Ada Gates Patton became the first woman in the United States and Canada licensed to shoe Thoroughbred racehorses.
In her youth in New York and Long Island, Ada competed in show jumping and fox hunting for 20 years. After university, Ada owned a ranch in Colorado and started shoeing Western horses on ranches and racetracks.
Ada moved to Southern California to work on Thoroughbreds at Santa Anita, Hollywood Park, and Del Mar, where she achieved Journeyman status. She maintained an active full-time shoeing career for over 36 years. Ada shod world champion Miesque for the 1987 Breeders’ Cup Mile, setting a Hollywood Park track record which earned her the 1987 Eclipse Award for Outstanding Female Turf Horse.
Ada shod Wild Again during his career in California and for the first Breeder’s Cup Classic, which he won at Hollywood Park in 1984. She was the farrier for Chinook Pass, Eclipse Award Champion Sprinter at Santa Anita in 1983. Director of Racing Jimmy Kilroe appointed Ada to be the Horseman’s Liaison and Official Stand Blacksmith for the 1986 Breeder’s Cup at Santa Anita.
Ada worked as the farrier for Monty Roberts, a horse trainer, during the 70s, 80s, and 90s for the Two-Year-Old in Training Sales and is the official farrier to the Monty Roberts Online University and the Monty Roberts International Learning Center in Solvang, CA. Ada has been a Featured Writer for industry magazines, including articles for The Blood-Horse on patching quarter cracks and The Thoroughbred Times: solutions for hitting horses.
Ada has also had a long service as a farrier to the Flintridge Riding Club and shod hunter jumpers for the Pan American World Games and the 1984 Olympics.
She was appointed the Farrier Liaison for the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles and was in charge of all shoeing for 350 horses from 33 countries. For the past 30 years, Ada has been the Horseshoe Inspector for the Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year’s Day in Pasadena, CA.
Ada has received one of the top awards given to any farrier, the Edward Martin Humanitarian Award. She was inducted into the American Farrier’s Hall of Fame in 2011. She currently serves as President of the California Thoroughbred Foundation, a charitable association for racing, and manager of the Carleton F. Burke Library’s history of racing in California.
Ada owns and operates Harry Patton Horseshoeing Supplies in Monrovia, CA. She is the widow of Harry Patton, her mentor.
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Ada inspects the horses’ shoes for the parade since it’s 5 miles of pavement that they travel. This is officially known as being a farrier.
Ever since she was a small child in Long Island, NY, she wanted a pony. Ada is one of 8 children, and when she was 4 years old, she had driven her parents nuts, so they decided to cave in and get her a pony.
She ended up getting a Shetland pony, and they were inseparable.
Most of Ada’s other siblings ended up in finance and careers like that. It was an older brother who also had a fascination with horses and taught Ada how to ride.
Ads likens having that many siblings to growing up tumbling around in a drier.
Thankfully, they all loved each other and got together well. There were half-children from her parent’s previous marriages, but they were all very close.
Eventually, her parents sold their 28-room Long Island home to a Jeffrey Platt building, a two-story, 10-room apartment. They called it the 131 Club due to the apartment being on 131 East 66th Street and having notable residents.
Ada modeled and acted some. In fact, she acted with famous actors such as James Earl Jones and Al Pacino. However, she admits that she wanted applause, fame, and money but didn’t have the drive that an actor needs.
She had some successes, but she was living the starving artist lifestyle.
Eventually, one of her friends told her they should go out west, which was completely foreign to Ada.
They drove west, and their car broke down in Colorado, and her friend ended up going back. Ada immediately got a horse out there.
However, her blacksmith said he couldn’t make a living. So she randomly opened a magazine and saw a horseshoeing school in Tulsa, OK. She faced immense sexism during her schooling in Tulsa.
She started doing horses in Colorado when she was allowed to place her business card at a vet clinic that let her use their bark during a blizzard.
She decided she wanted to be the best. She ended up going back East and asked the best horse shoers if she could apprentice. However, none of them wanted a woman to work with them. She was shocked. Even at Belmont, they didn’t want her.
This was a major dark moment for Ada.
One of Ada’s best friends asked her to go with her to California. Ada wasn’t sure at first, but she realized it was one of those decisions where you just have to do it; you actually don’t really have an option.
She saw Harry and asked him to teach her everything she needed to do to pass the test.
She expected to hear no, but to her surprise, he said yes, and Ads was so excited. So, she learned directly from Harry.
It takes Ads about one hour to shoe a racehorse. And it can be very dangerous.
Horses are prey animals, meaning their feet are very important so they can run away. Getting kicked is a major concern.
She has been kicked and even knocked out by horses before. The fear she experienced was never from the hoses. The fear was always whether or not the trainers liked her, if the other horseshoers liked her, or if she’d be fired.
At least 30 years, but she can’t remember the exact date.