Horses along the Interstate 84 corridor and at other points in Putnam, Dutchess and Ulster counties in New York know they have a friend when Ken Boaz arrives at their stables.
Boaz is a farrier who trims and balances their hooves and places shoes on them when necessary. In addition to the mechanical tools of his trade, Boaz employs soft talk and petting to keep the horses calm while he examines and treats them. “I have to let the horse know that I am not there to hurt him,” he says.
The easiest horses to work on, in Boaz’s opinion, are the standardbreds. “They are awesome,” he says. “They are so well trained and behave very well.”
The draft horses, by contrast, present special challenges, Boaz says. “They are the work horses that pull carriages or can be a riding horse and can weigh 2,200 pounds. With all that weight, they are not very willing to stand on just three legs while I work on the fourth,” he says.
Boaz’s care of horses begins at about four to six weeks of age. “Some foals may be born with hoof and leg deviations that will require more than early hoof trimming techniques,” he says.
There are multiple sizes and brands of horse shoes that can be purchased, Boaz says, “but when I need a shoe that cannot be bought, I make it myself,” he adds. For that purpose, he has a grinder, forge, anvil, drill press and other smaller tools. Boaz believes growing up with horses and being a rider himself give him an edge in his career. Raised in Harrison as the youngest of three children of a general contractor, he had horses and competed in horse shows. After graduation from Harrison High School, he entered the Cornell University farrier school and is certified through that institution.
Farriers have a long and proud history, Boaz says. Originally, he notes, the jobs of farrier and blacksmith were practically synonymous. The origins of the name are thought to stem from the French word “ferrier” (blacksmith) and the Latin word “ferrum” (iron). In colonial America, farriers performed blacksmith chores of fabricating and repairing their tools. The trade has a long history in Great Britain, where farriers organized in 1356, receiving a royal charter of incorporation in 1571. In the British Army, the Household Cavalry has farriers march in parades in ceremonial dress, carrying historical aces with spikes. They are a familiar sight at the ceremony of Trooping the Colour.