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You could say that TJ Farley likes shoes.
The Cordova man actually likes them so much that he carries about 700 pounds of them everywhere he goes.
The shoes, which range in size from itty bitty to large enough for a large, hairy pulling machine, aren’t for him. They’re for the horses he shoes as a farrier.
Farley has spent the last 20 years working as a blacksmith and putting shoes on horses. His specialty is special needs horses.
“Twenty years ago we couldn’t find a horseshoer so my mom sent me to horse shoe school and I’ve been doing it ever since,” he said.
Farley, originally from Ashland, moved to Grant County in April. Because he works out of a specially-designed heavy duty truck, his business is mobile and he travels all across Kentucky, even into West Virginia and Ohio to shoe horses.
The horse shoe business is a family affair as his wife, Christine, works as his assistant. The couple’s 8-year-old son can even complete basic trimming on a pony. Their daughter wants to be a veterinarian some day.
Despite many businesses who fluctuate with the economy, Farley said business is steady.
“People are still willing to spend money on a good farrier,” he said.
Horses require foot maintenance year round, but Farley finds himself the busiest spring through fall.
“I’ve shod horses when it was 6 degrees out and the snow was blowing,” he said.
While he’s able to perform general horse shoeing, and does so, working on special needs horses makes up the bulk of his business.
He recently worked on a problematic case at the Versailles Equine Clinic. The procedure was under the direction of Dr. Chris Johnson and Dr. Scott Kendall.
Working with such large animals that are often in pain, he’s been bruised a few times, but so far he has had no serious injuries.
“Saddlebreds and thoroughbreds are probably more difficult to work with, but you’ll find bad horses in any breed,” Farley said.
A typical job takes him about an hour, but it could go as long as three hours, depending on the condition of the horse’s hoof.
“Some people think you’re hurting the horse when you trim their feet, but a horse hoof is just like trimming a human’s fingernail. There’s no pain,” Christine said.
Because each horse is different, Farley’s mobile service complete with a machine shop, means he’s got about anything he might need with him at all times. It is equipped with a propane tank which operates his mini blacksmith forge. The truck is also equipped with electric.
Because the horse’s weight is born by thin, spindly legs that rest on a hollow hoof, the right shoe is important.
“We’re shoeing the whole horse because that’s how it moves,” Christine said. “It’s more than sticking a shoe on a horse’s foot because it effects how the animal moves.”
Farley does both hot and cold shoes.
He is certified by the American Farriers Association and attends trainings and seminars frequently. He spent the bulk of his time as a farrier working with Harlan Pennington, a 55-year farrier veteran.
In April, he worked at the Rolex at Kentucky Horse Park.
“I read and study horse shoeing,” he said. “I’m still learning and want to keep learning because I’m more than a guy running up and down the road with a shoe box in the back of his truck.”