12 May One hoof at a time in Oldham County
A native of South Africa, Trow has practiced farriery in Kentucky for about 25 years. His practice is currently based in Oldham County, with a concentration on Thoroughbred competitors, broodmares and foals. Well regarded as a leading farrier educator, Trow was an instructor at the Kentucky Horseshoeing School and is an international clinician. He was a successful competitor, as a past American Farriers Team member and manager, as well as a winner of the draft competitions at the Calgary Stampede and the American Farrier’s Association (AFA) Convention. The Certified Journeyman Farrier was an AFA examiner and tester. He remains active in his local association, the Derby City Horseshoeing Association. He is also the founder of Titan Enterprises, a product line which features an assortment of aluminum bar shoes. WDRB 41 ran this piece on farrier Conrad Trow on Derby Day 2022.
A look at how racehorses get their perfect shoes
Monica Harkins, Reporter
May 7, 2022
OLDHAM COUNTY, Ky. (WDRB) — For every horse — especially racehorses — having a horseshoe that fits is imperative.
That’s where a farrier comes in to make sure each horseshoe gets its hoof trimmed and filed to perfectly fit a new shoe.
Photo caption: Oldham County Farrier Conrad Trow takes pride in being able to forge his own horseshoes. Photo by Monica Harkins.
In Oldham County, farrier Conrad Trow works with trainer Brian Waltz, who said Trow has made a name for himself as a tried-and-true farrier.
“Conrad’s a professional,” Waltz said. “He’s been doing this for a long time. He’s a real craftsman. It’s an easy choice for me.”
Waltz said a good farrier is key to success.
“It is the foundation,” he said. “It’s like the foundation of your house. There’s an old saying: ‘No foot, no horse.'”
Photo caption: A hammer sits on the table next to a stack of new aluminum horseshoes. Photo by Monica Harkins.
Trow said, for racehorses, the shoe needs to be lightweight, which is why racehorses have aluminum, and after racing, horses switch to steel or nothing at all.
“They are thinking like track runners,” Trow said. “They’re trying to find the lightest pair of shoes on on their feet.”
As for the making of the shoe, Trow is unique because he still blacksmiths some of his own shoes.
Photo caption: A closeup of the furnace Conrad Trow uses to forge horseshoes in Oldham County, Kentucky. Photo by Monica Harkins.
“I don’t want to lose that bit of heritage, and it’s something that teaches you how to do something and having all those tools in your chest, to be able to do it on the day if you need to,” he said.
Photo caption: Conrad Trow’s aluminum horseshoe supply shelf in Oldham County. Photo by Monica Harkins.
Trow’s craftsmanship extends beyond horse country.
“I just took a chance on something, used it,” he said. “If I was gonna have it made for me, I might as well make a few more and see if they would sell.”
He has a patent pending on a new horseshoe design that helps horses with injuries feel more comfortable as they continue to heal.
“I just love being working with horses, knowing you can make a difference in a horse’s life,” Trow said.
He said there’s never really a slow season as a farrier. Racehorses wear through shoes in about a month.
“I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Trow said. “It’s physically demanding on your body, but I love it.”
Photo caption: Conrad Trow’s employee, Nate is filing a horse’s hoof to prepare for a new horseshoe. Photo by Monica Harkins.
He travels to each barn to see his clients, holding each horse’s leg as he peels the old shoe off and gives the hoof a pedicure, all while hunched and vulnerable holding the horse’s leg against your own.
“It is extremely dangerous,” Trow said. “You’re underneath a live animal. … Most of the time, the horses do really well. But every now and then, you have horses that just explode or blow up or get scared.”
Trow is leaning on his apprentice and other local farriers this month while he recovers from a hip replacement after a horse got spooked and tore his hip out of socket.
“When I got hurt, they’ve taken over and kept my work going and kept my business going,” he said.
Photo caption: A horse in Oldham County, Ky gets its hoof trimmed and filed for a new horseshoe placement. Photo by Monica Harkins.
He added that it’s that type of close-knit industry where local farriers help out in these kinds of scenarios.
And it’s not the only adjustment he’s had to make this year. Market prices for steel and fuel for his truck forced him to raise his price after holding out through 2020 and 2021.
“People don’t like it when you go up on your prices,” Trow said. “I hate to say it, but that’s just what we have to do. We can’t eat the cost all day,” he said.
Trow it’s not him getting rich though, typically farriers only see a fifteen to twenty percent profit margin.
“At the end of the day, when you come home, it’s not as much as you’d want,” Trow said.
Even through the heat of the summer and ice of the winter, Trow said he couldn’t see himself doing anything else.
“I don’t think I’ll ever retire from shoeing horses,” he said. “I think I’ll always shoe horses until I just physically can’. It’s just, I just love it. It’s just something about it that it’s a drug.”