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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thankful Thoughts: Veteran Farrier Joe Kriz Sr. Loses Lower Leg But Keeps on Going

Thanksgiving makes you stop and think. You look around the table and see the ghosts of those who aren’t in their seats. Or maybe there is no table this year at all. It’s a good idea to stop and give thanks for those are there, those who make your world what it is, and those who have inspired you to keep going, whether they are at the table or not.

For me, a lot of thanks go to the older citizens of the horse world and especially the older farriers who have inspired me so much by sharing stories and encouragement and being my friends.

The two gentlemen in this photo are great examples. On the left you see Bob Skradzio from Pennsylvania. No one works harder than Bob, and no one has more energy left at the end of the day to share with younger people. I had the honor of hosting a clinic for farriers this summer with Bob in Saratoga Springs, New York. Bob seemed to know instinctively how to approach the farriers and push their buttons in a kindly way. His stories are legendary but his kindness and generosity to farriers is so inspiring.

One horseshoer said he wondered why I was walking the backside at the track with a grumpy old man at my side. The next day, he was shaking my hand and saying “Thank you so much for introducing me to Bob Skradzio.”

I’m thankful that I know Bob.

And then there’s Joe Kriz about whom it can be said: it’s hard to keep a good man down. The most-photographed Connecticut farrier and poster boy for Capewell Horse Nails is now 91 years old and recently had to take a break from his lively life as America’s Senior Farrier. Joe told me the other day that he has had an operation to amputate the lower part of one of his legs.

Translation: Joe Kriz has been forced into retirement. He has stopped shoeing horses, at the age of 91. Was he the oldest working farrier? His son, Joe Kriz Jr. says that his dad has been fitted with a prosthesis and has already gotten a scooter and is down at the barn and zooming to the mailbox each day.

Some advice: hide the keys to the shoeing truck.

Joe, along with his late brother Johnny, probably trained more farriers than anyone in the USA in the second half of the 20th century. Among his former assistants: Michael Wildenstein, farrier instructor at Cornell, and Siggi Siggurdsen from Iceland, who gave such a great presentation at Cornell last weekend. And a long, long list of others.

Join me in wishing Joe the best; send a card or message to Joe Kriz Sr., 7 Bear Hill Road, Bethany CT 06525.

Who’s on your thankful list?

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