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,” said Long, the official farrier, or horseshoer, 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 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 including the rodeo and 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 call 24/7 during 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, or 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,” said Long, 55, of Alvarado, who has been the official farrier at the Stock Show for this entire century.
The different events further complicate Long’s life because reining horses require shoes called sliders that allow the horses to perform 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.
Just like people, horses wear different-size shoes. Long says a Shetland pony might wear a size triple-aught (000), while a Clydesdale might wear a 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 100 pounds. Moving it around didn’t used to bother me, when I was young. But it does now,” he said 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?’” said Long, who sometimes rides and trains horses when he is not shoeing them. “But more experienced people told me 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 said.
“But you can hurt them,” he said. “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,” he said. “But I love the people. They are what keeps me coming back every year.”