Monetta Farrier at Tryon

Monetta owners Collins Daye and Alan Bernardo.

Monetta owners Collins Daye and Alan Bernardo.

Story and photo by Judy Heinrich

As the North Carolina county with the most horses per capita, it’s not surprising that Polk and its surrounds have a large and active community of professional farriers. Since 2011, the area has also been recognized for its innovative farrier/veterinarian collaborative known locally as “Farrier Jams,” most recently featured in January’s American Farrier Journal.

Now our farrier community has gotten recognition of another sort: the opening of a local branch of the well-known farrier supply company, Monetta Farrier Specialties. “Monetta Farrier @ Tryon” opened in early January at 190 Industrial Park Drive, Unit C, in Columbus (phone 828-894-0280), with store hours on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

If you don’t think that’s a big deal, consider this: dedicated farrier supply companies are few and far between, usually just one or two to a state. The original Monetta, now 28 years old, is still the only dedicated farrier supply company in South Carolina. While some farm supply stores stock basic shoes and other farrier supplies, they don’t have the space to dedicate to the huge number of shoe types and sizes available, or the specialized and often hand-built tools that farriers use. That makes having a near-by, full-service farrier supply a big benefit to local shoers.

 

Monetta, Then and Now

Monetta Farrier Specialties was started by Jack and Sarah Schwarz outside Monetta, S.C. about 20 miles north of Aiken. Over the years the company earned a stellar reputation for its stock and service, as well as for their annual “Spring Fling” get-together for customers. Originally held under the pecan trees at the Schwarz home, the annual event has grown to include great food, good-natured competitions, and educational clinics from top farriers.

After 28 years, the Schwarzes wanted to retire and looked for a new owner to take over the company they’d grown so successfully. Enter another married couple, Alan Berardo and Collins Daye.

            Alan grew up in New Mexico and settled in Mammoth Lakes, Calif. An avid outdoorsman and cyclist, he worked as a fireman in the forest service wildlands. Between fires, he worked as trail crew for local pack stations, clearing and maintaining trails for the riders and pack animals headed into the backcountry.

Alan was interested in horses as a boy but didn’t have much chance to be around them. So when he worked at the pack stations he took the opportunity to ride out as the required “tail rider” at the back of the two- to three-hour trail rides whenever he had the chance.

One of the packers co-owned a shoeing school nearby and, seeing how Alan like working with horses, suggested he consider shoeing as a profession. Alan investigated it, liked what he saw and took the training course with the idea of going to shoe in Hollywood. That plan changed when a farrier friend decided to move to Pennsylvania with his girlfriend and talked Alan into coming along.

Alan then spent four years working at Chester County Farrier Associates, one of the country’s top practices, with a clientele ranging from sport horses in all disciplines and levels, to the US Equestrian Team. “That was the best education,” Alan says. “It was a phenomenal exposure to the business.”

During his time in Pennsylvania, Alan met a rider and trainer at one of the top events of the Indoor Show Season, the Pennsylvania National Horse Show in Harrisburg. He and that girl, Collins Daye, married in 2009.

Collins, who grew up in South Georgia, had ridden Hunter/Jumpers since childhood, including at Harmon Field and FENCE, as well as Wellington, Harrisburg and other National Indoor Shows. She was on the back-to-back Huntseat national championship teams at the University of Georgia, and was the national individual champion in 2003.

Her career has included being an independent trainer, assistant coach for the University of Georgia equestrian team, and head coach at Fresno State University, as well as her “fall back” job as a cardiac care nurse when the economy made horse training and sales a harder career to pursue.

As a Southern girl, Collins always intended to settle in the south, which she and Alan did a few years ago when they moved to Edgefield, just north of Aiken. Alan continued to shoe, predominantly performance horses, ultimately traveling regularly to major eventing competitions on behalf of the owners and riders of top horses.

Alan and Collins became customers of Monetta Farrier Specialties and friends of Jack and Sarah Schwarz. When the Schwarzes decided to retire and had no one in their family to take over the business, it seemed like a perfect fit for Alan and Collins. They bought the company in 2014, and have since acquired Georgia Farrier Supply, as well as opening Monetta @ Tryon. Alan continues to spend most of his time shoeing while Collins oversees the three stores.

Also part of the Monetta team are Alan’s parents, Pete and Barbara, who live with them in Edgefield and help care for Alan and Collins’ three-year-old daughter, Cade. Pete will also be an occasional presence at Monetta @ Tryon.

 

Farrier Supplies

Farrier supply businesses are surprisingly personal. Consider that the Monetta store in South Carolina carries 2,700 individual products, and Monetta @ Tryon is not far behind with about 2,500.

“To meet the needs of your customers you have to understand not only all the products you carry but, more importantly, what types of horses and clients each customer is involved with,” says Collins. “Then there are the sizes, clipped or unclipped, aluminum or steel, race plates, sliding plates, Tennessee Walking Shoes, half rounds, and many more shoes designed for other specific purposes and types of performance. Not to mention the wide variety of nails, leather pads, and tools – many of them hand built – for which each individual farrier has a preference.”

“There is so much product knowledge involved,” says Collins, “I don’t think anyone could succeed in this business without actually having farrier experience themselves or having a very close resource – like a significant other – who does.”

At the same time, Collins says, “It’s such a small industry that you do get to know your customers really well. And that helps you get to know their needs and what you can do to help them. It’s a real relationship business.”

One of the best parts of that relationship is the continuation of Monetta’s Spring Fling tradition. Alan and Collins hosted the 20th annual event in 2015 with a reunion of the clinicians who have taken part over the years.

“Ten top clinicians donated their time to be there, from across the U.S., and even Grant Moon from England,” Collins says. “Basically it was a convention and we were riding on the coat tails of the Schwarzes.” The 2016 Spring Fling is scheduled for April 23 at the South Carolina store.

 

Why Tryon?

Several things drew the couple to Tryon for the expansion of their business, including the area’s existing equestrian population and the development of Tryon International Equestrian Center, which will no doubt help that population grow.

Alan also admits to being drawn by the some of the area’s other diversions: “I’m a mountain person, an outdoor person, I like biking,” he says. His first exposure to Tryon came in 2012 when he happened to be in the area and looked for a weekend ride to do. “It was the weekend of the Hincappie Gran Fondo cycling event that goes from Lake Lanier up the Saluda Grade, and down other local switchback mountain routes. I had no idea there was anyplace in North Carolina like this,” he remembers.

That wasn’t the only pleasant surprise the couple have found in Tryon.

“I have shod for almost 20 years, in South Carolina, California, Texas, Wyoming, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and other places,” Alan says. “Tryon has been the best experience and exposure to a farrier community. We have been so happily surprised at the level of helpfulness and collaboration among the farriers themselves and between farriers and vets. We’ve never seen anything like it.”

While Monetta’s primary customers are the farriers themselves, Collins says, she’s happy to have local horse owners drop in to say hello and check the place out. Being horse people, there’s little doubt you’ll find something to talk about if you do.

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