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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Video Humor: David Letterman Shoes a Horse with Farrier Ada Gates Patton

14 February 2010 | Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog at

Here's my Valentine to the hoof world: the ultimate weekend humor video. I'll never top this one. Where were you the night when farriers stayed up late to watch one of their own on the big stage in New York City? The night one of their own upstaged the great David Letterman? The night David Letterman lost control of his own show? Ada Gates Patton is in a league of her own. The fact that she was the first woman licensed to shoe horses at a racetrack in the United States is only the beginning of the story. A few years ago, we were in Kentucky for a convention and she made a special trip to Three Chimneys Farm to visit Wild Again, one of the horses on her list back in the 1980s, when he won the Breeders Cup Classic. Ada was international horsemen's liaison for the Breeders Cup in California, and coordinated farrier services for the 1984 Olympics in California. She tells wonderful stories about being shunned by trainers from the British Isles during the Breeders Cup; they went looking for a man to shoe their horses. When the call came for shoes from a French trainer, Ada picked up her shoeing box and headed over, expecting the worst. Instead, the Frenchman had the opposite reaction and welcomed her as if she had been sent by the gods.
Ada is originally from New York; she is a descendant of Henry Burden, a Scottish immigrant who invented the first machine to manufacture horseshoes. His machines are credited with helping the North win the Civil War; his factories stretched forever along the banks of the Hudson River in Troy, New York and Burden horseshoes supplied the US cavalry for decades. Henry would never have dreamed that women would someday shoe horses, let alone one of his descendants, but Ada made the history books too.
Today, Ada owns and runs Harry Patton Horseshoeing Supplies near Santa Anita, and serves farriers all over California. The business was started by her late husband, the famous racetrack shoer Harry Patton, and she has built it into a multi-store retail chain, with business partner Michael De Leonardo in northern California.
Ada stares up at the derelict but grand church built by her great-great-grandfather so that horseshoe factory workers had a place to worship. She saved the church from demolition through a loophole in the deed that made a provision for a descendant of the founder to lay claim. What would Henry Burden think of one of his descendants selling horseshoes?
Ada is originally from New York, and she is the great great grand-daughter of Henry Burden, the inventor of the horseshoe-making machine. We reconnected her with her roots a few years ago by explaining that her family's church would be torn down if she didn't claim the deed and save it--which she did, and subsequently opened the beautiful old church and invited our Hoofcare@Saratoga tour group of farriers in for lunch as part of one of our tours of the Burden Iron Works.
Last year Ada was honored in her family's church by the Burden Iron Works Museum and its preservation efforts. The image at right is the outline of the Burden horseshoe company's office building, which now houses the museum. The museum and Ada found each other through Hoofcare & Lameness Journal and our Hoofcare@Saratoga program and tour of the museum. The museum is dedicated to preserving the history of horseshoe manufacturing in Troy, New York.
Today, Ada is busy selling shoes. But she recently "joined up" with one of her old shoeing clients, California horseman Monty Roberts, and the two made a DVD together on hoofcare and horsemanship for hard-to-shoe horses. She teaches simple hoof balance principles at horse owner events and markets a hoof ruler to help them keep track of changes in their horses' hooves' dimensions. Horse Illustrated profiled Ada's pioneering career spirit in this tribute article. Ada is one person who never forgot where she came from, and is not done getting to where she's going. She's still giving us all a lot of laughs along the way, and digging this video up out of the 1990s will insure that more people around the world join in. Monitor Hoofcare News on! Follow @hoofcarejournal!
© Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing. Please, no use without permission. You only need to ask. Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page). To subscribe to Hoofcare and Lameness (the journal), please visit the main site,, where many educational products and media related to equine lameness and hoof science can be found. Questions or problems with this blog? Send email to


Linda said...

Great article, Fran. The Burden Iron Works is a famous part of Troy's history, and I was aware of the church, but not Ada's connection. What a super story!

Robin said...


jane augenstein said...

Wow what a great informative post!! The video was really funny, thanks!

Fantastyk Voyager said...

You always post the most interesting articles. Thanks for sharing.

Jane said...

Very interesting and FUN, really enjoyed the clip and learning about Ada.

Mikey said...

That was so excellent! Glad to hear she's still around and doing great things. What an amazing woman, and a great character. We enjoyed the heck out of this video. Love it!

e gormley said...

That was funny to see Letterman trying but not quite! Very good coverage of the farrier's background also.