Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Glenn Greathouse, August 28, 2008

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:09 - Introduction

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Partial Transcript: This is Kim Lady Smith and today is August 28th, 2008 and I'm at the home of Glenn Greathouse in Lexington, Kentucky, interviewing him for the Horse Industry in Kentucky Oral History Project at UK.

Segment Synopsis: Greathouse talks about his birth and early family life. He talks about growing up on a dairy farm, and how he was introduced into horse farming as an interim manager.

Keywords: Brood mares; Dan Midkiff Jr.; Ed Fallon; Hamburg Farm; Henry Clay High School; Henry Waites; Henry White; Herschel Ellis; Lafayette High School; Medicrist Farm

Subjects: Families.; Horse farms--Kentucky.; Horse farms.; Horses--Breeding--Kentucky.; Horses--Breeding.

00:09:52 - Blacksmithing as a career

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Partial Transcript: Now when you left, did you think you would be interested in being a blacksmith?

Segment Synopsis: Greathouse talks about starting as a professional blacksmith and farrier. He talks about farriers with whom he worked in the Lexington, Kentucky area. He talks about the nature of the work and the different farms where he worked. He talks about differences in shoeing different types of horses.

Keywords: Farriers; Fayette Farm; Horse shoes; Hurstland Farm; Walnut Hall Farm

Subjects: Blacksmithing.; Kentucky Horse Park (Lexington, Ky.); Standardbred horse.; Thoroughbred

00:15:03 - Blacksmith shop community / Learning the profession

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Partial Transcript: Now did um--I see in the paper there that there was a, a trotting track shop.

Segment Synopsis: Greathouse talks about a blacksmith and farrier shop located at the Red Mile Racetrack. He talks about the blacksmiths he knew from the shop. He talks about blacksmith education and apprenticeships. He says there has never been a license required to shoe horses, but there is a certification program.

Keywords: Charlie Hodges; Dennis Murphy; Farriers; George Tomkins; Jacky Thompson; John Madison; Journeymen; Redmile Racetrack

Subjects: Apprentices.; Blacksmithing.; Horseshoes.; Racetracks (Horse racing); Racetracks (Horse racing)--Kentucky

00:19:12 - Blacksmith mentors / Blacksmiths and farriers

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Partial Transcript: Okay, so, um, you worked with--well, tell me about Mr. Pelster. What was he like?

Segment Synopsis: Greathouse talks about his associations with Gale Pelster and George Tompkins. He talks about fabricating horseshoes and blacksmith training. He explains the difference between a blacksmith and a farrier. He says he preferred working on farms rather than tracks because he did not like to travel.

Keywords: Alfred Knuckles; Carpenters; Charles Knuckles; Farriers; George Tomkins

Subjects: Apprentices.; Blacksmithing.; Horseshoes.

00:27:47 - Blacksmithing and farrier work

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Partial Transcript: So how did you, uh--[??]--with Mr., uh, Pelster, how did you find people to work for? Was it word of mouth, or?

Segment Synopsis: Greathouse talks about how farrier work was developed through personal relationships with people he knew from school. He talks about the farms where he worked for thirty years. He talks about booming growth in Kentucky horse farms during the 1970s. He estimates that when he began as a farrier, there were fifteen farriers servicing Central Kentucky, and by the time of the interview there were about two-hundred. He talks about his partnership with Gale Pelster lasting ten years, and about his decision to become independent.

Keywords: Donamire Farm; Doug Davis; Farriers; Gainsway Farm; Gale Pelster; Lochness Farm; Nina Hahn; Saxony Farm

Subjects: Blacksmithing.; Horse farms--Kentucky.; Horse farms.

00:38:04 - Blacksmith's payroll / Shoeing and caring for horses

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Partial Transcript: So, um, I'm not gonna ask you how much money you made, but could you make a pretty good living as a blacksmith?

