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Horseshoer feels like 'luckiest man on the planet'
Frederick the farrier

Horseshoer feels like 'luckiest man on the planet'

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Matthew Frederick didn’t set out in life to become a farrier, or horseshoer. For many years he worked as a server at local restaurants, including Auberge du Soleil. But he did own a horse, and after watching his own farrier at work, he became taken with the idea of learning the trade. Enrolling at a farrier school, “from the first day I was sold,” Frederick said.

That was 20 years ago. Today he runs his own business, Precision Horseshoeing.

“I absolutely love my job. I feel like the luckiest man on the planet.”

What’s a common question you get about your work?

Doesn’t that hurt the horse when you’re nailing on a shoe? No. The nails go into a particular spot in the hoof. That area is called the white line. It doesn’t hurt the horse because there are no nerves in the white line.

How many farriers are there in Napa Valley?

I can think of five. But there are probably about 2,000 horses scattered throughout the valley.

How many horseshoes do you use in a month?

About 400.

Does a horse have to have a shoe?

I recommend a horse have shoes. If a rider is using their horse regularly and going over rocky terrain I highly recommend it being shod. There are some horses that have very good hoof quality that can manage recreational riding barefoot.

What’s your advice to someone who wants to become a farrier?

Find a good farrier school. It’s best to go get the foundation done.

Do you have a horseshoe hanging in your house and if so is it hanging up or down?

Yes we do and it has the heels up. You are holding the luck in.

And has it brought you good luck?

Absolutely. No question about it.

What do you charge for your services?

My rate right now is $165 for a saddle horse. That would be for four shoes. I recommend appointments every 6 to 7 weeks.

What’s something people might be surprised to know about you?

That my wife and I developed a new hypothesis about the cause of laminitis, a devastating disease, which is the second leading cause of death in horses. I was invited by Dr. Ric Redden to present our theory at the International Bluegrass Laminitis Symposium in Louisville, Kent., in January 2001.

What was your childhood ambition?

I was born and raised in South America. Both of my parents worked for the U.S. State Department, and our family was stationed in Brazil, Argentina, Equator and Venezuela. I spent my childhood riding my horses, Coralito and Pepe, in the Andes and accompanying my father on archeological digs. My earliest ambition was to be an archaeologist in the Andes.

Extra questions for the web:

Which three people would you most like to have dinner with?

My father, who I lost many years ago. The biographer, Robert A. Caro and the current German Chancellor, Angela Merkel.

What are most horseshoes made out of?

High carbon steel.

What job would you like to try/not try?

Try: History professor/biographer

Not try: Office worker

What was your first job?

Newspaper delivery boy for the Washington Post, in Fairfax, Va.

What’s the worst job you ever had?

Stocking shoes at L. Frank, a clothing store in the mall at Tyson’s Corner, Va.

How did you get into this business?

I always loved being outdoors. I loved horses. I was also an amateur ship modeler, which involves working with shapes, shaping items to precisely fit exact specifications. I thought that shoeing would combine my skills and love of horses and the outdoors into the perfect career.

What’s on your to-do list?

Visit the museums, castles, battlefields, churches and libraries of Europe. By train.

Who do you most admire in the business world?

James F. Parker, former CEO of Southwest Airlines and Howard Schultz, one of the co-founders of Starbucks. Both were able to build successful, profitable businesses without sacrificing the welfare of their employees.

What is one thing you hope to accomplish in your lifetime that you haven’t yet?

Build a museum quality. “Class A” ship model from scratch.

If you could change one thing about your business, what would it be?

To see more collaboration between farriers and equine practitioners.

What is the biggest challenge your business has faced?

The years that we spent developing and researching laminitis certainly were a challenge. It fairly consumed all of our time for four years. In addition to keeping up my practice, we were buried in research papers and learning endocrinology. We had 32 laminitis cases that we were managing who were the subjects of our field study. As our theory developed, we were flying all over the country to attend conferences, seminars, clinics and developing our ideas with some of the top laminitis researchers in the country. It was a very challenging, but at the same time, very exciting time.

If you could be anywhere right now, where would you be?

On the boardwalk in Bethany Beach, Del. with my wife.

You can reach Matthew Frederick at 252-8372 or

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