“Working my way to the bottom:” How a debutante became the first woman farrier in the U.S.

Ada Gates Patton is one of the most recognizable farriers of our day. She shoed racehorses across the United States for decades with an infectious passion. With her tenacity and genuine love for the inelegant life of a farrier, it’s easy to imagine her childhood taking place in the wild plains and dramatic mountains of the West, with a blacksmith’s apron and a pocket full of nails. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Ada, first woman farrier

Ada Gates was born into New York high society, a descendant of industrial businessman Henry Burden, who–coincidentally enough–created the first iron works to mass produce horseshoes. With a family tree that features Fricks and Vanderbilts, Ada’s early life included riding at her family’s estate and at Foxcroft School in Middleburg, VA. She was also a debutante, model and actress who enjoyed the finest things in life.

Ada Gates Patton modelling in the early 1960's
Ada  modelling in the early 1960’s
Jumping in Spain
Jumping in Spain

In the early 1970’s, a roadtrip gone awry left Ada in Colorado, where she first took to shoeing out of necessity rather than choice.  She was the only female in her Oklahoma horseshoeing school, and the first woman ever to be licensed as a farrier in the United States in 1978 and first female member of the International Union of Journeyman Horseshoers.


Despite, and maybe because of the opposition she encountered in a male-dominated field, Ada’s love for her craft only grew. She was an equestrian liaison for the 1984 Olympic games, she was honored with the American Farriers’ Association’s Edward Martin Humanitarian Award in 2008, and has recently been inducted into the American Farriers Hall of Fame.


Ada has also been featured in Time and People magazines, and on What’s My Line and Late Night with David Letterman. Today she owns and operates Harry Patton Horseshoeing Supplies, which was founded by her late husband. She also serves as an equestrian supervisor to the hundreds of horses who march in the Rose Parade.

 Ada is visiting NSLM on Thursday, October 29th from 6:00-8:00pm

To save your seat, contact Anne Marie Barnes, Educational Programs Manager ABarnes@NationalSporting.org
(540) 687-6542 x25


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