Segment Synopsis: Greathouse talks about making a comfortable living as a farrier. He discusses the various tasks involved in shoeing and trimming horses and the increasing hourly prices. He says trimming hooves is about ninety percent of the work. He adds that most broodmares are barefooted, but that colts were shod.

Keywords: Brood mares; Colts; Fillies; Trimming hooves

Subjects: Blacksmithing.; Horseshoes.

00:44:52 - The physical demands of blacksmithing

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Partial Transcript: Now this is pretty physically demanding work, isn't it?

Segment Synopsis: Greathouse talks about the adverse health consequences of doing the rigorous work of blacksmithing. He talks about the daily workload of trimming and shoeing horses and rotation between farms. He talks about his preference to rotate between farms rather than be dedicated to one farm.

Keywords: Farriers; Healthcare; Surgery

Subjects: Blacksmithing.; Horseshoes.

00:49:05 - Blacksmiths and veterinarians working together

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Partial Transcript: Now did you, uh--Ed Fallon was telling me that, uh, for many years, uh, long time ago, the blacksmiths often were the ones who took care of the health of a horse.

Segment Synopsis: Greathouse talks about consulting with veterinarians for more serious healthcare issues in horses, and he gives the example of a "gravel" or an abscess. He talks about the changes in resources for caring for horses' feet during his career including technology, diagnostic and surgical techniques. He talks about how breeding for speed complicates horse healthcare.

Keywords: Abscesses; Farriers; X-rays

Subjects: Blacksmithing.; Veterinarians.

00:56:09 - Hamburg Place and the Maddens / Career in blacksmithing

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Partial Transcript: Let's, uh, go back t--somebody told me that you used to work on Hamburg? At Hamburg? Did you work for the--at the Maddens'?

Segment Synopsis: Greathouse talks about the farms managed by Joe and Ed Madden at Hamburg Place. He talks about other members of the Madden family and their involvement in the horse industry. He says his career as a farrier spanned from 1955 to 1975. He talks about other farriers he knew and admired.

Keywords: Ed Madden; Farriers; Horse gaits; Jacky Tomson; Joe Madden; John Madden; Madden family; Medicrest Farm

Subjects: Blacksmithing.; Horseshoes.

01:05:54 - Toe grabs on horseshoes / Career in blacksmithing

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Partial Transcript: This is kind of current, but, um, the whole issue about toe grabs, did you have much experience with those shoes?

Segment Synopsis: Greathouse talks about the use of "toe grab" style of horseshoes and their effect on horses and use at different tracks. He clarifies that his career as a farrier lasted until the 1990s, and that he retired at age 75, not in 1975. He talks about his workload near the end of his career and his enjoyment of the work.

Keywords: Buckram Oak Farm; Farriers; King Ranch; Toe grabs

Subjects: Horse farms.; Horseshoes.; Racetracks (Horse racing); Racetracks (Horse racing)--Kentucky; Veterinarians.

01:11:34 - Horse shoe metal alloys and fabrication / Horse sales

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Partial Transcript: Now, um, in the--when you first started, when you, when you had to shoe a horse, did you make your own horse shoes, and did that change?

Segment Synopsis: Greathouse talks about the various alloys used in fabricating horseshoes, and the manufacturing of horseshoes. He talks about the importance of a farrier to know how to work a forge and fabricate horseshoes. He talks about the busy preparation for horse sales and occasionally attending the sales in the evenings. He talks about exceptional horses that he has seen during his career.

Keywords: Althea (Race horse); Cannonade (Race horse); Farriers; Forge; Jackie Wood

Subjects: Blacksmithing.; Horseshoes.

01:20:53 - Working with spirited horses / Business after retirement

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Partial Transcript: When you had a horse that spirited, clearly you liked them but were they hard to work with?

Segment Synopsis: Greathouse talks about working with temperamental and spirited horses. He talks about avoiding work in extremely cold weather. He says it is relatively easier to work in hot weather. He talks about running a farrier supply business which he began in 1991. He says he still keeps active with the business post-retirement. He talks about his son and nephew working for the business. He talks about horse professionals he admired over the years.

