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Thursday, July 10, 2008

"We Lost Kevin": North Carolina farrier Kevin Fahey has died

Kevin Fahey was excited when Chris Pollitt's book came out in 1995. He grabbed the first copy from me and turned right to the heart bar shoe section. He probably never read anything else in the book. He was focused.

"We lost Kevin". That's what Danny Ward's message on my voice mail said. How could you lose Kevin Fahey, I wondered? You always knew when Kevin was around. Did he hike up a mountain? Did he get caught in a spiraling tangle of interstate interchanges somewhere or...did we "lose" him, in the most dreaded sort of a way?

It turns out the last one is what happened. Kevin Fahey, a.k.a. "Kev the Farrier", has died.

You probably don't think you know Kevin Fahey, and you'd be just like the rest of us, because he was a hard person to get to know. In a nutshell, he was a Boston-born Irishman with a distinguished background as a United States Marine. He tended to lock into ideas and people with an intensity that scared some people away. He left Boston one day to attend horseshoeing school at Donald Jones's North Carolina School of Horseshoeing...and he stayed in North Carolina for decades. But he never lost his Boston accent. That was how he talked and he was always going to talk that way.

Kevin showed up 31 years ago to help Danny Ward host his first big farrier event at his school in Martinsville, Virginia, and he came back 31 more times, making him the only person besides Danny to attend every event...and helping Danny grow the event into what people call "Woodstock for Farriers". It's the most fun time you can have, and Kevin helped make it that way.

When Kevin met laminitis expert farrier Burney Chapman in the 1980s, he locked into the heartbar shoe theory and the fact that, using it, he could help a lot of horses with laminitis. So that became his specialty. He only wanted to work on foundered horses. If you had a sound horse, you didn't need Kev. He also locked into a long, loyal friendship with Burney, and helped him when he was dying of brain cancer.

At some point, Kevin learned to make jewelry and he must have made hundreds and hundreds of horseshoe belt buckles in his spare time. He told me once that he would start out making other shoes, but somehow most of them turned into heart bars.

Kevin was a longtime veteran of Dr Ric Redden's Bluegrass Laminitis Symposiums, where he would sell his heart bar jewelry in the trade show and intensely study the disease that fascinated him so much.

Kevin had beaten cancer a few years ago, or so we all thought. But when it came back, and he was told that he only had a few months to live, Kevin did a very "Kevin" thing. And it would be the last Kevin thing he would do: He got behind the wheel of a camper, sick as he was, and he drove across the United States from his home in Colorado. He made a beeline for Martinsville, Virginia, the place he had gone back to time and time again in his life: to Danny Ward's horseshoeing school. My guess is that he didn't stop much along the way and he didn't look left or right. And Kevin Fahey didn't need a GPS.

Kevin made it to Danny's, but without much time to spare.

If you walk around a horse show or a racetrack or a farrier event and you see someone with a shiny horseshoe belt buckle, chances are you're looking right at Kevin. Especially if it's a heart bar.

Whenever you see him, say hello for me.

Do you have a favorite memory of Kevin? Are you wearing one of his belt buckles right now? Hit the comments button and leave a note to him and to his friends, or email it to and I'll make sure it is posted here.


Frank said...

A really nice tribute. Thanks for sharing it.

Beth Muirhead said...

I can't tell you how sorry I am never to have met Kevin! Horses and their owners desperately need the likes of him and when one of his talents passes, he can't be replaced. I hope that somehow he knows of his great gift to us all and how much it is appreciated!

Beth Muirhead
Hillsborough, NC

Dick Davis said...

Kevin and I were friends for 20 plus years and we always had a good time when we got together.
Dick Davis