Stay a step ahead in caring for hoofs Swope knows way around horse feet


February 07, 1993|By MUPHEN WHITNEY

Last week I asked my farrier for advice to pass along to people getting ready for horse show season. Ben Swope's advice was -- as usual -- thoughtful, practical and to the point.

"I don't have any special advice," said the 1987 South Carroll High School graduate, "because people ought to be taking care of their horses' feet all year long.

"A horse's hoofs need to be kept clean, kept free of thrush [a fungus-like affliction] and have regular farrier care all year long. Then the extra work of showing shouldn't cause problems."

Swope, 24, is one of the lucky people who can combine his love of horses with his career. He caught horse fever more than a decade ago when he began visiting neighbors Charlie and Barb Conaway and their horses.

"I remember when Ben and the other neighborhood kids would come over," said Barb Conaway. "Ben would go with me down to the barn. He would do anything to help feed and take care of the horses."

Shamrock Farm manager Jim Steele -- another neighbor -- hired Swope to work at the Thoroughbred and Standardbred breeding farm, and Swope learned about every aspect of breeding and caring for horses.

Of all the things that Swope saw and did at Shamrock it was farriery -- taking care of horses' feet -- that fascinated him most.

"About five years ago I started holding horses for Andy [Flester] while he worked on the horses' feet at Shamrock," Swope said. "Andy's the one who got me interested in farrier work. I really liked the way he worked and his attitude. He took time with me, taught me and showed me everything along the way."

Swope began to ride to other farms with Flester and help him with the work. When it became obvious that Swope was viewing farriery as a possible profession Flester suggested that Swope go to farrier school.

"Going off to school was expensive," Swope said of his 2 1/2 -month residential stint at the Eastern Farrier Clinic in Martinsville, Va., "but they put you under horses from the second week you're there."

lTC Swope completed the farrier's course four years ago and since then has been working at building his own business. Swope has learned his lessons well and takes a thoughtful, practical approach to working on horses' feet.

"The most important thing about the horse's foot is keeping the angles right for each horse -- keeping the balance correct," Swope said. "That's one thing that Andy has taught me to be very careful about. Trimming the foot properly is more important than what shoes you use, or what high-tech materials, or anything else."

Although it is not easy, Swope tries to keep up with all the latest technology affecting his profession. He participates in seminars sponsored by the farrier school he attended. He has worked with several horses that have had serious problems, including founder, laminitis, hoof flares and deformities and abscesses.

"I really like the work," Swope said. "I've just always liked horses and once you get around them you can't get away -- you don't even want to."

Barb Conaway said: "He's always had a natural way with horses and he's always enjoyed being around them. He always used to watch Charlie shoe our horses, and you could tell he was fascinated by it."

Clinic with an Olympian

Don't miss the opportunity to attend a clinic with Olympic Three-Day rider Bruce Davidson on Feb. 27 and 28 at Shadowbrook Farm near BWI airport. Rider's fee is $125 per day.

Auditor's fee is $25 per day. Coming as an auditor is an especially cost-effective way to learn from this master horseman.

K? Call Joyce McDonald at (410) 796-4947 for more information.

Calendar of events

Feb. 7 -- Hunter Schooling Show. Equilibrium Horse Center, Gambrills. (410) 721-0885.

Feb. 13 -- Dressage Schooling Show. Good News Farm, Barnesville. (301) 353-1195.

Feb. 13-14 -- Longjohn Dressage Show, 9 a.m., Olney Farm, Joppa. (410) 877-1887.

Feb. 17 -- Carroll County Equestrian Council Educational Seminar on equine dentistry with Lars Curley, 7:30 p.m., extension office at the Agricultural Center, Westminster. (410) 857-2103.

Feb. 27-28 -- Flat and jumping clinic with 3-Day Event rider Bruce Davidson. Shadow Brook Farm, Elkridge. (410) 796-4947.

Feb. 28 -- New Kids 4-H and Arnold's Tack Shop Winter Horse and Pony Schooling Show. Gambler's Reward Stable, Sparks. (410) 875-2050.

March 6 -- Longjohn Dressage Show, 9 a.m., Olney Farm, Joppa. Entry fees: $12 per ride, $10 for Pony Clubbers. (410) 877-1887.

March 6 -- Maryland Horsemen's Party and Blue Ribbon Auction. 7:30 p.m. Sports Palace at Laurel Race Course. (410) 252-2100 or (410) 422-7803.

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