Keywords: Ed Fallon; Farriers; Frances McKinsey; Henry White; Herold Kitchen; Howard Raus; John Greathouse; King Ranch; Trimming hooves; Walnut Hall Stud Farm

Subjects: Blacksmithing.; Horses.

01:30:36 - Working with trainers

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Partial Transcript: Well, also when you worked the farms, did you work with a lot of trainers? Did you--were you involved with any of the trainers?

Segment Synopsis: Greathouse talks about the trainers he met, although he did not work with them directly. He talks about transporting horses across the country in train boxcars back in the 1940s and 1950s, but that horses were transported by air as of the time of the interview. He talks about his recollections of hard times during the Great Depression.

Keywords: Great Depression; Henry White; King Ranch; Yearlings

Subjects: Depressions--1929; Keeneland (Lexington, Ky.)

01:35:49 - Challenging times in the horse industry

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Partial Transcript: Now one of the times that was particularly challenging for the horse industry was the late '80s when everything had gotten so--

Segment Synopsis: Greathouse talks about the upheaval in the horse industry in the late 1980s after changes in the tax law. He says he knew one blacksmith hurt by the tax law revision, but he preferred not to provide details. He talks about the camaraderie and mutual social support among farriers.

Keywords: Gale Pelster; George Tomkins

Subjects: Blacksmithing.; Horse owners--Taxation--Law and legislation

01:39:29 - Growth period in the blacksmithing business

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Partial Transcript: So did that--how did that change--[inaudible]--when did you see a really significant growth in the blacksmith?

Segment Synopsis: Greathouse talks about the growth of horse farms and the farrier business beginning in the 1980s. He talks about the declining interest in professional organizations for farriers in central Kentucky. He talks about association meetings held at the Gluck Equine Research Center. He talks about George Tomkins' technical abilities. He says that challenges of the work kept it interesting.

Keywords: Bluegrass Horseshoers' Association; Dr. James Rooney; Farriers; George Tomkins; Gluck Equine Research Center

Subjects: Blacksmithing.; Horse farms--Kentucky.; Horse farms.

01:47:41 - Visiting the races

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Partial Transcript: Now, did you ever go to the tracks much? Did you go to races? Were you interested in the horses?

Segment Synopsis: Greathouse says he likes to watch the stake horse fillies at Keeneland. He talks about the vagaries of a evaluating fast horses. He talks about buying his own horses for a hobby. He talks about the beauty of Keeneland Racetrack, and its co-founder Hal Price Headley.

Keywords: Alice Headley Chandler; Hal Price Headley; Mill Ridge Farm

Subjects: Churchill Downs (Louisville, Ky. : Racetrack); Horse racing--Kentucky.; Horse racing.; Keeneland (Lexington, Ky.)

01:53:43 - Final stories

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Partial Transcript: Well, we've talked about a lot of things, but I'm sure that there are lots of stories that I haven't touched on that you could share, is there anything you can think of?

Segment Synopsis: Greathouse talks about the Bradley Farm that he remembered from his childhood which was composed of land divided into several other farms later. He talks about the social milieu of the Bradley Farm racetrack. He talks about the acreage of several horse farms and the scale of horse farming in Fayette County in the mid twentieth century. He talks about his role as a consultant for the farrier building at the Kentucky Horse Park for the 2010 World Equestrian Games.

Keywords: Alice Headley Chandler; Beaumont Farm; Bradley Farm; Calumet Farm; Coldstream Farm; Elmendorf Farm; Farriers; Hal Price Headley; Hamburg Farm; Idle Hour; King Ranch; La Belle Farm; Mereworth Farm; Walnut Hall Farm

Subjects: Horse farms--Kentucky.; Horse farms.; Keeneland (Lexington, Ky.); Kentucky Horse Park (Lexington, Ky.); Racetracks (Horse racing); World Equestrian Games