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International Horseshoeing Hall of Fame inducts Oklahoma farrier Mark Milster

Mark Milster’s talent has taken him to England, Wales, Scotland, Japan, Brazil and Canada for competitions or clinics.
by Bryan Painter Modified: March 15, 2014 at 1:09 am •  Published: March 16, 2014

Hess told the young man, “You wouldn’t have been any good at it.”

“I asked, ‘Why’s that?’” Milster said. “He said, ‘Because you weren’t ready.’

“And he was right, because at the time I hated it.”

Looking back, Milster believes that had he bypassed college, “I probably would have went about it the rest of my life with a little bit of chip on my shoulder because I felt like I was made to do it.”

The time came when Milster decided that he was ready to be a farrier. That bend in life had ended.

Milster’s decision led him to Oklahoman Sherrill Spears, who had shod a lot of racehorses. Spears took Milster to a horseshoeing competition and also the American Farriers Convention.

It was at the latter that Milster watched a tryout for the American Farriers Team and realized “I thought I knew everything and I go there and there’s this whole new world that I didn’t even know about.”

Milster wanted to be a part of the world of contests, so he called farrier Jim Keith, who lived in Tucumcari, N.M. Eventually they connected on a time that would work for Keith.

Milster paid $500 for five days of Keith’s tutelage. He kept returning, but never had to pay again.

“Jim Keith is probably the biggest influence in my life,” Milster said. “I would shoe horses all week for years, drive to Tucumcari on Friday night, work with him Saturday until Sunday about 4 o’clock, drive home, shoe horses all week and drive back the next weekend.

“I said, ‘I’d like to make the American Farriers Team’ and he said, ‘It will take you four years and you’ll be good enough,’” Milster said. “And that’s what it took.”

Even after the titles started to accumulate, Milster continued to listen to others, including Terry Stever, who now lives at Sulphur.

Stever said a farrier uses almost all of the senses. Milster can hardly hold a horseshoe without running his thumbs and index fingers over it.

Smell could come into play if there’s something wrong with the horse’s foot. For example, an infection. Milster can tell if something is not right on a shoe by listening as a horse walks on concrete. And, “We want the work to be pleasing to the eye as well.”

“He’s right, to shoe horses you just about use every sense,” Milster said. “About the only thing you don’t use is taste.”

On top of absorbing the words and wisdom of many farriers, Milster believes God has forged his success.

“I worked hard and stuff,” he said, “but I can’t do it by myself.”

Now, they come to Milster

Chad Holmes, 29, of Aberdeen, N.C., is preparing for his American Farriers Association certification. He came to Oklahoma to study under Milster for a week.

“His shoes are real clean,” Holmes said, “there’s a real nice flow and shape to the shoes, and that’s something that we all are working on.”

And yet, Milster contends he is still learning.

“Of course now you can buy just about any kind of shoe,” Milster said, “but I still think you need to know how to make them.

“I wanted to be skilled enough that I could do whatever was asked. If a horse needed it, no matter what it was, I wanted to be able to make it. When you look at a horseshoe, it doesn’t matter if it looks like a piece of jewelry if it can’t safely go on the horse.”

The titles are great and he’s thankful for them.

However, Milster said, “I’ll go shoe a horse later today and all the accolades don’t mean anything if that horse isn’t happy.”

by Bryan Painter
Assistant Local Editor
Bryan Painter, assistant local editor, has 31 years’ experience in journalism, including 22 years with the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In that time he has covered such events as the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah...
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