Childhood interest turns into life long love for local farrier

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By Cindy DiFazio

Staff writer/photographer

Charlie Roach and his twin were young when their father lost interest in a horse hobby. That set in motion Charlie’s lifelong passion for the animals.

“Dad had horses when we were growing up like most men buy a boat,” he said. “Bob and I were 11 and horse crazy so we took the reins.”

Roach still has a firm grip on those reins 45 years later.

His equine career includes training and showing Tennessee Walkers, giving riding lessons and shoeing horses.

Roach said in recent years he has discovered a new way to train and treat his horses. “I’ve become involved in natural horsemanship,” he said, “communicating with horses at much higher levels.”

Roach said it helps him relate to the animals he trains and works with. He offers clinics that teach other equestrians how to put the principles of natural horsemanship to use.

The process  basically mimics the relationship between mare and foal in the wild. “There are four phases of friendly firmness,” Roach said. Those components include a stern look, waving a hand and making a verbal request. “Then if they still don’t move, give ‘em a bump,” he said. “Don’t hit them.”

Roach demonstrated by gently rubbing the back of Keeper’s leg to signal the horse to raise his hoof for shoeing. Keeper obliged calmly allowing Roach to begin the work without stressing the animal. He said he began using this methodology after hearing of the Parelli method of horse training.

According to Pat Parelli’s Web site the method promotes “success without force, partnership without dominance, teamwork without fear, willingness without intimidation and harmony without coercion.”

Roach used gestures and sounds to encourage Keeper onto a 36 by 36 inch platform with all four feet, no small feat for such a large animal. When he wanted Keeper to dismount the platform, he bent his head low. “This is a submissive position,”Roach said.

“It’s about learning their language,” he said. “All our lives we try to have them learn ours when with them it’s mostly about body language.”

The horse business was not part of Roach’s post-secondary education at Eastern Kentucky University, which he attended on a wrestling scholarship. “I majored in law enforcement, with a minor in political science,” he said. Roach’s college choices were greatly influenced by his father, who was a captain on the state police force.

“The last formal job I had was in the Crime Prevention Bureau for the City of Louisville.” he said, “My biggest dream was a brand new El Camino, a horse trailer and a horse to put in it.”

Roach never received any formal horse training himself. “What surprises me is that no one would help me, but I’ve taught many since,” he said. “I see something today, do it tomorrow and teach it the next day.”

Roach leased out the Oldham County Fairgrounds in 1978, lived on the premises and began training Tennessee Walkers. “I was single at the time, and as my wife would put it, in a place that needed to be replaced quickly,” he said.

Then in 1989, Roach and his wife, Karen bought a house with a Smithfield address and six acres. “I have no roots in Henry County,” he said, “but it’s always called me.”

The barn on the property was built in 1952. It housed generations of sheep and had manure about 18 inches deep on the floor to prove it.  Roach insisted it be removed before he and his family moved in. Afterwards, he set about making it habitable for horses.

Since then, the old barn has been added to and renovated several times.

Recently, Roach tore out stalls leaving just three roomy enclosures for his own Tennessee Walkers. He said he stopped training horses professionally in 2003.

“Keeper” is an eight-year old red and white, “Cowboy” is a five-year old black and white and “An Officer & A Gentleman” (affectionately dubbed “Dream” because he’s a dream to ride) is a four-year old red.

Roach said his typical day begins around 8 a.m. working on a few Rocky  Mountain horses at  MaGuire Farms. “They have in the neighborhood of 80 horses, some shod and many to trim,” he said, “as they are a successful breeding farm along with being serious trail riders.”

Roach said the advantage to working with professionals such as David, Phyllis and Colt MaGuire is they have the horses up and “ready to behave like horses should.” 

It takes about an hour to put four shoes on a horse, but Roach jokes that he tacks on another 10-15 minutes to visit with the owners.

Other stops may include Hollygarth Stables, owned by Barbara Cecil and the Grigsby family farm. Both are home to Tennessee Walking horses. Roach’s clients keep him as busy as he cares to be, working five days a week.

“I may shoe Rocky Mountain horses today and Tennessee Walkers tomorrow,” he said. “I do Arabians every other week.”

Roach does not appreciate elitist attitudes toward the different breeds. “To me, I hate when someone says ‘he’s just a trail horse,’” he said. “The health of those horses’ feet is just as important.”

Considering the number of years he has worked in the horse industry, Roach is surprised that he has never missed a day because of shoeing horses. He gives some of the credit to wrestling moves he learned at school.

“Being able to move under them has been an asset,” Roach said. “They are wild animals, only domesticated by humans.”

Roach continues to shoe horses for his regular customers and that’s enough.

“I thoroughly enjoy it,” he said. “I’m just as excited about shoeing horses today as when I started. Then when shoeing slows down in the winter, it’s time to work with my horses.”


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