For more than 20 years Gary Werner has been shoeing horses for high profile customers, including the New York City Ballet, Radio City Music Hall, David Letterman, the Metropolitan Opera and numerous Broadway shows.
Werner, who works with his son Jesse, worked at Claremont Riding Stables, the last public riding stable in Manhattan, where Gary tended to about 50 horses.
“They [Claremont] had the contract for plays and a lot of the cultural events in Manhattan,” he says.
Gary explains that the horses’ shoes were often steel. The farriers’ job was to change the shoes to rubber or synthetic, materials that wouldn’t mar the stages and would help prevent the horses from slipping.
Jesse attended Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Farrier Program. Father and son collaborate on everything they do.
“I think, due to his background from Cornell, and my background, it works well,” say Gary, who studied farrier science at MidSouth Academy of Horseshoeing in Mississippi. “We try to do complicated cases that most other people in the industry don’t want to touch, but we like the challenge.”
Although shoeing horses is a different career than what most people do, Gary sees similarities.
“With shoeing horses, it’s no different than any other job,” says Gary, who has lectured at the International Hoof-Care Summit in Cincinnati, Ohio. “You have to retool. You have to reinvent. You have to be on the cutting edge as far as technology and education. Also you need a good personality, friendliness, congeniality, communication and a smile on your face. You want to convey that you’re there to help.”
It’s a passion for horses that keeps Gary interested in farrier work.
“They’re gorgeous,” he says. “They’re very responsive to people and it’s pretty incredible to think that these large animals are also relatively docile. They’re smart enough to be independent for survival, yet they’re domestic enough to be utilized for all kinds of work, from carrying and pulling carts to show jumping at the Hampton Classic.”
Gary attended the Classic and enjoyed seeing the horses and riders.
“I go every year,” he says. “It’s nice to see an outpouring of spectators coming to see top riders in the world compete, as well as the class of horses.”