Submitted by Deanna Stoppler, Team Easyboot 2016 Member
In 2015 I applied for the American Association of Professional Farriers (AAPF) Roy Bloom Scholarship by submitting a case study entitled “A Team Approach to Treatment of Recurrent Abscessing Resulting From Solar Keratoma in a 14-year-old Quarter Horse”. As one of two recipients of the scholarship, I received the grand prize of a two to three day paid mentorship to take place with an AAPF mentor of my choice. I chose to mentor with Garrett Ford, President and CEO of EasyCare, the leader in hoof boot technology.
Ford is an innovator, businessman, endurance rider, athlete, and breeds and races horses in the Arabian racehorse industry. He is married to an amazing athlete, could-be professional chef, and physical therapist, Lisa Ford, and is raising a 9-year-old hard-as-nails, feisty daughter, Alyxx Ford. They have three dogs—one that is quite crafty and does all kinds of tricks, another who is an up and coming cattle dog (and wreaks havoc on the horses and foals, in a good way) and another miniature guard dog whose bark is much bigger than her bite. And they have a lot of horses. Arabs. Ford trims and shoes his own horses for pleasure, endurance competitions, and for the racetrack.
Ford’s experience in the hoof care industry, wide range of interests and talents, and ability to manage his career and personal life were all reasons for my selection.
Traveling across the country from Vermont to Colorado was nothing new—every year I travel to Alberta, Canada to visit my dad—but still when I exited the plane in Durango I was amazed at the dry air. Vermont is a humid place; even when we lack rainfall, it is humid. Colorado was dry. Cloudless sky. Bright sun. Like Alberta, like home.
My first evening at the Ford ranch was spent settling in, eating delicious sushi in downtown Durango (I liked the appetizer of fried brussel sprout chips best), and planning the next two days.
Enjoying sushi with a feisty Ford!
In the days to come I would learn about trimming in a dry environment; glue on tips-and-tricks; new ideas for glue usage; basic information about Arabian breeding and racing; and endurance riding (hands on—we went for a 17-mile ride in the mountains, trotting and cantering the entire ride).
17-mile ride with Garrett and Lisa Ford.
Day 1: Can you glue a shoe?
If you think you know all there is to know about gluing try spending the day with Garrett Ford. His mind constantly challenges the status quo. He and his friend and colleague, Curtis Burns, continually test new ideas for shoe designs and for glue prep and use. After numerous courses with various well known glue practitioners and spending a week as a team member of the 2015 Easy Elite, gluing shoes on competitors’ horses for the Tevis Cup 100 Mile Endurance Ride, I would say I know a thing or two about gluing but as farriers we can never learn too much and Ford is a prime example of pushing the boundaries and not allowing ourselves to settle in the comfort zone.
We played with shoeing using a technique that allowed us to tack the shoe on with Vettec adhere only from the heel to widest part of foot portion of the shoe, alleviating any possibility of glue pressure in the tip of P3, and tying in the cuffs and toe region of the shoe with Equilox tinted with black concrete dye.
Equilox tinted with black concrete dye.
We talked about the importance of heel prep and making sure the periople is removed prior to applying glue and how critical it is to glue the vertical height of the heels, not just the sole side.
Importance of heel prep.
We applied a dual nail/glue system and cut the cuffs down to account for slight flaring in the foot.
A conversation about aesthetics and finish led me to realize that the smallest of details, like consistent finish in all four cuffs, separates better from best. Ford talked about his mantra when finishing a foot—Curtis Burns once said to him: “Would you leave it like that?” And so he says it to himself after every trim, glue job, boot removal…would you leave it like that? If in doubt fix it; do it to the best of your ability or don’t do it at all.
Day 2: Trimming a few, and a few more.
Trimming in a dry climate was in some ways like taking a breath of fresh air. The work can be more difficult when trying to remove embedded bar and sole material but the feet are rock solid, literally. In Vermont feet are in a constant cycle of wet to dry to wet to dry to mostly wet, soggy, like a sponge. I might be exaggerating a bit but you get the idea. Even though Ford’s pastures are irrigated daily, the horses’ feet are dry. The air is dry. The ground is dry. Feet: dry.
The balance of backing toes, leveling heels, leaving vertical height, straightening bars, removing exfoliating frog material, all of it applies to Colorado feet but Ford’s horses had healthy, dry feet instead of healthy wet feet. Looking at the feet in Colorado versus Vermont wasn’t earth shatteringly different but I quickly realized that dry West feet could handle a bit more trimming than soggy East feet. In Vermont it feels that I am constantly balancing taking just the right amount of foot; not leaving so much that it will chip in the next couple of weeks of growth but not taking so much that if we hit a dry spell the horses will be sensitive on hard ground.
During our day spent trimming Ford and I talked about the Arabian breeding and racing industry and what I got from those conversations is probably not what you’d expect, the retention of facts of sires and dams and bloodlines. Instead it was the fact that a person can specialize in and pursue various areas of interest and still be successful. Sure it is important to have a place in the market for your talent and skill set but that doesn’t mean solely focusing on only that area to be successful.
Ford’s ability to network in various aspects of the horse industry reminded me of a web with many threads that all weave together into an intricate design, making the entire web stronger.
My mentorship taught me that if you have passion, a willingness to work hard, an open mind, and aim to do things right the first time you will succeed.
If you understand that the most important thing in life is caring for your loved ones and staying true to who you are deep inside—to look in the mirror and be able to answer to yourself—then success is easy. Success is and will always be yours. Success is more than reaching a specific goal; success is a way of life.