This has been a busy month for me. My little sister got a hip replacement and I’ve been her nursemaid. She gets calls from folks telling her to heal up quick so they can have her teach riding lessons again, train their horses and that sort of thing. And of course her fellow horsemen (and women) have been calling and wishing her a speedy recovery. One such fellow stands out though.
I’ve been around horse people pretty much all my life because of my sister’s occupation. As many of you know, she’s a retired race horse jockey and teaches hunter/jumper horses now. An old friend of hers, Mr. Meling, has been in contact with her over the last few months and I finally got to meet him. As an author, this guy is a treasure trove of resource material! He holds riding clinics, he’s competed at the national level in jumping and in Grand Prix’s. He exercised horses at the race track for 19 years in his younger days. He’s roped at a semi-pro level, he breaks colts, he’s also been an outrider at the race track. Outriders are responsible for the safety of all racing participants, both equine and human during training and live racing. And, (yes, there’s more) he’s also a high end horse shoer with a focus on reconstructive shoeing. He’s been shoeing for 47 years.
This was the part I found interesting. People fly him into Texas, Kentucky and New York among other places just to shoe their horses. And yes, we’re talking Churchill Downs and Belmont race tracks. He shoes horses for those races. He said I could pick his brain and I plan to, but the whole horse-shoeing thing sort of amazes me.
One thing I didn’t think about when he told me what he does, is that he takes his own tools with him. Yikes! That’s one way to set off the metal detectors at the airport. Of course, he’s not about to carry any of that stuff onto a plane himself. Still that’s a lot of weight to have to haul around when you get to where you’re going. Mr. Meling said he has two 24x24x18 pelican cases that each weigh ninety pounds. He keeps sets of tools at some of the places where he shoes often, but when he does have to heft his own tools along, it’s a chore.
Horse shoeing is also not for sissies. He can shoe from one to as many as a couple dozen horses when people fly him in. When doing what are called gluons and reconstructive shoeing, he said he can do no more than eight pair in a day. The before and after photos of some of the horses he’s done are amazing.
Do you know someone with an interesting occupation? As writers, we can dabble in different genres and be very good in each. Mr. Meling works in different parts of the horse world and is very good in each. But what other occupations are out there that you or someone you know has branched into different areas of and made a life long career out of? For Mr. Meling, it’s horses. For my fellow fillies and me, it’s stories. I’ll giveaway one e-book of mine of choice to one lucky winner from the comments.