- Associated Press - Monday, May 23, 2016

SAN ANTONIO (AP) - After a round of false starts, fire blossomed in a portable furnace hung from a work trailer. Gripping metal tongs, the teen slid a horseshoe into the oblong pit until gray metal turned fiery orange.

To cool the U-shaped chunk of iron, he doused it in a bucket of water, causing a hiss and wisp of smoke to spiral in the air. He held the hot shoe at arm’s length with pincers, squinted and eyed the hammered edges to make sure everything was flat and even.

“There’s no room for any mistakes,” he told the San Antonio Express-News (bit.ly/1TkD0Vq). “You can cripple a horse. Everything has to be perfect.”

Luca Holloway, 18, surely one of the youngest farriers in the area, takes pride in the hoof care of horses, an art dating back centuries. For the past two years, Holloway has worked on a variety of draft, gallery and ranch horses, from as far north as Llano and as far south as Pearsall.

As he drives his truck around San Antonio, Holloway proudly displays his livelihood in bold letters on the back window: Old English Horseshoeing.

According to farrierguide.com, more than 25,000 people work as farriers in the United States. Farrier stems from the Latin word “ferrarius,” which means “of iron” or blacksmith, according to the American Heritage Dictionary.

Shoeing horses for a living was an unlikely choice for the teen.

Holloway was born in England and grew up in Robin Hood’s Bay, an agricultural town near the coast of North Yorkshire. His family raised sheep and as a child he thought it was a given he’d work on a ranch.

In 2013, he arrived in the United States with his mother. He befriended teens who lived in the country and introduced him to riding horses. The animals became his passion and their care became his focus.

He learned horses should be shod every four to six weeks and that the shoes helped horses with traction, health and hygiene.

Two years later, he attended the Texas Horseshoeing School in Scurry near Dallas, a six-week boot camp that tested his limits. He said his skills increased with an apprenticeship with Ken Huckabee, a veteran farrier he still works with.

A big plus for Holloway is sharing his skills with others. Not long ago, he gave a demonstration to 120 children, many of whom had never seen or been close to a horse. He smiled as he recalled how they marveled at the sight of his horse, Watson, named after American country singer Aaron Watson.

Recently, he drove into the shade of the Lollypop Carriage Co.’s barn on Austin Street that runs parallel to overhead lanes of Interstate 37 to ply his trade.

Holloway slid out of his truck, clad in scuffed boots, a black short-sleeved shirt and a rawhide band around his right wrist. With the pull of a leather apron around his waist, he stood amid ornate carriages, riding gear and horses in iron-railed stalls that gave the barn a sort of old-western look.

The farrier removed tools from his trailer, including an anvil, foot stand and tongs. He loped over to meet Babe, a 12-year-old standard breed tied to a rail, standing next to Howard Dalros, owner of the company.

After a pat on the horse’s muzzle, he lifted the trusting animal’s left hoof between his knees and pried the old shoe off. He filed away growth around the sole he likened to a human fingernail.

“I never came across a horse I couldn’t get done,” he said as he hammered the metal shoe on his anvil. “Every horse I shoe is like a friend.”

Holloway has put shoes on Dalros’ horses for the past two months. On his first visit, Dalros scrutinized the teen as he worked on Tuxedo, a black-and-white spotted draft horse that stands 19 hands high - about 6 feet, 5 inches tall.

Dalros said he knew that if Holloway could handle Tuxedo, “the rest would be a breeze.”

After two hours of tussling with the towering horse that first day, Holloway finished the job with just one hitch: He had to make a larger shoe to fit Tuxedo’s hoof.

“Very few do hot shoeing in Texas,” Dalros said. “It’s almost a lost art. He’s very conscientious about his work. He’ll stick with it until it’s done right.”

___

Information from: San Antonio Express-News, http://www.mysanantonio.com

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