When NYPD horses lose shoes, the blacksmith comes to them

NEW YORK (AP) — It’s like AAA for horses.

When one of the New York Police Department’s horses loses a metal shoe, or they just wear out on the gritty city streets, a blacksmith shop on wheels rushes to the rescue, equipped with a 2,850-degree furnace and trained farriers who can make the fix on the spot.

“It’s almost amazing that in modern times we’re still doing horseshoeing out in the public in the street,” says Deputy Inspector Barry Gelbman, head of the NYPD’s elite Mounted Unit, where all 50 horses are considered equine officers, with badges around their necks to prove it.

The NYPD has two such mobile horseshoe units that are stocked with all manner of anvils, hammers, nippers, files and pullers that have been the tools of the equine hoof trade for centuries, providing a stark contrast in the midst of a modern city.

That was immediately apparent on a recent sweltering day in Times Square as horses got their monthly shoe change. Beneath shimmering skyscrapers, massive video billboards and dozens of high-definition security cameras, a crowd gathered to watch as two NYPD farriers sweated over molten-red steel shoes fresh out of the fire.

But this was not an entirely low-tech affair. For extra traction and strength, the shoes were welded with a layer of tungsten carbide, a compound twice as hard as steel that’s also used in armor-piercing ammunition.