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Farrier Gets Steady Work

February 20, 2002

DENVER (AP) _ With some of the country’s best quarter horses trotting around a nearby arena, it was Terry Stever getting most of the attention at the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo.

The 58-year-old farrier, in his worn chaps and denim shirt and jeans, ground metal and filed the hooves of a show horse to make sure the shiny silver shoes fit.

As he stooped over, picked up the horse’s leg and pounded nails into its hoof, a crowd gathered in the small alcove in the huge horse arena.

``See how he puts them on to make sure it fits, just like people,″ a man said to his grandchildren, watching intently.

The slim, bespectacled Stever is used to the attention. His performance over 35 years has earned him steady work at the country’s most prestigious quarter-horse shows, including the All America Quarter Horse Congress in Columbus, Ohio, and the World Championship Quarter Horse Show in Oklahoma City.

He drives or flies coast-to-coast four or five times a month to visit clients. Show horses go through shoes in roughly six weeks.

``If you’re in the horse business, and you’re good at the horse business, you gotta get around,″ Stever said.

And get around he does. His Dodge pickup truck is outfitted with a propane-fueled mini forge, band saw, metal grinder, drill, files and large plierlike devices. And rows upon rows of silver horseshoes. He works with local farriers when he flies somewhere for a job.

He charges from $100 to $200 a horse and figures he averages five horses a day.

That means he must keep up with all the technological and biological advances.

But it’s Stever’s low-tech, soft-touch approach that appears to win over clients and animals. A native New Yorker, he is a third-generation horseman.

Horse owners drop by his truck to chat, drop off checks or make appointments.

``I’ll just write that down on my Rolodex,″ said Stever, scribbling a departing cowboy’s phone number on a crumpled box of tissues in his truck.

Stever lives near Brighton, just northeast of Denver, on a 120-acre ranch, where he raises 30 horses of his own.

His approach to handling the animals is low-key. One horse remains calm as Stever walks around it, sizing up its physique: the shape and length of the legs, whether the feet point in or out. He picks up the animal’s leg and places its hoof on a platform atop a knee-high stand.

The horse doesn’t move when Stever squats on the floor, his head between the 1,100-pound animal’s legs, or pounds long, silver nails through the holes in the shoe and into the hoof. The nail has to go in just right so the foot isn’t hurt.

Stever considers which events the horse is registered to enter: Some require the animal to push forward on its front feet, others demand it have overall strong support.

That expertise, developed over decades, is why MVP Quarter Horses of Valley View, Texas, trusts Stever with its animals, said Dave Morgan, holding the lead of A Natural Investment while the horse got four new shoes.

``I would say Terry’s one of the top five farriers in the country,″ Morgan said. ``The thing we look for with our horses is someone who’s a horseman, who understands the balance and symmetry. He knows how to make them comfortable.″

All that is important when the welfare of an animal worth tens of thousands of dollars is at stake, Morgan added.

``This horse is worth well in excess of $50,000,″ Morgan said as he pulled on the lead.

And having a good reputation in show-horse circles is priceless, said Jeff Williams, a Burbank, Calif., real-estate agent. He knows Stever from previous events, and brought his 4-year-old quarter horse, Zippo’s Sir Charles, to have his hooves filed.

``This is his first show,″ said Williams, patting the horse. ``And Terry’s one of the best.″

Stever said he just works hard. And he really loves horses.

``My father and grandfather raised horses. We started in quarter horses in 1954. I just kind of grew up around them,″ he said. ``It’s my business and it’s also my hobby.″

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