North East Living Magazine - - Contents - words Si­mone Ker­win photos Marc Bongers

South Wangaratta black­smith/ far­rier Ju­lian Cor­boy prac­tises his trade in the his­toric tra­di­tion.

JU­LIAN Cor­boy oc­ca­sion­ally al­lows him­self a wry grin as he pulls into the Wangaratta race­course car park early in the morn­ing. The South Wangaratta res­i­dent muses that he could take his pick from a range of re­served spa­ces, as his equine in­dus­try in­volve­ment has ranged from track rider to stew­ard, and just about every­thing in be­tween and be­yond.

His work life has taken him from rid­ing track work and try­ing his hand at bull rid­ing, to spend­ing time on North Queens­land cat­tle sta­tions, work­ing in horse sta­bles in­ter­state and abroad, and even en­joy­ing a gig as a groom for a flight com­pany. While many and var­ied, all th­ese ex­pe­ri­ences have cen­tred on his love for horses. But it’s in his cur­rent role, as mas­ter far­rier, that the 36 year old fa­ther of five be­lieves he’s found his call­ing.

De­spite the fact it re­quires him to rise be­fore dawn and work steadily, some­times un­til 8pm, ev­ery day but Sun­day, Ju­lian said the sat­is­fac­tion the job de­liv­ered was worth the hours of toil un­der horses, and over his anvil and blaz­ing black­smith’s forge.

“Your work should be a vo­ca­tion, and you should re­ally en­joy it. It takes a long time to re­ally find your vo­ca­tion, and I think I’ve found it,” he said.

“You suck adrenalin from what­ever you can. At one time, bull rid­ing was great for the adrenalin, but then also, sit­ting on a horse in the out­back for hours on end was grat­i­fy­ing as well. I get a lot more en­joy­ment out of this now; shoe­ing horses and mak­ing a dif­fer­ence in a horse’s life, in the rider’s life, is prob­a­bly the best.”

Ju­lian is one of a few far­ri­ers in the area work­ing in the tra­di­tional hot-shoe man­ner, cre­at­ing shoes over his forge to match the hooves of horses un­der­tak­ing a range of ac­tiv­i­ties, from rac­ing to dres­sage, show jump­ing to western plea­sure, and for draught horses like Cly­des­dales, to suit dif­fer­ent sea­sons.

“Nor­mally a horse would be out in the pad­dock with his head down, eat­ing grass, but when we want them to do an ac­tiv­ity, we’re ask­ing them and their body to do more than what is nat­u­ral. We just put mea­sures in place to en­sure we get a good hoof; the old say­ing goes, ‘No hoof, no horse’. That’s ba­si­cally why horses are shod. We don’t do it just be­cause we can, it’s to save the foot from wear­ing out too quickly, or they go sore and you can have a lot of other prob­lems,” he said.

“When a horse has grip and it’s asked to do some­thing more than what’s usual, when a horse feels as though it can do it be­cause it’s got a good set of shoes on, you’ll get 20 per cent more ef­fort out of your horse. It’s all about in­creas­ing a horse’s con­fi­dence and mak­ing them com­fort­able, and the rest is up to the rider.”

Hav­ing seen dif­fer­ent ap­proaches to his trade dur­ing his trav­els over­seas, Ju­lian would love the same re­quire­ments for far­ri­ers in Aus­tralia that are in place in the UK, where it is an of­fence to shoe a horse un­reg­is­tered.

“Peo­ple have good in­ten­tions, but it can end up cost­ing them more if they don’t do it cor­rectly the first time. I’m one of the few who is qual­i­fied. I can’t em­pha­sise that enough. I can’t do all of them, but I do rec­om­mend peo­ple have a good look at who’s un­der their horse, to avoid prob­lems,” he said.

“The Vic­to­rian Mas­ter Far­ri­ers As­so­ci­a­tion would be the first point of call for any­one look­ing for a far­rier. Reg­is­tered far­ri­ers are the only ones on that list. >>

“We’d like to see ed­u­ca­tion by horse own­ers to do their re­search and make sure that the per­son un­der their horse knows what they’re look­ing at. A lack of knowl­edge of the equine anatomy and the lower limb, and in­cor­rect trim­ming and ap­pli­ca­tion of shoes, can cause a lot of prob­lems in joints and knees and up­per body. It’s like or­thotics in shoes, like po­di­a­try, it’s the same thing.

