It is great when a lot of clients begin to trust you with their prized possessions and with that comes a great deal of responsibility, a duty of care for these good horses,” says farrier Larry Winters.
Those words typify this gentle, innovative man, who is now farrier to Ireland’s top sport horse competition stars both at home and abroad.
He credits his passion for the horse to his father, Ivor Winters, who was the very first apprentice to ‘godfather’ of Irish farriery John Boyne and went on to shoe for Ireland’s dream team members, Paul Darragh and Eddie Macken. Larry also traces his passion back to his grandfather Larry Winters, who was so successful in horse breeding that he could leave a farm to each of his four sons.
As a young man, Larry travelled with his father and did his four-year apprenticeship under him as well. Early in the 21st century he passed both the Irish Master Farriery and the UK’s Worshipful Company of Farriers exams.
However he is quick to note that: “When qualified you begin to realise how little you know. You are no longer under the wing of the Master and you say to yourself, I have to get better at this!”
Larry has indeed lived up to his own demands and is now the chosen farrier for most of Ireland’s best known show jumping riders.
His area of work stretches all the way from Belfast down through Louth, Meath, Dublin, Kildare and as far as Tipperary and Kilkenny.
He says more than two-thirds of his clients are from the sport horse sector. To fulfil that workload he has created his own mobile workshop in a van that he fitted out himself with an array of shoes, pads, a gas furnace, drills and a hydraulic press that can generate 13 tonnes of pressure.
“In the last month alone we shod 80 Irish horses for competition abroad, this shows the strength of the industry here,” he notes.
Assisting him in this work is Jamie Holcroft, along with British apprentice Isobel Harmer.
“We are very lucky to have such a talented young woman working on the team.” he says.
But work is not confined to home.
In any normal year Larry may take 120 flights to service Irish riders abroad in stays that can last up to two weeks. For this he has designed another mobile workshop in the form of two lockers that fold together and can be wheeled on and off a horse box.
“I get great excitement about horses that are competing at Championship level and in having that lower limb working to its optimum,” he says with a satisfied grin.