Denver — With some of the country's best quarter horses trotting around a nearby arena, it was Terry Stever getting most of the attention at the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo.
The 58-year-old farrier, in his worn chaps and denim shirt and jeans, ground metal and filed the hooves of a show horse to make sure the shiny silver shoes fit.
The slim, bespectacled Stever is used to the attention. His performance over 35 years has earned him steady work at the country's most prestigious quarter-horse shows, including the All America Quarter Horse Congress in Columbus, Ohio, and the World Championship Quarter Horse Show in Oklahoma City.
He drives or flies coast-to-coast four or five times a month to visit clients. Show horses go through shoes in roughly six weeks.
"If you're in the horse business, and you're good at the horse business, you gotta get around," Stever said.
He charges from $100 to $200 a horse and figures he averages five horses a day.
That means he must keep up with all the technological and biological advances.
But it's Stever's low-tech, soft-touch approach that appears to win over clients and animals. A native New Yorker, he is a third-generation horseman.
Horse owners drop by his truck to chat, drop off checks or make appointments.
"I'll just write that down on my Rolodex," said Stever, scribbling a departing cowboy's phone number on a crumpled box of tissues in his truck.
Stever lives near Brighton, just northeast of Denver, on a 120-acre ranch, where he raises 30 horses of his own.
His approach to handling the animals is low-key. One horse remains calm as Stever walks around it, sizing up its physique: the shape and length of the legs, whether the feet point in or out. He picks up the animal's leg and places its hoof on a platform atop a knee-high stand.
That expertise, developed over decades, is why MVP Quarter Horses of Valley View, Tex., trusts Stever with its animals, said Dave Morgan, holding the lead of A Natural Investment while the horse got four new shoes.
"I would say Terry's one of the top five farriers in the country," Morgan said. "The thing we look for with our horses is someone who's a horseman, who understands the balance and symmetry. He knows how to make them comfortable."