“It is en­cour­ag­ing to see young peo­ple get­ting in­volved in the trade. I have a fourth year ap­pren­tice now who has re­ally put the hours in; it’s im­por­tant peo­ple do the trade so they un­der­stand prop­erly what they are do­ing.”

Car­ing for horses has been a ma­jor part of Ju­lian’s life since he was very young, hav­ing grown up as one of 10 chil­dren in a War­rnam­bool rac­ing fam­ily.

“My ear­li­est mem­ory is from about the age of six or seven, when I used to go to my un­cle’s sta­bles with my brother, Adrian. I was keen to help out so I could get that lit­tle gold coin and go to the shop and get a bag of lol­lies,” he said.

“And I re­mem­ber I rode a Shet­land from War­rnam­bool to Dunkeld with my fam­ily on a fam­ily ride, I think I was about 10; it took a cou­ple of days, and I en­joyed ev­ery minute of it.”

De­spite the love of horses kin­dled in child­hood, Ju­lian said like peo­ple, there were al­ways an­i­mals that proved dif­fi­cult to deal with.

“I don’t like all of them; some of them aren’t very nice. There’s one a week I sort of have to avoid, I’ve been kicked nearly a mil­lion times,” he said.

“But the worst thing you can do with a trou­ble­some horse is get up­set – you just go and make a cup of tea and come back to it, or you waste your time and en­ergy. Don’t go to war with a 500kg an­i­mal – it can outweigh you and outsmart you. Get along with it.”

In his 20s, Ju­lian had as­pi­ra­tions to be a jockey, “but I was too heavy, so I was more of a track rider”. Around that time, he was rid­ing 10 horses a morn­ing in track work at Wangaratta, and then jump­ing on bulls at the week­end. It was at the Wangaratta track that he met his fu­ture wife, Lu­di­vine, who was also rid­ing track work and build­ing on the knowl­edge of equine health de­vel­oped in her na­tive France. Ju­lian de­scribes his wife as “the busi­ness brains” of their part­ner­ship - “she does all the books, is very clever - and she’s a great cook”.

“It wasn’t un­til I met Lu­di­vine that I thought I’d bet­ter get fo­cused on life and turn my knowl­edge into a busi­ness, and dur­ing that pe­riod I worked un­der Des Glee­son and Terry Bai­ley as a stew­ard. I learnt a lot of peo­ple skills, and about work­ing with sources and gain­ing in­for­ma­tion. The big­gest thing I prob­a­bly learnt was con­flict res­o­lu­tion,” he said.

While he said he had “al­ways been un­der a horse shoe­ing it”, it wasn’t un­til 2010 that Ju­lian de­cided he would pur­sue far­ri­ery and be­come qual­i­fied. He trained with a mas­ter far­rier in Be­nalla, as well as oth­ers around Aus­tralia, over four years to de­velop the skills and knowl­edge in horse han­dling and anatomy that he had picked up through­out his life. He is cur­rently com­plet­ing a diploma with the Wor­ship­ful Com­pany of Far­ri­ers in the UK.

“I’ve also com­peted as a far­rier black­smith in Vic­to­ria and NSW, and thor­oughly en­joyed the ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing able to share and gain knowl­edge by brush­ing shoul­ders with other re­ally good far­ri­ers from around the globe,” he said.

Ju­lian hon­ours the tra­di­tion of his trade in his work­shop, with an un­of­fi­cial me­mo­rial to World War 1 black­smith far­rier Merv Har­ris, whose tools and be­long­ings he ac­quired when the man passed away.

“I was trim­ming a pony for a guy who used to look af­ter him, and his name came up, and I said, look, I’d be happy to take his old tools and just hang them up, have a pic­ture here,” he said. >>

The col­lec­tion in­cludes a cat’s head ham­mer, which Merv brought back from his time as a far­rier in Turkey dur­ing World War 1.

Ju­lian and Lu­di­vine have passed on their love of horses to their five chil­dren, Jean-bap­tiste (10), Francesco (8), Pa­trick (6), Kath­leen (4) and Daniel (2). They all en­joy the com­pany of the fam­ily’s gypsy cob horse, and their don­key, Mor­ton - “a bit of a mas­cot” who’s fond of Guin­ness and is “the life of the party”.

