I was twenty-four when I started shoeing, because I was not old enough to know better. :0) There wasn’t a farrier in the area that you could depend on, so I decided to start shoeing myself. I graduated in March of 1979 from an eight week shoeing course at Bud Beaston’s Oklahoma Farriers College. It took five years before I had enough business to call myself a full time farrier. In the meantime, I worked in a feedlot for a couple years, a lumberyard for a year, and helped Paul and John Schreck with their cattle and farming. I also worked for them when shoeing was slow in the winter months.
The worst wreck I had, happened on a rainy day. The guy had three horses to shoe. To get out of the rain he would lead the horse in the alleyway of a corncrib. I had two shod and the third horse decided he didn’t want to go in the corn crib. After much coaxing, I walked up and hit the horse on the rear with my hat. He instantly planted two feet into my chest. They wanted to take me to the hospital, but I refused to go. Another time a guy called and had a Buckskin stud that nobody could get shod. I went there, tripped the horse, tied his feet together, had the owner sit on the horse’s head, and I nailed on the shoes. The owner was shaking like a leaf, but he held him down. He sent the horse on a ride to Mexico the following week, so I didn’t have to shoe him again. The most rewarding part of my career was probably shoeing a couple Reserve World Halter Champions for Russ Smith and Dick Donnelly. If I could rewind my life, I would still choose shoeing as a career. A day to remember, would be the day with three guys catching and holding, I trimmed thirty-eight head of Quarter Horses at one place, then drove eighty miles home. I was one tired farrier and sore all over.
One big change I would have made, was to treat customers like customers, and not good friends. It was always hard to increase your prices on your friends. Two of my sons do some shoeing. My advice to them is treat customers like customers and not family. Also, take the time to spend more time with your family while the kids are growing up. They grow up fast and you can’t turn back the time. Tuesday Night’s at Roger’s has been very educational the past few years. With DVM’s present with x-rays and five to ten farriers there some nights, it was a win-win situation for everyone there. We all learn from each other.
What I liked least about shoeing, was bad working conditions, and fighting the elements of mud, snow, and ice. That makes for a long day. The thing I liked most, was taking the time to work around babies and getting them started on the right track learning to pick up their feet . A little extra time spent on their first trim will be a benefit for years to come when you go back to work on them.
In closing, I had a very understanding customer base. I always gave them the best I could and they treated me with the utmost respect. It doesn’t get any better than that!
John Freese passed away June 17, 2013 after three and a half years of courageously battling cancer. John was known throughout the Cedar Valley as an excellent horseman, never walking away from any horse, always on time for his shoeing appointments, always doing his best, and just a bit of a jokester at times. He will be greatly missed by his hundreds of life long customers and especially at “Tuesday Nights at Roger’s” by all his peers in the area. Our thoughts and prayers go out to John’s wife, Teresa, his three sons, and all the rest of his family.