Stock Show visitors who wear boots have a lot of options at the event.
But the ones who wear “shoes” rely exclusively on Jackie Long.
“You got to be prepared for emergency situations,” says Long, who is the official farrier, (or horse shoer) of the Fort Worth Stock Show. “Yesterday a guy brought me a horse that had thrown a shoe and he had to show. That’s what my job is — trying to figure out how I’m going to make the horse capable of performing for this period of time.”
Because there is such an emphasis on the cattle, sheep and hog shows at the Stock Show, it is easy to forget that horses are a constant presence at the 23-day event, in contests ranging from the rodeo to the cutting horse and breed competitions.
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And Long serves them all.
“The biggest thing is being here. You’ve got to be here for everybody,” says Long, who is on the grounds daily and is on 24/7call during the run of the show.
The most common chore for Long is probably replacing thrown shoes, but he says he also occasionally puts on “full sets,” and does plenty of trimming (rasping the horse’s hooves) as well. One of the biggest challenges he faces is determining how many and what kind of horseshoes to have on hand on a given day.
“I cannot pinpoint the really busy time I’m going to have. ... You have to know what event is going that day and be ready,” says Long, who has been the official farrier at the Stock Show for this entire century.
Those horses further complicate Long’s life because the reining horses require special shoes called “sliders” that allow them to performing the sliding stops demanded in their competitions, and the barrel racing horses wear shoes different from those of a working or pleasure horse, he says.
Long also has to deal with variations in the materials used for the shoes.
“About 75 percent of all shoes are made of steel, but there are also a lot of aluminums out there,” says Long, 55, who grew up in Mansfield and now makes his home in Alvarado.
Just like people, horses wear different sizes of shoes. Long says a Shetland pony might wear a size triple aught, while a Clydesdale might wear a size 2 or 3. But, again like people, those standard sizes seldom fit exactly, so Long must hammer them into a more correct fit on an anvil he brings to the Stock Show.
“It weighs 100pounds. Moving it around didn’t used to bother me, when I was young. But it does now,” says Long with a laugh.
Indeed, Long says that being a farrier is even more physically demanding than it looks.
“I started out shoeing my own horses, so I thought, ‘why shouldn’t I do other people’s horses?’” says Long, who rides and trains horses when he is not shoeing them. “But more experienced people told me that that I was going to have to do it for the public in order to stay in good enough shape to do it on a regular basis. It’s like carpentry. If you don’t do enough of it, you don’t stay sharp at it. You can’t take too many days off or you will get sore when you come back.”
When he is working near his stall in the Burnett Building, Long sometime attracts a crowd of curious onlookers.
“The most common question is,’does it hurt ‘em?’” Long says.
The answer is that it doesn’t.
“But you can hurt them. And they will sure let you know if you do.”
Long obviously enjoys talking with patrons and seeing regular customers and old friends at the Stock Show each year.
“I could do without the work, and the money is not that great,” says Long. “But I love the people. They are what keeps me coming back every year.”