Farrier Kappy Kaplan’s Legacy Lives On at Winter Equestrian Festival

March 16. 2024

Renowned farrier ‘Kappy’ Kaplan’s legacy lives on at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) with the Farrier Appreciation Event held in his name taking place annually during ‘Saturday Night Lights’ of WEF 9 and bringing in farriers from across the country.

Kappy’s story is legendary in farrier circles and beyond. He set the bar for the modern-day craft. His longtime friend and protege, TJ Jones spoke of how Kappy’s approach was game-changing. “In Kappy’s day, it was not about the paycheck,” he said. “It was only for the love of the horse.”

The essence of the evening — putting horses first — was enhanced by the support of sponsors Absorbine and Back on Track USA whose core values look beyond purely commercial gain. “Farriers like Kappy Kaplan increased the level of professionalism,” said Back on Track USA Chief Executive Officer James Ruder, himself a farrier for 20 years. “Kappy paid attention to the customer and Back on Track USA and Absorbine are customer-centric companies. We are blue collar companies that care about the companies and clients we serve.”

Back on Track USA CEO James Ruder and W.F. Young Vice President of Marketing Amy Cairy. Photo © Amy Vu/EQ Media

Kappy, officially Herman R Kaplan, was a war hero before becoming a farrier later in life. He was awarded the Purple Heart for being wounded in action, and the Silver Star for gallantry under fire in World War II, and was in Germany when the conflict ended. Jones mentioned Kappy’s linguistic skills saying, “he would learn the language of whichever country he was in.”

Kappy’s daughter Veronica ‘Cookie’ Gallea attended the event for the first time this year. She recalls a line in German that united Kappy and her mother. “Kann ich Ihned helfen?” (Can I help you?) Kappy said, offering his assistance in a Berlin Garden in 1945 to a German girl walking a dog. “She had a mayfly in her eye,” said Gallea. “He was a medic. Even when he was working, he had a clean white handkerchief in his pocket and he helped my mum with her eye.”

A romance ensued leading to marriage but with complications. “He was a GI and Jewish and her family were soldiers in the German army,” said Gallea. “They weren’t even supposed to fraternize. My dad had to pull all kinds of strings to get a marriage license.”

Kappy had been a horseman since his early teens and after the war, he began to take an interest in shoeing. “Back in the USA and awaiting deployment, Kappy read every book he could find in Germany on horse shoeing,” said Jones. “He also traveled the countryside with a group of farriers and shod horses with them on a daily basis."

Photo © Amy Vu/EQ Media
Photo © Amy Vu/EQ Media
Photo © Amy Vu/EQ Media

Kappy became a horse instructor at an elite country club and applied himself to becoming a farrier when he was unhappy with the way the horses in his care were being shod.

“He was naturally gifted at making horseshoes which was something that was rare at the time,” said Jones. “His years of riding and training horses had given him the ability to analyze gait faults and develop solutions; he was a pioneer.”

Gallea remembers working with him on weekends. “I always knew he commanded respect,” she said. “He was very down to earth. He was a perfectionist and very, very meticulous. He used to tease some of the people when he was shoeing a horse. He would say when he was finished: ‘It’s good enough.’ But it was perfect.”

A close friend of Gene Mische, Kappy became the official farrier of his shows, which eventually evolved into what is now known as WEF, where Kappy set up shop and became a mainstay of the show organization for many years. 

The farriers of the 1995 WEF established the Kappy Kaplan Farrier Appreciation Event. This year, farriers came from near and far to honor his legacy on a night that saw five-star rookie, Brazil’s Luciana Lossio and her horse Lady Louise Jmen win under the lights and celebrate alongside the farriers at the event. The support of Absorbine and Back on Track USA is paramount to the event’s ongoing success. 

T.J. Jones speaking about "Kappy". Photo © Amy Vu/EQ Media

“Quality products allow farriers to do their job and let horses do their job by keeping them sound for years,” said Amy Cairy, Vice President of Marketing at WF Young, the parent company of Absorbine. “The farriers see the horses they shoe every four to five weeks. They are giving a lot of information to clients and are asked for a lot of advice. We have so many relationships with farriers and other organizations so to be able to come here and support this was important for us. 

“We are a fifth generation family company that has stood the test of time by putting out high-quality products because they work. Just like farriers, we stand behind our work too, and our work is our word.”

Kappy’s dedication to mentoring in his field has forged a path for the farriers who came after him. “Today marks 30 years to honor and celebrate Kappy Kaplan’s contribution to the farrier industry,” said Jones. “The man and his reputation were held in such high regard by veterinarians, trainers and owners alike. Kappy offered his knowledge to anyone who wanted to better understand the horse.”