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Farriers a perfect fit in horse racing business

Published:Wednesday | September 17, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Boxer Tsetsi Davis fixes a horseshoe while doing his regular job as a farrier at Caymanas Park on Thursday, September 4. Jermaine Barnaby/Photographer

Orville Clarke, Gleaner Writer

FARRIERS play an essential role in the development of the racing industry, but, according to the association's president, Garfield Reid, not enough young persons are interested in learning the trade.

Reid said farriers are usually referred to as blacksmiths, but he was quick to make a distinction between the two.

A blacksmith, he said, is the man who does the iron work like making the shoes and other artefacts out of iron by forging. Farriers, on the other hand, shoe the horses.

Reid, who has been president of the Farriers Association of Jamaica since 2012, is a veteran of the trade, with more than 20 years experience at Caymanas Park.

He disclosed that there are 14 registered farriers, along with four apprentices, working within the industry. He was quick to point out that although registered by the Jamaica Racing Commission (JRC), farriers are basically self-employed.

"We are contracted by trainers at Caymanas Park, in addition to visiting and working at the stud farms on a regular basis. Three Wednesdays ago, for instance, the team spent the day working at HAM Stables in St Catherine, shoeing the mares, pedicuring and fitting the young horses and other related activities.

juggle boxing

Among the licenced farriers is noted boxer, Tsetsi Davis, who was apprenticed to Reid when he first started at Caymanas Park as a teenager nearly 20 years ago.

Davis finds time to juggle boxing with his day-to-day activities as a farrier, and says he is comfortable with both.

"I have achieved fame through boxing, especially in the popular Wray & Nephew Contender Series, for the past two years, contesting back-to-back finals. However, my boxing skills will fade as I get older, but I can always fall back on the job I was trained to do," said Davis, who could leave the island shortly for a boxing stint in England.

Reid added: "Although Tsetsi has achieved fame in the boxing ring, he not only remains humble, but dedicated to his job as a farrier, and this says a lot for his character."

Continuing, Reid said: "Farriers can make a decent living from the profession, but it takes a lot of hard work, dedication and professionalism."

He recalled that two of his colleagues have migrated to North America over the years and are top farriers at racetracks in the United States today.

"We apply ourselves for what we have to work with, and everything we use in the trade is imported - from the aluminum plates, nails, hoof knives - everything, even the aprons," he was quick to add.

"I would like to see more educated young people interested in what we do, coming aboard and helping to build the profession and not just to make a quick buck. Dedication is the key, professionalism the watchword," he emphasised.

Vin Edwards. OD, veteran trainer and president of the Jamaica Racehorse Trainers' Association (JRTA), hailed the contribution of farriers to the racing industry.

"In the old days, trainers, from time to time, would complain that farriers accidentally prick horses in the shoeing process, but all that has changed in the last 10 years. They bring a high level of professionalism to the job these days, and I for one believe they should receive greater recognition for their contribution to racing, like other occupational groups at Caymanas Park," said Edwards, who has been training horses for over 40 years.

Another trainer, Gordon Lewis, a noted equestrian with the St Ann Polo Club, spoke highly of the farriers.

"The quality of their work is commendable and compares favourably with some of the top racing jurisdictions in the United States," he noted.

"They are skilled professionals, who are playing a very important role in racing, and other professional groups in the local racing industry should take a leaf out of their book," he concluded.