Noted former Grand Circuit farrier John “Johnny” Long, 91, passed away June 24 at his daughter’s home in Summerville, S.C.
A native of Topeka, Kan., Long began a lifelong association with horses as a youngster. A member of the U.S. Coast Guard in World War II, he developed his blacksmithing skills while working with the mounted beach patrols in Charleston, S.C. He later found employment with both Standardbred and Thoroughbred horses at racing centers in Aiken, S.C., Orlando, Fla. and Vernon Downs in upstate N.Y.
Long was credited with keeping the great pacing sire Adios comfortable during his later years.
“His feet hurt so badly he could barely stand the weight of his own body,” Long recalled. “I developed a set of shoes that enabled him to spread his weight evenly, which made him more comfortable.”
Based at Orlando’s Ben White Raceway during winter training, Long chose a nomadic life by shifting his family to Vernon Downs during the spring and summer racing seasons, shoeing horses for many of the Grand Circuit’s top trainers, such as Del Miller, Ralph Baldwin, Ned Bower, among many others. It was normal for him to work with from four to seven horses each day, with a high of 12 being called “a long day.”
Long, who shod many of the top horses in harness racing during his distinguished career, was well known for being able to correct hoof and balance problems.
“I remember when I had the great trotter Kimberly Kid,” the late Bower recalled. “He had feet so shelly they almost refused to accept the nails needed to hold the shoes on. Johnny would take up to 2 hours — some 90 minutes more than usual — to get his feet just right. In my opinion, he was the ultimate in shoeing horses; particularity gifted with trotters.”
When the Grand Circuit left Vernon to head westward in late July, Long would follow along, packing up the tools of his trade, work out of a tent and sleep on site during the many 1-week stays that usually ended in the fall at Lexington’s Red Mile in Kentucky.