“Jean-bap­tiste has Down Syn­drome, and he’s not walk­ing, so for him to be able to ride the don­key is a big thing, it’s good for his strength. He’s also got a pony he rides. Franceso is a very keen rider and has a lot of nat­u­ral abil­ity. Kath­leen’s still learn­ing, and Pa­trick’s the same as Francesco, they just go for it, it’s just part of them,” Ju­lian said.

Ju­lian is grad­u­ally de­vel­op­ing his busi­ness in­fra­struc­ture on the South Wangaratta prop­erty where the fam­ily has been based for the past two years, in a “horsey area” handy to the race­course and many of his lo­cal clients. And the stream of work is steady. He rises each morn­ing “at the crack of dawn”, milks the fam­ily’s cow, and en­joys a cof­fee be­fore head­ing to the race­track each week­day and Satur­day morn­ing to check in with trainer brother Adrian and tend to any horses that need to be shod.

“He’s got me 24/7 on call for any prob­lems, and now that he’s work­ing nearly 100 horses, it’s good to be able to as­sist him. He pre-trains for some very promi­nent train­ers, and I like to be a part of help­ing him,” he said.

“I do have a great pas­sion for rac­ing, and I love see­ing my clients get a win­ner, es­pe­cially my brother. That’s never go­ing to leave. Be­ing able to help a horse through an in­jury is an ad­van­tage too. Lately I’ve been able to work with a num­ber of vets on some pretty se­ri­ous cases, and we’ve had some suc­cess.”

From the track, Ju­lian heads off to see other clients, and from about midday, his out of town clients bring their horses to be shod.

“It’s a very, very busy trade. If it’s pour­ing rain, I’m mak­ing shoes, if it’s un­der­cover, I’m shoe­ing a horse; there’s no way to es­cape work, you’ve just got to keep go­ing, oth­er­wise it will build up. I go away for about 10 days a year, and I pay for it. But it is worth it, be­cause you’ve got to have a break – fam­ily comes first,” he said.

The Cor­boy chil­dren are also de­vel­op­ing an in­ter­est in their dad’s work, and Pa­trick has his own anvil, though know­ing the hard work in­volved, Ju­lian said he’d be “very happy for him to be a den­tist or a doc­tor or a sur­geon” rather than fol­low in his foot­steps.

“But to have a trade where my son can make a sword, that’s pretty cool,” he said.

When things get tough, and the work does build up, Ju­lian re­lies on an­other strong con­vic­tion, his faith, to get him through.

“I come from a tra­di­tional Ro­man Catholic back­ground, and I’m very, very proud of that. It’s been a big part of my life, my faith, for sure. It gives me an in­cen­tive to suf­fer a bit when you’ve got to work hard, to of­fer it up if it’s a bit hard - that’s how I look at it. That be­comes a prayer, doesn’t it? You think, ‘When am I go­ing to find a time to pray?’, well, you are. Your work be­comes a prayer,” he said.

Sur­rounded by an­i­mals and land in South Wangaratta, Ju­lian said the fam­ily en­joyed all the re­gion had to of­fer.

“Af­ter trav­el­ling so much, the North East is prob­a­bly my favourite place, just be­cause of the cli­mate, the vol­ume of horses; you just see horses do bet­ter up here be­cause you get warm days in win­ter and the cli­mate’s a lot bet­ter for horses. My wife, be­ing from the south of France, finds this re­gion fairly sim­i­lar to where she’s from. I’ve al­ways come back to the North East, though I’m a salty at heart; I love the beach. I miss the sea breeze, but this is home for now,” he said.


South Wangaratta black­smith/far­rier Ju­lian Cor­boy kin­dles a love of horses by prac­tis­ing his trade in the his­toric tra­di­tion.

IN DAD’S FOOT­STEPS / Pa­trick Cor­boy (above) has his own anvil in dad Ju­lian’s work­shop.

TRA­DI­TION / Ju­lian Cor­boy ( left) works over a forge fired by coke, a bi-prod­uct of coal, which he says cre­ates bet­ter heat. He is one of only a few far­ri­ers in the re­gion work­ing in the tra­di­tional hot-shoe man­ner.

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