While Pueblo County has long been known as equine friendly and a center for quality saddle making, the COVID shutdown has sparked an economic boom in horseback riding giving the sport a fresh new designation as the ultimate social distancing activity. The economic driver to find COVID friendly activities is ensuring horse professionals have an active industry to support and service.
Ask anyone in the horse industry and they will tell you the importance of having a good horse farrier. Pueblo County can claim they are home to one of the best in country. Known affectionately as the local “farrier to the stars,” 1981 Pueblo County High graduate Troy Kerr has been in the horse business for more than four decades as a businessman, inventor of revolutionary hind shoes, and a world champion mounted shooter. Kerr’s notoriety has his clients flying him across the country to care for championship horses.
His tie to horse shoeing began out of necessity as a teen when his dad warned him if he wanted his horses shod, he needed to do it himself. That directive grew into the successful business he now conducts on his Boone Kaktus K Ranch (www.kaktuskranch.com) with his wife, with whom he began raising, breaking, and showing horses at all types of events.
“My farrier skills have been a huge thing for me as I typically do 1,500 trimmings and shoeings annually,” Kerr said, “but literally my entire business revolves around horses.”
Kerr has developed a variety of revolutionary hind shoes (TK Sliders/ProSlide/ProFile), which offer extensive benefits regarding function, performance, soundness, hoof health, and ease and correctness of application. “I map the horse’s foot, then align it with marks on the shoe, almost like a blueprint,” he said.
The humble cowboy shirks at the “farrier to the stars” nickname, which doesn’t mean he works with the horses of celebrities. Rather, he has shod multiple world champion horses, whose owners fly him to their animals across the country or bring their troubled horses here to Pueblo County. “ I have shoed World Champion Roping horses, World and National Champion Mounted Shooting horses, World Champion AQHA Working Cow horses, World Champion Ranch Horse Versatility, multiple World Champion APHA horses and even Miss Rodeo Colorado’s horse,” he states proudly.
Kerr is a vetted Professional Horseman, a designation which attests to his skills as well as his character.
During the week, he splits his days between training for competition, working on horses, and providing lessons in mounted shooting. Weekends are reserved for competitions like the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association (CMSA).
World Championships are coming up in October in Amarillo, Texas. He won the Single Action Shooter Society World Championship title in 2017. Currently the fastest growing equine sport, mounted shooting is a fast-action, timed event using two .45 caliber single action revolvers each loaded with five rounds of specially prepared blank ammunition. Like barrel racing with guns, mounted shooting involves the horseman running one of 80 different courses while shooting at various colored balloons. A winning run falls into the 8-20 second range.
A CMSA mounted shooting competition over the Fourth of July at the Colorado State Fairgrounds here was the first offered in Colorado since the COVID shut down. It attracted more than 100 shooters and their families from Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Wyoming, and Utah and brought significant economic benefits through sales of fuel, feed, stall shavings, as well as facility rentals, lodging, and the hiring of individuals to care both for horses and facilities.
“Pueblo and Colorado in general are definitely getting a significant economic impact from competitive events that have been opened up here and not in surrounding states,” Kerr said.
Kerr has seen an increased interest in horse ownership and a rise in tack sales of late perhaps due to the fact that riding is “the ultimate in social distancing.” He noted a horse auction in Fowler last month, which previously might have included 15-20 horses, featured 150 horses and scores of 4-H kids seeking Saddle Club projects and “some activity they can do that the government allows.”
Bill Scebbi, executive director of the Colorado Horse Council (coloradohorsecouncil.com), estimates a $3.1 billion economic impact from horse ownership, equine institutions (i.e. equine therapy and sanctuaries) and profit-making organizations and tourism spending by participants and spectators in Colorado. More than 205,000 horses reside in the state, making it the ninth largest in terms of horse population.
Scebbi cautions those considering horse ownership for recreation during the pandemic that owning a horse is not like a basketball or skis, since horses requires daily maintenance and a significant annual investment. The CHC supports and unites Colorado’s horse owners and the horse industry (regardless of breed preference, discipline affiliation, business type or recreational pursuit) to protect the common equine interest through legislation and education.
Even in non-COVID times, it’s good people who have kept Kerr and his horse business in Pueblo County.
“Pueblo also is an equine friendly community due to the weather, which allows riding nearly all 365 days of the year, with little need for indoor arenas,” he said. “All that, plus ample feed from area farmers, adds up to a good place for horses,” Kerr said. He commented that horses are healthier here because they are raised primarily in pens, not pastures, meaning they eat more quality food not foraging for whatever they can find in a field.
“Pueblo County horses also are a healthy bunch due to a wealth of exceptional local veterinarians at the forefront of the trend to adopt procedures for horses that once were limited to humans – massage, laser, and physical therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic and equine dentistry,” he said.
Horse dentistry, he explained, aids in proper digestion as well improves the health and performance of the horse through correction of bit and rein issues.