Horseshoes made for champions
Edwin Kinney, owner of Thoro’bred Inc. of Anaheim, stands with rolled aluminum bars that will soon be cut and forged into specialized horseshoes.
PAUL RODRIGUEZ , STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Address: 5020 E. La Palma Ave. in Anaheim
What is a farrier?
While shoes certainly don’t make the horse, a poorly shod thoroughbred will suffer on the race course.
Race track farriers are responsible for installing horseshoes and making adjustments to optimize the horse’s gait. It’s a highly specialized trade that takes years to master.
Even after 34 years of shoeing horses in Idaho and locally at the Los Alamitos Race Course, Bob Rynearson said he still doesn’t feel like he’s mastered the craft.
While farriers no longer have to forge their own shoes, they must adjust each racing plate based on the horse’s gait. The running form of a horse can be adjusted slightly by using corrective shoes.
Farriers hammer the shoes into hooves with care, paying special attention to nail placement.
Horseshoe nails are driven into the walls of the hoof, a protective, fingernail-like substance which surrounds the sole. Rynearson said the process is painless if the horseshoes are installed correctly.
The horseshoe nails are driven through the wall of the hoof at an angle. After penetrating the exterior of the hoof, the farrier bends the horseshoe nail upward around the exterior of the hoof wall. This secures the horseshoe. The farrier then files the shoe flush with the hoof wall.
Edwin Kinney is the quiet winner of the Kentucky Derby.
The owner of Thoro’Bred in Anaheim has had a stake in the race for decades. But his bets aren’t tied up in fickle odds. They’re nailed tightly into the hooves of rose-gilded champions.
“We’ve been fortunate enough over the years to have our shoes on the legends of racing, including Secretariat, John Henry, Sunday Silence and probably the majority of Kentucky Derby winners in the past 20 years,” Kinney said.
Even local darling California Chrome was sporting Thoro’Bred kicks as he won the Derby and the Preakness Stakes.
The Anaheim company forges thousands of horseshoes for both racing and recreational horses at its La Palma Avenue factory.
More than 500 shoe varieties are stamped from tons of aircraft-grade aluminum. The shoes are shipped to distributors and race tracks around the world.
Thoro’Bred racing plates are a local favorite. About 90percent of the quarter and thoroughbred horses at Los Alamitos Race Course run with the company’s shoes, farrier Bob Rynearson said.
Rynearson works as a standby shoer for the racecourse, making last minute adjustments to the plates before the horses step into the starting gates. He adjusts and hammers the pre-made shoes into hooves on the fly, sometimes with only a few minutes to spare before the starting gun.
Nail hole placement, weight and material are critical to the highly specialized farrier craft, Rynearson said about the horseshoe options available on the market.
In return, Kinney said he considers the trade an art form and relies heavily on farrier feedback to optimize Thoro’Bred’s designs.
The horseshoe manufacturing industry is a small world, Rynearson said. Only a handful of rival brands compete with Thoro’Bred for the attention of farriers.
“It’s not like computers or cell phones or cars,” Rynearson said. “Few people have race cars and fewer people have a race horse.”
Even Kinney isn’t a horseman. While he grew up around the animals, his interest was in motorized steeds.
“(My father) had horses, and my sister had horses,” Kinney said. “I had dirt bikes.”
Edwin Kinney’s father, Bruce, started Thoro’Bred in South Los Angeles in 1949. At the time, widespread manufacturing of horseshoes was largely nonexistent, Kinney said. Most farriers doubled as blacksmiths, shoeing horses in the morning and forging shoes in the afternoon.