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Farrier Spotlight - Bob Mueller


Through the heat of summer to the bitterness of winter, farriers travel from barn to barn trimming and shoeing our horses. Bob Mueller, of Middleburg, VA, always shows up to work with a smile on his face. For the past 47 years, Mueller has been caring for the hooves of horses in the Northern Virginia area. Along the way he has not only shod champions across many disciplines, his clients have become his friends.

"I never set out to be a farrier, I just stumbled upon it," he says. Mueller was first exposed to horses while traveling to visit his grandparents' farm in Ohio. While they didn't have horses, he quickly made friends with the next door neighbor and started riding his horse Pepper. After those first rides on Pepper, Mueller was hooked on horses. Back at home, he could be found riding his bike from his home to Jane Marshall Dillon's Junior Equitation School in Vienna, VA, to muck stalls in exchange for the occasional ride.

Fast forward a few years and Mueller, then 20, was an exercise rider and groom at the Reston Riding Center in Reston, Virginia. As part of his job he held horses for the blacksmith, Ray Carter. An Englishman, Carter wasn't solely a blacksmith; he was a skilled steeplechase rider to boot. During the many hours Mueller held horses for Carter they developed a strong friendship. One day Carter suggested Mueller tag along with him and learn his trade.

After completing a two year apprenticeship with Carter, Mueller stepped out on his own. "At first I didn't have many horses to shoe, so I also galloped horses at the Middleburg Training Center for Hall of Fame trainer Sidney Watters to make extra money," he explains. "It seemed like I was always at the training center, so after a while I would gallop in the morning and pick up a shoe job here and there." These odd jobs turned into a steady clientele for Mueller. "Middleburg Training Center really was the catalyst for my business. Forty seven years later, race horses are still a large part of my business," shares Mueller.

Over the years, Mueller has enjoyed shoeing horses from all different disciplines. While his business has a lot of race horse customers, he also shoes show hunters, field hunters and event horses. "I love the variety of customers and finding out how everyone has been doing at their races and competitions," shares Mueller.

After almost half a century of shoeing, Mueller still loves the challenge of evaluating a lame horse or new customer and determining the right shoeing approach to take.

Mueller believes the most important skill a blacksmith can have is being able to properly trim a hoof. "A well trimmed hoof will be easy to fit a shoe to and nail into," says Mueller.  "Whatever you nail onto the hoof is secondary to the trim job."

Looking for advice on how to better take care of your horse's hooves? Mueller thinks more owners should be like those in the race horse industry. "No hoof, no horse really holds true in racing. That's why the Thoroughbred folks are super conscientious about hoof care," explains Mueller. "After a horse has a hard workout or fast race, they routinely pack the feet to draw out any heat and make sure no problems arise."

The key to keeping hoof issues at bay is to be proactive. Pay attention to the surfaces you ride on, if they are hard consider packing feet and giving your horses a little extra TLC. Also on a daily basis, pick feet, pay attention to potential thrush issues and paint the hoof walls with hoof dressing.

Although he never set out to be a farrier, Mueller loves that he fell into this career. He doesn't just work with horses, he loves horses. If he isn't tending to hooves you just might find him in the hunt field with the Middleburg Hunt. "It's a very lucky, special situation I'm in now," concludes Mueller. He truly loves being a farrier.


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