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The shoe man

He's a traveling salesman in a Ford pickup, custom-fitting his shoes to your horse's hooves.

Published October 3, 2003

RIVERVIEW - There's no Hallmark card for it yet, but Dan Lombard officially declared Sept. 30 Farriers Appreciation Day.

He penned it in on the Crosspoint Farms calendar, and when he arrived at the farm Tuesday to shoe a handful of horses a gift of appreciation awaited him: a case of Corona chilling in the refrigerator.

Horse owners really do love their farriers, who put shoes on horses and trim their hooves, a task that has a huge impact on how well a horse performs.

Horse owners say once they find a farrier they like, they're loyal.

At least one of Lombard's clients has been with him for 20 years, and Crosspoint Farms owner Tammy Priest has been a devotee for more than 10.

"He shoes very natural," Priest said, referring to Lombard's preference for fitting a shoe to the horse's hoof rather than trying to force the hoof to the shoe.

Tuesday morning, while the Corona waited in the refrigerator, Lombard bent at the waist in front of Tiffany, a sorrel thoroughbred, with the horse's hoof secured between his knees. As sweat dripped off his forehead and his cheeks turned pink, he pried off an old shoe, scraped the hoof clean, trimmed it and then reapplied the shoe.

Lombard, who is a journeyman certified by the American Farriers Association, reasoned that clients stick with farriers they like because their horses are a big investment.

"Some of these horses are worth $500,000 so you want someone you can rely on," Lombard said. "You don't want just anybody coming up and nailing a shoe on your horse."

If it's not done right, a horse can become lame.

Most horses need their hooves trimmed every six weeks.

"They grow just like fingernails," Lombard said. "They have to be trimmed or the horse will start stumbling."

Being a farrier is as much a trade as an art, said Lombard, who lives in Valrico.

The Florida State Farriers Association hosts a contest each year during the state fair. Participants are judged on the speed and quality with which they shoe a horse.

"They'll take off points because they see a hammer mark on the shoe," Lombard said. "You want the shoe to look like it was made in a machine."

Real-time shoeing is another story, Lombard said. It simply needs to follow the shape of the hoof.

"Every horse hoof is different," Lombard said.

Shoes provide support, traction and protection. The shoes come in different sizes and vary in style based on what the horse will be doing. A racehorse shoe differs from a polo horse shoe, just like a track shoe differs from a football cleat. Horses used simply for recreation can go, well, barehoof.

In the old days, owners brought their horses to a blacksmith's shop to have their animals fitted with shoes.

Modern-day farriers, a rare breed, stock trucks with anvils, hammers, and even portable forges and travel all over the region to serve their devoted customers. Lombard, 45, serves clients in the Brandon area, Sebring, Lutz and Land O'Lakes. He can make custom shoes, but more often he uses pre-made shoes and adjusts them on an anvil to fit the shape of the horse's hoof. If necessary, he heats the shoe first with a propane forge.

His truck is modestly equipped, although he said he has seen guys with $75,000 shoeing rigs. He keeps it simple because he shoes horses only part time and works as a Tampa firefighter full time. In recent years, Lombard began scaling back his business to only about 10 clients because his firefighter schedule of one day on and two days off allows him to spend more time with his young son. If he chose to shoe horses full time, however, he figures he could pull in $100,000 a year.

Lombard has been a blacksmith for 22 years, a skill he learned by attending a nine-week program in Virginia and then working as an apprentice for six months. He chose the work because his first wife had horses and he liked the animals.

"I shoe because I can't ride," he said. "And I like working with the horses."

The business

Dan Lombard operates his farrier business out of the back of his red Ford pickup truck. He goes where he's needed and charges $110 to trim and shoe all four hooves. Just a trim costs $25. To reach him, call 684-6927.

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