A regular Yarra Valley Racing attendee, farrier Paul Grey is not your typical racegoer. While the carnival for most attendees is about betting on the races, Grey is entirely focused on the shoes — horseshoes, that is.
And his passion doesn’t come without a list of impressive accolades, according to the Herald Sun. Having shod thousands of horses during his career of more than 50 years, Grey has worked with winners of the Melbourne Cup, Blue Diamond Stakes and the Cox Plate.
The times Grey remembers at the beginning of his career — when every shoe was handcrafted for each horse — are over as more cost and time effective machine-made shoes have become commonplace. But, the fit of these newer shoes is no match for Grey’s tailored footwear.
“That’s the sad thing about the industry, actually,” Grey says. “It’s not as common these days to make the shoes from scratch. Most shoes now come from packets, and shoes that are made to perfectly suit a horse and those made to fix a problem don’t happen too much now.”
He speaks of his start in the horseshoeing industry as an apprentice for Victoria Racing Club under renowned Freedman stables farrier, Dick Bell.
“Back then … you couldn’t buy a machine-made shoe and so we prepared and measured the horses before making every shoe from scratch,” Grey says.
“We used to do trotters, gallopers, hackneys, pacers, draught horses and the brewery horses. I used to ride draughties from the dairy down to the shop to be shod.”
The art he learned at Victoria Racing Club led Grey to work with the some of the biggest names in racing, such as Tommy J. Smith.
To make sure the horses are ready to race, Grey always attends race days equipped to solve any possible shoe problems before the horses jump.
He recalls the day Gunsynd, a horse he shod, saluted in the 1972 Cox Plate. The Goondiwindi grey is his favorite horse to this day.
Although Grey has close relationships with the horses he shoes, he knows where to draw the line in the interest of his own safety. He realizes the importance of being careful when dealing with an animal that can easily weigh more than 1,000 pounds.
“Even the most placid animal would kick out if a bee stings them," he says. "Touch wood, I’ve never broken a bone from a horse but that’s because I always take a cautious approach and respect the animal I’m working with.”
His sense of respect and intuitive nature have given him recognition as a master craftsman who can use “sound and feel” alone to treat a horse’s various foot problems.
Despite becoming well known for his work, Grey remains humble.
“I might have been working with horses for more than 50 years, but I’ll go to my grave not knowing all there is to know about horses,” he says.
“I’m just doing my job.”