Peter Dixon gets a kick out of horseshoes
Horse racing is in Peter Dixon's blood. His father, Alfred 'Fredo' Dixon, and brother Michael, starred as groom and jockey, respectively, during the 1970s.
But while his attempts to become an apprentice about 25 years ago didn't work out, his natural inclination to horses led him to become a farrier.
"A farrier really tends to the horse's feet, just the hoof, and put on shoes, while the blacksmith beat iron with fire. A lady by the name of Ms Hidey from America taught me for about five years down by Wayne DaCosta stable. She really gave us the knowledge to change from blacksmith to the farrier," he explained. In addition to the training, he reads widely to keep abreast of horse-care techniques.
When THE STAR visited his office at Caymanas Park in St Catherine, his passion was evident as he tended to his first 'client', a two-year-old chestnut filly named Bern Notice. Dixon, 50, first cleaned the horse's hooves of dirt, preparing to remove the shoes.
"Now I'm going to use the nippers to try and level the toe and heel making sure everything is level. Next, I use the rasp (nail file) making sure it's smooth," he said, likening the process to a pedicure. He said it is important that the hooves are even, to balance the horse's weight properly.
"The last thing before you put on the shoes, is take out the sole pressure. If the sole is pressuring, him (the horse) feel pain. When you drive in the nail, and you see him drag, you know he's feeling pain or you feel it getting tight, just take it out," he said.
An eye for detail
Dixon said the job requires a natural love for horses, an eye for detail, and patience. He has even travelled outside of Jamaica to other tracks such as Gulfstream Park (Florida) and Canterbury (Minnesota) to shoe horses.
The Gregory Park resident said he feels satisfied when a horse he shoed wins a race, especially on a big race day such as the Superstakes.
"I get a lot of praises and recognition for it. I've shoed a lot of good horses like BigDaddyKool, Supreme Soul and Agita. When you see the trainer and him say 'good job', you feel good," the father of one said. But he admits there are some risks, and recalled an incident where he was kicked in his back by a horse and ended up in a wall.
"I knocked out for about three seconds, but I finished the job and went to the doctor afterwards," he laughed. THE STAR asked him if there were superstitions associated with horseshoes to ward off evil. Dixon said yes, and added that persons regularly ask to purchase horseshoe nails.
"People come and want to give $5,000 for six single nail. They want six horseshoes, and you clean it up and give them. It's their business what they do with it, you just give them and help them," he shared. He is hoping more recognition will be given to the profession, as he is one of the 20 farriers at Caymanas Park.
"Overseas, it's more respected than Jamaica. Regularly, we (the Farriers' Association) ask for seminars to bring awareness of the profession in Jamaica, but we would like to see more being done," he said.