In the April 2019 issue of American Farriers Journal, we celebrate the legacy of Hall of Fame farrier John Marino, who passed away in March 2019. As you will see in the article in this issue, he had a tremendous impact on the farriers who knew him. He had a lengthy horseshoeing career that took him from the East Coast to the Lone Star State.
There are many noteworthy things about Marino’s contributions to horseshoeing. He was an innovator of anvils, having launched the JHM line of anvils. However, it may be his legacy of building the farrier community that is most significant. Marino was part of the influential generation of farriers who helped change the mindset of the industry from viewing each other as adversaries to those who will help each other.
The Brotherhood of Farriery
Don Gustafson of Palo Alto, Calif., was one of hundreds of farriers influenced by Marino and his philosophy of collaboration. Formerly of Texas, Gustafson had learned from Marino and was keenly aware of why Marino sought change. As Gustafson describes, farriery became a much more competitive field following the introduction of the automobile. And while the United States saw a gradual decline of the horse population starting in 1920, the decline accelerated from 1950 to 1960. In 1920, it is estimated that there were more than 25 million horses in the U.S. By 1960, that number plummeted to just above 3 million — which had been 7.6 million just 10 years prior.
The decimation of the horse population put farriers at odds with one another. Think about the situation they were in. The number of horses that you could work with was cut by 60% over a 10-year period. Put it in the context of today, where we have 9.2 million horses in the United States, but around 4 million in 10 years.
During the time Marino was coming up, another farrier would be viewed as competition. The typical scenario would be if one farrier showed up at a boarding barn with another shoer already working, that farrier who was already there would stop working. The fear was that farrier might steal a technique or glean some information that would ultimately lead to losing clients.
Marino convinced farriers he met to take the different route. Thankfully the horse population recovered over time, so that this spirit could be fostered. Also influenced by Marino, Mineral Wells, Texas, farrier Tommy Boudreau remembers how his mentor reinforced the idea of farriery as a brotherhood. Through his “prayer meetings,” Marino would host farriers for dinner, fellowship and forging. At these gatherings, Marino discussed the benefits of working together and avoiding the trap of divisiveness, like criticizing another farrier’s work to a client.
Marino’s philosophy is widely accepted by the industry today. Through this spirit, you have countless educational opportunities, relief should you become injured and many farriers ready to lend a hand when you struggle. I think that legacy of brotherhood is how Marino would want to be remembered by farriers.