Monday, November 24, 2008
In a nondescript building at the east edge of Santa Anita Racetrack's stable area is the original blacksmith shop, where for more than 50 years a coal burning forge has been in use. The forge stands in the corner of the a small but efficiently organized shop, connected to a metal duct system that runs along the ceiling and surrounded by stockpiles of steel, rows of hanging horseshoes, and tools of the trade. In front of the forge stands a 100-year old anvil, also still in use today.
Blacksmith Michael Bromley recently fired up the forge and explained how it operates, turning coal into coke, which in turn burns hot enough to work steel. Bromley is also a farrier - someone who shoes the horses. He has worked as a blacksmith and farrier for more than 30 years, predominantly with standardbreds at Los Alamitos racecourse in Los Alamitos, California.
He also serves on several test boards, and on the day I shot this video, Bromley was assisting with a licensing test at Santa Anita -- a grueling three-hour test that farriers much pass in order to be licensed by the California Horse Racing Board to work on the racetrack.
Note in the video that Bromley talks about the "swedges" he produces as raw stock for horse shoes. The swedges are lengths of steel that will eventually be made into the horseshoes. Although many of the shoes for racehorses these days are made of lighter metals, such as aluminum and titanium, steel shoes are the standard, and farriers must know how to produce them. Enjoy the video!