with a Stone Well shoeing body mounted on it. The rig includes longer, custom-ordered swing-out arms for the anvil and forge.
1:42 p.m. Reed continues to fit shoes while Condrey taps stud holes in completed shoes. “I think horses should show with studs all the time, because it gives them confidence in their turns,” Reed says. “If they slip and then catch themselves, that’s how they hurt the upper suspensory. Plus they will lose confidence and not set up for turns to the next fence as well.”
1:45 p.m. Reed heads back to the grinder. Once he’s done, he stops to discuss heel support. “You can have too much medio-lateral support; you may make the horse land on one side or the other first because that’s not his true foot, and you start torquing his joints,” he cautions. “There’s a happy medium there. But that’s not quite such a problem on sand as on this hard ground.”
1:59 p.m. Peter’s right front shoe has been nailed on. Reed recommends resetting these horses at 5-week intervals this time of year, but notes that 6 weeks is a good interval for winter.
2:01 p.m. The left front shoe is nailed on, and I remark about how completely quiet all three of these horses have been. “You can’t do a good job on a bad horse,” he says simply. “If they’re bad, I have the farm staff sedate them; most of them don’t have a problem with that. Our job here is to shoe, not train.”
2:19 p.m. Peter’s done and Condrey and Lefler set about sweeping the aisle and putting away tools and cords. As Reed takes a breather and observes, he comments, “Some people think they’re too good to sweep up after themselves. Denny Young (a Florida farrier) asked me 18 years ago that if you made cabinets in a lady’s kitchen, would you sweep up your sawdust? Of course you would, and this is no different. I think about that every time I sweep.”
2:22 p.m. We’re en route to lunch and Reed’s discussing some of the differences between his work here and in Florida. “There we used to have horses lined up while we were working. No pressure, right?” he says with a laugh. “You’d think, ‘Gee, could you at least go around the corner or something?’ We had to start using sign-up sheets to schedule them. I used to say I’d been under 70,000-80,000 horses (done that many shoeing jobs) by the time I left Florida 10 years ago. I had a book of 600-700 horses.”
2:35 p.m. We arrive at a Mexican restaurant for lunch and an occasionally rambunctious discussion of previous cases and various theories on laminitis. Reed thinks breakover and support are important parts of shoeing a laminitic horse, and that maintaining as much sole under the coffin bone as possible improves the outcome.
3:31 p.m. We arrive at our second and last stop of the day — Green River Farm, which many would call a fantasy farm. After crossing the Green River, a long, twisty, wooded drive gives way to several paddocks on rolling hills and an 18-stall showplace barn. Acres of heavily polished wood, cathedral ceilings, stone accents, rubber pavers, tiled his-and-hers tack rooms, ceiling heaters in the wash stalls, and a covered riding-height walkway to a large covered, lighted arena greet me during a brief tour. I could have eaten off the floor, especially after a groom finishes vacuuming it.
3:54 p.m. Lefler begins pulling shoes off Lewis, a sound-footed warmblood hunter gelding. “This place is pretty impressive, isn’t it?” asks Reed. “I think it’s around 4,000 acres. They foxhunt their own property here.”
4:10 p.m. Reed begins hot-fitting a new left front shoe; Lewis will get new shoes all around as well.
TOOL POWER. Reed does a lot of hunters and jumpers in his practice, which means he drills and taps a lot of shoes. His rig is equipped with drill presses and a power tapper for greater efficiency.
4:27 p.m. Both front shoes are fitted and Reed’s trimming the hinds. As he looks at wear on the old shoes, he comments, “A hocky horse (one with soreness in his hocks) will wear the shoe around the first lateral nail. A stifley horse, like this one, will tend to wear around the first medial nail.”
“Our horses have never gone better,” says Randi, the barn manager, who’s holding Lewis. Later on, owner Roger Smith agrees. “He’s got to be good, my wife’s fired more farriers…” he says, his voice trailing off.
Reed’s not entirely happy with Lewis’s feet after the horse spent a period of time in Florida. “They just won’t pull the shoe back, and the foot’s started to run forward,” he says. “But I can’t just knock off his heels because then the angles will be wrong. I just set the shoe back a little and give him some more heel support.”
