Each farrier has someone who has influenced their life and business in some way or another. Some are fortunate enough to have strong bonds with their mentors and mentees. Others have more complicated, and sometimes, contentious relationships. While many might not appreciate these difficult connections, the value shouldn’t be dismissed.
Curtis Burns made his way north to Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., to do some hoof-care work for a client. As the Wellington, Fla., farrier approached the blacksmith shop, he was appalled at what had become of the memorial dedicated to the track’s shoers. An anvil once stood proudly on a wooden stump under a sapling ginkgo tree and the names of a dozen blacksmiths were memorialized on plaques.
“Our little memorial had just been forgotten,” Burns recalls. “The anvil was gone, the stump was rotted and the little plaques were just lying in the dirt.”
The repaired memorial at the Saratoga Race Course blacksmith shop. Photo by: Curtis Burns
The pitiful display did not sit well. Burns was determined to not only remedy it but also ensure it didn’t suffer from neglect again.
Collecting 17 pavers (five more passed in the years since), Burns used the laser in his shop to inscribe them with the names of each of the blacksmiths who worked the track — Ray Amato Sr., Ray Amato Jr., Tony Amato, Jim Bayes, Jim Brummitt, George A. Boyle, George Boyle, Charlie Campbell, Elmer Campbell, John Dern, Andy Gardner Sr., Tom McNabo, Jim O’Connell, Rodney O’Domski, Bruce Scott, Frank Starns and Butch Vinus.
Since the anvil couldn’t be found, Burns bought a replacement from local farrier Mike Isles. He returned to the track, laid fabric mesh to prevent weeds and covered it with a gravel bed for drainage. Burns framed the areas for the anvil and memorial pavers with ornamental bricks. The new design allowed for more space around the names.
“The toughest situations are forming your future…”
“Several of these blacksmiths didn’t get along the best,” he says with a chuckle. “I think they would appreciate a little bit more room in between each of them.”
While some of the names adorning the pavers played significant roles in Burns’ career, most of the links weathered like the memorial. Despite the friction, Burns still values the experience.
“Those difficult relationships made me cross all my T’s and dot my I’s in my work,” he says. “Sometimes, you don’t realize that the toughest situations that you go through with mentors or clients are the things that are really forming your future. Honestly, that has a lot to do with the success that I’ve enjoyed shoeing horses.”
Read more from Burns here.