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A family of farriers: Local horseshoeing experts travel barn-to-barn

Thursday, January 2, 2014 - 12:01 am

Lance Kendrick has been dealing with the art of horseshoeing since 1991. Not the game, but as a horse farrier who shoes horses for a living.

Kendrick and now his son Dustin spend much of their day traveling from barn to barn, trimming hooves, shoeing and re-shoeing their equine clients. Kendrick, who also breeds and shows quarter horses all over the country, said he started shoeing horses because he wanted to cut his overhead by shoeing his own animals. After attending a farrier school in Oklahoma, friends began to call and ask if he would shoe their horses. One thing led to another and before he knew it he was working as a farrier.

"It's the second oldest profession," said Kendrick, joking, and added, "They have found horseshoes dating back to the Romans."

There is a lot more to horseshoeing than the casual observer might think. Shoes can be made out of aluminum, steel, plastic or even wood. For gaited animals, like a Morgan or a saddlebred not only is a shoe applied, but pads to improve the action of the animal are put on too for competitions. Race horses, who wear lightweight aluminum shoes have their shoes replaced every couple of weeks. How frequently shoes are replaced depends on how quickly the hoof grows, and how much use the animal has.

This time of year most horses are not on the show circuit and they aren't being ridden a lot because of the weather. Kendrick said he works on a horse in the off-season about every six weeks. He charges $135 a visit, which he admits is at the high end for farriers around here, but he does a lot of therapeutic shoeing. In addition he and his son are constantly seeking out more training so they are up on the latest techniques in the business.

Kendrick said he often works in tandem with a veterinarian for horses who have problem feet. Similar to orthotics for people, horseshoes can be designed to alleviate and sometimes even cure an animal's of foot problems.

Take the case of Prince owned by Sue Peters. The horse developed laminitis in his front feet. According to Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center, laminitis is an inflammation in a horse's foot that can cause a bone called the coffin bone to separate from the inner hoof wall and rotate. If it rotates far enough it can break through the bottom of the hoof. When this happens the animal must be destroyed.

By working with a veterinarian Kendrick was able to design shoes that help alleviate the pressure, and the bone, which had been at 18 degrees of rotation, is now back to 1 degree.

“You can never really cure laminitis, but you can correct for it in some cases with special shoes, and make the horse more comfortable,” Kendrick said.

In Prince's case the shoes have made him rideable again, and the rotation of the bone is almost back to normal. Kendrick said it's working on special shoeing cases like Prince's that keep him fresh and interested in the business after 20 years. He gets satisfaction from easing an animal's pain and helping it back to soundness.

The downturn in the economy in 2008 was not an easy time in the farrier business. In 2008 Kendrick had two trailers on the road and employed another man to help him with his business. But when the drop came people cut back on the number of visits they were scheduling. The professional show barns kept on showing, but people who ride for pleasure were cutting where they could. Luckily for Kendrick his employee was planning on getting married and moving to Indianapolis, so he simply scaled back the business and rode it out. Things are slowly starting to pick up again. A few years ago his son Dustin Kendrick joined him in the business.

“I made him go to college to get a business degree first,” Kendrick said.

His son's entering the business was not something Kendrick had asked him to do, but like his father, Dustin shares a love of horses and horseshoeing. He attended Heartland Horseshoeing School in Pineville, Mo., one of the best horseshoeing schools in the country. Watching the two work together it is clear they have been doing it for years. When working on the same animal they seem to anticipate what the other is going to do. Dustin said he and his dad have a few differences in technique, like how they remove a shoe, but as Kendrick pointed out he has been doing the same way for over 20 years and he is not going to change now.

Right now Kendrick carries around 150-175 clients, which is about 350-450 horses. Kendrick said some of his clients are million dollar animals.