4:34 p.m. Reed’s doing what he loves — shaping new shoes (size 3 on the hinds).
4:45 p.m. “These horses are turned out during the day, not at night,” he comments as he grinds the last rear shoe. “It’s much better for their feet than all that dew.”
5:03 p.m. The left front shoe has been nailed on, and the right front is in progress. “I put clips on all hunter-jumpers,” he says as he hammers a clip against the foot. “But I only put clips on ponies behind, usually not on the fronts. Anything below a 00 shoe gets no clip — the feet are so small that it’s just in the way.”
As he sets the right front shoe, he notes, “See how I set the right front shoe back just a little further than the left? This foot has run out in front just a little more. I’ve also broadened the toe a little more on this shoe.”
5:17 p.m. The front feet are done and polished, and Lefler is finishing the hinds.
5:25 p.m. Lewis is done and another bay gelding, this one a good-moving hunter and jumper named Gino, is brought out. “They shod him four times in Florida, and this is my second shoeing on him since he came back,” Reed says. “See how long his feet got?
“ It will take a couple more shoeings to get him back right, and then he’ll go back down there. This is a really nice imported horse; they just cut him, but they collected him and froze semen so he could still be bred.
“Watch him, he nips,” he says to Condrey, who’s holding Gino. “It’s your fault if he bites me.” No worries there; no blood was drawn this day.
5:35 p.m. Bill is shaping new aluminum Kerckhaert size 2 front shoes for Gino; the light shoes help his motion for hack classes. “You can’t really burn these in,” he comments. “You can’t get them hot enough.”
5:44 p.m. He continues to fit and shape the front shoes. “They just bounce all over the place, don’t they?” he says with a laugh as he stands at the anvil. “The hard part of aluminum shoes is fitting. It takes patience. There’s no need to rush; if you do you’ll just get frustrated.”
END OF THE JOB. A pair of finished feet. Reed dresses all of his horses’ feet. He believes coating them with a lacquer helps restore some of the moisture barrier that is lost during the shoeing process.
5:52 p.m. Reed grinds the right front shoe, then heads over to the drill press. “Aluminum is so thick I always like to back-punch it, because that helps get the nail in at a good angle,” he explains.
6:06 p.m. Gino’s front shoes are nailed and Reed’s looking at his hind shoes. “Might as well reset something today,” he says with a smile. Gino stands with his hind feet pointed just about east and west, so I ask Reed what his plan is for these feet.
“I shoe the bottom of the foot, not the top,” he replies. “I try to keep the toes back so the toe quarters are even; if you follow your white line you can’t go wrong. I’m not one to lower this side and raise that side up or whatever. Breakover and support are the really big issues. You have to take those levers away (i.e., any imbalance) so the horse can use his shoulders and his hind end right.”
6:14 p.m. Gino’s rear shoes have been heated, checked, deemed satisfactory, and quenched. “I like to pop the shoe open a little after quenching and re-tap stud holes on reset shoes,” says Bill. “There’s no sense in them getting to the show and having to pull the shoes just to re-tap the holes.”
6:32 p.m. Gino is done and so are we. Everyone packs up the truck and we’re rolling by 6:40 p.m. On the way back, Reed takes us through part of Polk County, which he says is rated the No. 10 rural county in the U.S.; apparently it’s the third smallest county in North Carolina. Wineries, mansions and beautiful foothills scenery grace our route.
6:51 p.m. It’s been nearly an 11-hour day for all of us, but Reed shows no signs of fatigue, only satisfaction in several jobs well done. I ask him, if he could tell young shoers getting started anything (since that’s his specialty), what would it be?
“Don’t do it for the money,” he says after only the briefest moment of reflection. “Everyone has to eat, but do this job for the horse. And don’t be afraid to ask questions and if you’re the lucky horseshoer who’s being asked questions, try not to belittle the person asking and make them feel stupid. Help him in a way where he’s comfortable with what you’re showing him. Help him get confidence as you’re teaching him.”