Kriz Farm Horseshoe Pile, Bethany
Once in a blue moon a reader alerts me to something in Connecticut about which I was wholly unaware. After writing everything on this website for so many years, that’s not bragging… it’s just a fact. And really, would that even be something to brag about?
No. Unlike having the world’s largest pile of horseshoes. Not that would be something to brag about. As you’ve gathered, it was that pile of metal that brought me to a farm in southwestern Bethany on a cold Saturday after a series of nearby hikes with my son. So as we enter the world of Kriz Farm, I’d like to thank the gentleman who brought this pile to my attention many months prior.
I thought I was going to take a few pictures of the pile, write a few humorous paragraphs about it, and go on with my day. Then I got home and started reading about Kriz Farm. The pile became secondary. The Kriz family are legends in the farrier (a craftsman who trims and shoes horses’ hooves) world. Apparently if you mention “Kriz” among true horse people anywhere in the world, you get instant respect.
The family’s been at it for eight generations. The current crops’ grandfather/uncle (cousins run the farm today), Joe Kriz, immigrated from Czechoslovakia and got straight to horseshoe work at a young age. He and his brother immediately made an impact and helped “re-establish the draft horse industry in the northeast during the 1950’s and 1960’s.” They were also recognized for shoeing Japan’s Emperor, Hirohito’s white Arabian stallion during their duty in WWII and also shod many celebrities’ horses, including the famous Budweiser Clydesdales.
(Not during the war! After Japan surrendered, Emperor Hirohito gave his prized white Arabian stallion to the American military as a goodwill gesture. The U.S. brass told Joe Kriz, who had been shoeing horses throughout the war, to make sure that the horse was taken care of. That’s kind of crazy.)
Here’s more from the New Haven Register upon Joe’s death in 2010:
Kriz may have been an anachronism, but in Bethany, where horses are as common as minivans, he was famous. In the horseshoe world, Kriz was royalty.
Hoof Blog, dedicated to all things horseshoes, said Kris was “America’s horseshoer.” The Draft Horse Journal featured Kriz or his late brother, Johnny, in nearly every issue.
Kriz, a member of the Farrier’s Hall of Fame, most notably shoed the most famous draft horses of all: the Anheuser-Busch Co. Clydesdales.
The current generation is still shoeing horses and blacksmithing the shoes. The farm has all sorts of other businesses, as one must in 2021, but horses are still front and center. Or should I say the horseshoe pile is front and center.
I drove down the long driveway not knowing exactly what to expect, but a woman was leading some horses into a trailer. I asked her if I could show “the pile” to my son and she said “sure, of course.” As I pulled alongside the 16+ foot pile of steel, three rather yappy dogs ran to my car. Surely they were fine farm dogs.
The reason you don’t see Calvin in a picture on top of the pile is because one of these fine farm dogs bit my leg. So Calvin gawked from the car. You’re all wondering, rightly, what’s the story here? Is this pile bigger than the only known competitor at the Oklahoma State Horseshoeing School in Ardmore, Oklahoma? I think we can say yes! Probably.
All the horseshoes in the pile come from horses shod by members of the Kriz family, but it turns out that it’s not as large as it could be. The Kriz Farm used to be in Seymour nearer the Naugatuck River and and the infamous 1955 floods swept away the farm and the horseshoe pile, version 1955. In other words, they lost a few decades of pile. (When the family moved to farm to Bethany in 1978, they transported the pile. The pile is important.)
The farrier trade is also important to the Kriz’s. They continue to shoe the Budweiser Clydesdales – 50 to 60 of them every six weeks. (I had no idea that was something that had to happen.) The younger Krizs are getting into it.
And the pile continues to grow.