Tuesday, July 28, 2009

USET's Irish-born horseshoer Seamus Brady Will Live On in Legend

Farriers Larry Rumsby and Joe Johnson celebrate the stellar career of Seamus Brady
Seamus Brady, center, at a celebration in his honor held in Wellington, Florida in March 2006. That's Canada's Larry Rumsby on the left and the USA's Joe Johnson on the right, both of whom have shod the international team horses for their countries, following in Seamus's footsteps. Twenty-six horseshoers from the show world assembled to toast Seamus that night. (Sandy Johnson photo)

I was in Dublin once, at the Irish Army Equitation School, touring with an American horseshoeing team. The young officer who was showing us around threw open the doors to the forge and as the sunlight flooded the space, he stood back and told me proudly, "This is where Seamus Brady learned the trade with John Boyne."

"That was before he went to America," he added as an afterthought.

He showed the same pride as would an Italian opening the door to the studio where Michaelangelo learned to paint. The fact that Doug Butler and Dave Duckett were standing next to me didn't seem to impress this rider at all.

"Do you see much of Seamus in America, then?" he asked, as if Americans were all on just one show circuit neighborhood.

New Jersey/Florida-based Seamus Brady, the dean of US show-jumper shoers and possibly the most well-known farrier in his native land of Ireland as well, died yesterday. He was just a few months shy of 78 years old.

Seamus Brady, right, received a plaque from his longtime trainee/helper Phil Breault (standing) at the Wellington event. Phil organized the evening. That's Connecticut/Florida show circuit specialist George Fitzgerald on the left.

The man needs no introduction in the farrier world. His name was a brand in itself, yet as far as I know, he never really had anything to sell except his services. His ideas traveled far and wide. But there is no Seamus Brady shoe, no Brady nail, no Brady pad, no Brady trademark or copyright or website. There are few articles or photographs, no books or dvds. I'm not sure that he ever joined any association except the informal show farriers group that gathered in Wellington, Florida on occasion. His only certification: his good name.

There's quite a legacy. I can think of no farrier who influenced shoeing of real-world English-type show and sport horses more. He defined "the circuit". For farriers, he practically invented the circuit. He may have influenced farriers on a professional level more than he influenced shoeing itself.

There have always been legends passed around the horse world about Seamus, great humorous tall tales about the Irish trickster who could weave great tales and present clients with the biggest invoices they'd ever seen. The legends preceded him around the world as he traveled with the US Equestrian Team to far-flung places like Seoul, Korea for the 1988 Olympics, where he kindly shared his experiences with Hoofcare & Lameness Journal, to out-of-context places like the Quarter Horse Congress, where we'd see him because he'd go to look at the new custom trucks.

I expect that Seamus will become the Paul Bunyan of American horseshoeing. He's earned it: If half the people had been his apprentices who claim to have been, he would have had to have traveled in a bus, not a truck, all these years, just to carry all his apprentices.

Every jumper show should fly its flag at half-mast this week. They couldn't have shown without his clever work on their horses and without the farriers he trained, inspired and called his friends.

Exit an icon. Cue the storytellers. Complete these sentences: "I remember the time...""I've always heard that Seamus Brady used to..."

See what I mean? Seamus lives. Pass it on. And on and on.

--Fran Jurga

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