Pictured Above: Billy Crothers wears one of the pink aprons made by Myron McLane.

Breast cancer isn’t a topic that most people associate with farriery. When disease and farriers are spoken of in the same conversation, it often has to do with equine health. However, Billy Crothers and Myron McLane are using their work as farriers to raise awareness about breast cancer research.

Together, the International Horseshoeing Hall Of Fame members have founded the Pink Apron Charity, an organization that allows them to connect with others in the equine community to collect donations for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. They also want to start conversations with people about a topic that is treated in many ways as a social taboo.

Myron McLane, a farrier from Somerset, Mass., and Billy Crothers, a farrier from Bedfordshire, England, have known one another for years. Their shared trade brought them together as friends, but their personal encounters with breast cancer strengthened their friendship. McLane’s wife Pat and Crothers’ wife Lucy were both diagnosed with breast cancer. Despite their courage in the face of this pernicious disease, both couples experienced suffering and, tragically, loss. Pat McLane passed away May 18, 2013, and Lucy Crothers passed away Feb. 17, 2015.

The days following the passing of their wives were dark ones for both farriers. Yet, they supported one another through those times and encouraged each other to keep going. They were both able to heal and feel “alive again,” according to the Pink Apron Charity’s fundraising page. But the experiences they’d lived through had changed their lives, and both knew they wanted to do something to honor their wives and contribute to breast cancer research.

McLane, who owns Myron McLane Aprons, decided he wanted to do something with farrier aprons to raise awareness about breast cancer in honor of his wife.

“Last year I just had the idea that I would like to make some pink aprons and do something with them for breast cancer. I didn’t know what or anything like that,” McLane told American Farriers Journal. “I called my manufacturer and he was able to get some pink material for the aprons. I think we had enough to make a half a dozen aprons or something like that. I sent three or four to Billy because Billy is my distributor for my aprons in the U.K. through Handmade Shoes.

“It all goes back to our wives both having breast cancer and dying from breast cancer,” adds McLane. “We’ve been very, very good friends for many years. And so, I sent him the pink aprons and I said, ‘I don’t know what we’re going to do with these, Billy, but maybe we can come up with something beneficial for somebody’.”

Besides being McLane’s U.K. distributor, Crothers has been wearing McLane’s aprons for work and in competition for several years.

“At the American Farrier’s Association (AFA) convention, historically, I provide him with his apron that he wears if he qualifies for the live shoeing competition known as the Capewell Cup. He has, many, many times. The way this started was Billy would come over here to compete in the AFA competition and he would always need an apron. Either he wouldn’t bring one with him or he would forget it or something. I would always give him an apron to wear.”

The first time Crothers wore McLane’s apron, he won the live shoeing in the Capewell Cup. After that, he wore the apron in the Capewell Cup every year and won the event 5 times. McLane continued to hold on to the apron for Crothers, and they both started referring to it as “Billy’s lucky apron.”

When both farriers met at this year’s AFA convention in Reno, Nev., however, Crothers wasn’t sure he wanted to wear it. He’d been wearing the pink apron McLane had sent to him, and had brought it with him to the competition. After he got into the live shoeing, they agreed that Crothers should wear the pink apron. They also decided that they would donate Crothers’ lucky apron to the AFA auction.

That night, Crothers and McLane went to dinner with some friends and family. There, they began laying the plans for the Pink Apron Charity.

“I said, ‘OK, this is it. Before we leave this table, we’re going to come up with a plan’,” says McLane. “And so, we just started knocking ideas around and talking as we went around the table. ‘Billy and I came up with the idea, but let’s see how we can raise money through this apron somehow, through the pink aprons, and get money for the breast cancer research?’ And that was where the idea came from.”

The group settled on the name “Pink Apron Charity” and decided that they would promote it using the pink aprons McLane made. Crothers committed to wearing the apron everywhere he could in 2018, and decided that he would have some of the world’s best horseshoers sign it. At the next AFA convention, he would donate the pink apron to the auction. McLane also decided he would wear his apron to raise awareness. They knew it would make an impact since most farriers don’t wear pink aprons.

When Crothers and McLane went to the AFA auction where Crothers’ original lucky apron was being sold, they did so with modest expectations.

“We were saying just before the apron went up for auction, ‘Well, maybe we can get $200 or $250 for it. You know, that’d be nice.’ But it brought $5,200.”

That apron was the last item to be sold in the auction, and it gave them a parting lucky opportunity before going to its new owner: McLane and Crothers both were asked to speak, and tell fellow attendees the story about the Pink Apron Charity.

McLane went first, and related the lucky apron’s history to everyone. Then, Crothers stepped up to the microphone.

“He told the story about the pink apron and what we were going to do with that. And he said, ‘Look, there are a lot of people in this room. If everybody just gave a few bucks, it’d be great to start the collections off right here, right now.’”

The auction attendees started placing their donations on the table, and the auctioneer spotters gathered it up. At the end of the auction, they presented McLane and Crothers with an envelope containing $4,100.

That was only the beginning. Since introducing the Pink Apron Charity at the AFA convention, Crothers and McLane, with the help of Myron’s daughter Amy, have gone on to create an official fundraising page on the Breast Cancer Research Foundation website and a Facebook page. Their goal is to raise $100,000 for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Besides using the online pages to collect donations, McLane also plans to keep making pink aprons. Anyone who would like to order one can contact McLane through the Myron McLane Aprons website or Facebook page. They can also get an apron through any farrier supply businesses in the United States, or contact Myron McLane directly at 508-965-3837.