Though handling and shoeing horses is sometimes a difficult skill to learn to do well, Lavern Madison is taking time to work with young people interested in learning the craft

Lavern Madison of Cassville, Mo., has handled horses his whole life, and is a native of southwest Missouri. “I was born and raised in Galena Hollow, went to Haley School until seventh grade. Then we moved to Oak Ridge and me, my two brothers and sister went to Oak Ridge School where I graduated at 16,” said Lavern.
“I was the only one in my family that rode horses,” said Lavern. He developed a love for horses early on, and learned how to care for them himself as well, “I couldn’t find anyone to shoe mine, so I learned how to do it myself – I’ve been shoeing for 54 years.” After graduating high school, Lavern worked for different sawmill factories before settling into a career with the highway department, which he retired from after 30 years of service.
During his pre-retirement years, Lavern shoed horses on weekends, which he kept very busy at, “On a Saturday, if I didn’t shoe 12 horses, I didn’t do nothing.” Lavern has helped keep friends and neighbors’ horses shod at a reasonable price, and is helping those interested in learning the trade as well.
His wife, Diane, said, “He is always willing to help a young man get started with shoeing. But it isn’t that easy and you can get really hurt.”
Lavern explained that shoeing is hard on your back and can be dangerous if you are dealing with a touchy horse. “The closer you can get to the horse, the better. Their kick can’t do much if their leg is right beside you,” said Lavern. “One time, I had one that kept rearing up on me, he was trying to stomp me, and I got in my pick-up. I told them they’d have to find someone else to shoe him next time.” Though keeping horses calm can be hard to do, some people have found that it is easier to give their horses a shot of light sedative. Being old-fashioned, though, Lavern does not take to that practice, and never gives his horses the needle.
Paul Bingham, of Exeter, Mo., is one of the young men that Lavern is training. Paul said, “Lavern’s a great inspiration for still being in a profession that can be as dangerous and physically destructive as sports like boxing and bull riding.”
Diane added, “Some of the young men stop once they realize how hard it is, but Paul is sticking with it.”
Paul, who admires Lavern’s skill, said, “He has the right mix of technical ability, patience, firmness and a general liking for horses that a lot of farriers don’t have.” That being said, Paul said he doubts he will ever be as good as Lavern… or maybe in 60 years.
At 80 years old, Lavern is still happy to be shoeing, but is also involved in with horseback sorting and penning competitions. “I started traveling and competing after I retired from the highway department,” said Lavern. Though the sport isn’t as prevalent as it used to be, Lavern remembers when, “every town would have a cattle penning every night.” Lavern has traveled all over the country, from Cheyenne to Memphis, from Jackson to Ft. Worth.
Sorting and penning is done using young weaned to yearling age calves, in groups of 30 for penning and 10 for sorting. With sorting (either by team or individually), the group of 10 has to be moved into another pen in correct order. Penning is usually done by team effort in which three calves with the same number have to be moved together across a line.
Lavern has gained a lot of good memories and achieved a lot of awards. He has buckles and saddles, and friends all over the country from his years of sorting and penning. Diane said, “Lavern’s philosophy has always been to have a good time, and it’s not about the money winnings.” Though he has made money at competitions, while enjoying this weekend hobby.
When he’s not working with horses, Lavern and Diane enjoy traveling to beautiful trails throughout the area. Together they have more than 20 grandchildren, and even a few great-grandchildren. Lavern also enjoys helping his son, Kerry, on the neighboring farm work with his beef cattle.


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