Crestwood's Kevin Wirth's skills go beyond Equine Dentistry

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By Sam Draut

A jockey in the Kentucky Derby, a national champion speed skater, a Bassmaster Pro Fisherman and an equine dentist. 

What else can Crestwood's Kevin Wirth be?

The better question might be what he can’t be, or at least, what he won’t be, and that’s anything mediocre.

“I’m so obsessive about everything that I do, I’m a sick individual,” Wirth said. “If I’m going to do it, I do it well.”

Wirth grew up around horses. His father Fred was a trainer while his two brothers were jockeys, so naturally, he became a jockey as a teenager.

He rode on his father’s horse, Mythical Ruler, in the 1981 Kentucky Derby, finishing 17th.

“We never thought we would have a Derby horse,” Wirth said.

After winning a trial race the Saturday before the Kentucky Derby, Mythical Ruler was a mid-week addition to the field and was given the post position of 20. With the outside positioning, Wirth said he sent the horse hard out of the gate.

“We were rolling way too fast for a mile-and-a-quarter,” Wirth said. “I tried to nurse him as long as I possibly could.”

With an interest in fishing that stemmed from a childhood friendship, Wirth started fishing after his four-and-a-half-year riding career ended due to a back injury and his body’s growth.

He couldn’t fish competitively as a jockey because of the scheduling confliction, but finally agreed to a two-day tournament when his friend offered after his riding career had ended.

“I had two rods and one tackle box. I went fishing and never caught a fish,” Wirth said. “Then I remembered guys make a living off of it, I thought ‘that’s what I’m going to do.’ It kind of found me.”

After deciding he wanted to fish competitively, Wirth needed to find a way he could support it. He needed to be able to set his schedule around the fishing tournaments.

With a life spent around horse racing, Wirth decided equine dentistry could help sustain his fishing career. He learned anatomy and the trade from veterinarians and equine dentists.

Within two years of starting as an equine dentist, Wirth was working seven days a week while his fishing career had been put on the backburner.

But he didn’t want to spend all his time as an equine dentist, which he chose because he wanted time to fish. After eliminating non-paying clients from his schedule, Wirth was able to return to his fishing pursuits.

His career as a professional fisherman grew. It became so prominent he had to stop as equine dentist.

Wirth appeared in 13 Bassmaster Classics, reached top-5 in the world rankings and was sponsored by Early Times. He had career earnings of more than $2 million by competing in hundreds of tournaments.

When Early Times ended its sponsorship with Wirth after 10 years, he decided it was time to return to equine dentistry. He wanted to support his son and daughter, Clayton and Shelby, as they grew up. 

“It’s a tough sport, you’re on the road a lot,” Wirth said.

After competing in the Bassmaster Classic in 2012, Wirth sold his boat and put his fishing equipment in his garage, where it still sits today.

Wirth said he made two phone calls to restart his equine dentistry business. One to his brother-in-law and trainer Greg Foley, and the other to trainer Dale Romans.

It only took a few years for his business to get right back to where it left off.

“My phone rings off the wall,” Wirth said. “I don’t go a day without a new client calling.”

He estimates he sees 1,500 to 2,000 horses each year. Though thoroughbreds are his favorite horses to work on, he helps saddlebreds, hunters, jumpers, show horses, among others.

Of course, he doesn’t stop at horses. Wirth has worked on rhinos and black panthers at the Louisville Zoo.

He does all his work with horses based on natural feel. He doesn’t use a speculum because its unnatural for the horse and effects their jaw bones.

He doesn’t want the horse restrained and doesn’t want anyone else in the stall with him. If the horse wants to move, Wirth will move with it.

“I want the horse relaxed,” Wirth said. “When I get done with a horse he is as relaxed as he was before I came into the stall.”

Whether it’s a $5 million thoroughbred or backyard pony, Wirth’s greatest concern is always the health of the horse.

Not to be forgotten, Wirth won nationals twice as a speed skater, initially being introduced into roller skating because his father owned a skating rink.

How can all of it be put together? Wirth credits his determination. He won’t settle for anything less than good, and that translates to anything in his life, because he has seemingly done everything.