Friday, July 23, 2010

Silent Anvil: Jack Miller Has Died

Jack Miller gave me a wink. We were in Malibu, California, it was 1985, and Jack was in his prime. He's wearing the Texas flag as a bandanna around his neck. 
The hunter/jumper world will never be quite the same. Where will a trainer take a horse as a last resort, that horse who's just not going quite right under his feet?

Legendary horseshoer Jack Miller died after sunrise this morning in the Montgomery County, Maryland hospital where he had been a patient for several weeks undergoing treatment for multiple life-threatening problems. Jack had been in ill health for many years, but just kept on going.

A loyal legion of world-class farriers and horse show friends from all over America had traveled to Maryland this week to be with Jack.

Jack Miller created, defined and perfected a lifestyle of "vagabond horseshoeing" on the hunter/jumper horse show circuit where he made a living proving to people that his trademark mystique for being able to put difficult horses "right" through subtle hoof balance techniques was real. Unfortunately for the farrier world, he was never quite able to explain what he knew instinctively about how to help horses get over fences. He just did it. And shrugged.

Jack was from Texas and lived wherever he was that night. He was especially proud of his long role as the official farrier for the Washington (D.C.) International Horse Show. His clients over the years included many Olympic and champion riders, trainers, and their horses.

No one was more rightfully in the Hall of Fame than Jack Miller, nor more in a class of his own.

Note: Jack's friends can right-click on the photo above and save it for personal use. It's large format, low resolution. In the days since Jack's death I have learned how many friends Jack had. It has been amazing to hear from so many of them! I have posted an album of more old photos of Jack on the Hoofcare and Lameness Facebook page.

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chuck and mel milne said...

Thank you for this wonderful and perfect description of the man we all knew and loved, Fran. Jack will be dearly missed by his numerous friends throughout the farrier community and hunter/jumper show circuit.
He was one of a kind.

Melanie and Chuck Milne
Burleson, TX

Anonymous said...

He will be greatly missed. I think he waited for Chuck to come visit before he passed.

Julie Phalen

Anonymous said...

I had the opportunity to learn from Jack in GA, FL, TX and OH. He was always good-natured & gave you just enough of a pat-on-the-back to keep you trying to reach that next level of excellence.

Scott Ledbetter
Atlanta, GA

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing this beautiful tribute to Jack this morning. You captured the essence of who he truly was...he would have been so proud!
He looked so peaceful when we left him for the last time.
Joe and Sandy Johnson
Loxahatchee, FL

Anonymous said...

I first met Jack in 1968. Truly universal in that he could help any horse no matter the job description. RIP, friend.

Pat Burton said...

Jack was one of a kind, he always was willing to share his knowledge and skill. He will be missed and remembered by many friends in the farrier world.

R.F. Redden, DVM said...

Thank you from Nancy and me for the kind words for our mutual friend Jack. I have fond memories of Jack and vividly remember every time I was with him. We have shared many good times together, most recently at this year’s Hoof Summit. We were laughing and telling tales about our clients, neither of us ever thinking the sand in our hour glass of life was reaching the point of eternal transition. The photo of his mischievous smile and wink will hang on my office wall and constantly remind me of his relentless pursuit of perfection, gentleness and confidence that marked his winning style and help me better prioritize my day as I continue to share life with loved ones, friends, students, clients and colleagues.

Fran Jurga said...

Thanks, Doc. That was the last time I saw him, too, and we had a great time laughing together. I kept that photo of him all these years, thinking "this is Jack" and never dreamed I'd be digging it out for such a use. How amazing is it that our "business" brings us such great friends?

Dirk Braak said...

Thank you for the tribute for Jack. I can truly say he was a great additon to our trade. I remember him from some of his days in Florida. Always ready to help and cheerfully help many Farriers.

Dirk A. Braak