Giddy up with Luke Freebairn
There are so many hands and minds that work behind the scenes to make a racing stable successful and to keep horses happy and healthy. Here we speak to some of the people who each have very different but key roles in stables around Flemington.
Luke Freebairn has been a farrier for around 24 years and he’s shoed horses for racing royalty including Bart Cummings, David Hayes and Gai Waterhouse. More recently he’s also using his blacksmithing skills to make horse brands.
“I’m the only one in my family into horses and I started riding when I was 12. I worked in a feed store every Saturday morning, saved my wages and by the age of 15 I had enough money to buy my first horse, Aussie. I didn’t tell my parents until I’d actually bought him — they didn’t believe me until they saw him the following weekend!
I didn’t plan on working with horses but it was either do this apprenticeship or go to agricultural school and I was more hands-on. It was a long four years to qualify but I enjoy the job and there is quite a shortage of people doing this work at the moment. I’ve worked with some big trainers like Bart Cummings and David Hayes and for the past eight years I’ve mostly worked for Gai.
I check the runners list each week, make sure the plates are good and shoe any horses that need their plates changed – racehorses usually need new shoes every three to four weeks.
I have to look at all the angles of the foot and make sure everything is balanced through the feet and legs. These racehorses have a lot of pressure on their legs, so if they are unbalanced or long in the toe, there’s greater risk of injury. There’s a saying ‘no hoof, no horse’ - without farriers, horses wouldn’t be able to race.
I’ve had my nose busted four times, my ear busted a few times and I’ve been knocked out and kicked in the chest – despite that, keeping the horses ready to race is very rewarding. One of my favourite horses was Liberty Rose at David Hayes’ stable because she was so quiet and easy to get along with.”