The early history of the Victorian Master Farriers Association (VMFA) begins back in the 1950’s and details can be described as sketchy at best. This time was before the incorporation of the VMFA and revolved mainly around a group of the “more respected” city farriers meeting every few months or so and setting or formulating a price for shoeing and plating racehorses. In those days the approximate cost to have a racehorse shod was 18 shillings and 15 shillings to have a horse plated for race day. It was considered a betrayal of your fellow Farriers’ should anyone be found to be charging clients less than the agreed price of shoeing. These meetings over a few drinks with the likes of Tom McGrath and Bill Parker from Flemington, Mr. Sanderford from Caulfield and Harris Casey from Mordialloc were the start of a unity amongst all of the leading farriers in the city districts that eventually led to the official formation of the VMFA.

In the 1960’s a more professional approach for setting the cost of shoeing was instigated by Malcolm Lord and Ernie Shinkfield. They decided to engage the expertise of the Chamber of Manufacturers’ to formulate the price of shoeing to align it with the cost of living and allow farriers to run a business in a more professional manner and maintain a more secure livelihood. It is remembered that the Chamber of Manufacturers was amazed by how far behind the cost of living shoeing horses had become, and it recommended a substantial increase of approximately 2 dollars. Not surprisingly, there was anxiety amongst the rest of the Farriers to increase their prices by such a large amount in one hit, but because of the strong unity between the men in those days, a price list was formulated and voted upon and the formation of the VMFA as we know it today had begun. The new professionalism on the back of the price list which in some ways became the “bible” of the VMFA and the loyalty amongst the Farriers at the time is still the cornerstone of the achievements today and into the future.

So the time was right for someone with vision to become involved with the VMFA and take advantage of the strong unity amongst the leading Farriers of the time. Ron Barrow became involved as a committeeman in the late 1960’s and was elected and became the VMFA’s longest serving president in the early 1970’s.

Ron’s vision was for a very professional association. He moved the committee meetings from Ernie Shinkfield’s workshop to the conference room of the Old Melbourne Inn where it was not uncommon to have an attendance of 80 or more farriers to an Annual General Meeting. He sourced a secretary who could bring administrative skills that would enhance the professionalism of the VMFA in dealing with the issues of the day. Jim Carter was appointed as the first non-farrier to the committee, and he not only had those skills in abundance but also developed a strong relationship with the North Melbourne Football Club. It was not long before the AGM were moved to North Melbourne and the first VMFA Dinner Dance Ball was held at the Social Club there.

Ron and Jim set their sites on regulating the trade of Farriery and gaining recognition of apprenticeship training through the State Training Board. At the time, apprenticeships were coordinated only through the Victorian Racing Club and there was no formal off the job training available. There were lots of frustrating meetings involved with trying to get the trade of Farriery formally recognised and gaining the financial and skills training advantages that were available to all of the other trades. Finally a meeting with the Minister of Sport and Recreation, Mr Neil Tresize, was held with Ron and Jim achieving their goal. The trade of Farriery became recognized with a Certificate of Proficiency as the level equal to what is now known as Certificate 111.

An off the job training document was drafted soon after and formal apprenticeship training began in 1984 at Glenormiston Agricultural College near Terang in the state’s Southwestern region. There were initially two trade teachers involved, Malcolm Lord and Ron King, who influenced the skills of many of the leading Farriers with major businesses today. It was a tremendous bonus to the trade that two of the most respected Farriers at the time were involved in those years to pass on the bond that was formed amongst Farriers in earlier years to the apprentices of that time, further enhancing the unity of the VMFA. Through a change in State Government Funding, the schooling of apprentice Farriers was moved to NMIT at Epping in 1997 and the baton of responsibility was transferred to our current trade instructor Colin Smith.

Ron Barrows’ vision for the VMFA was finally becoming a reality. Over a period of approximately 30 years he felt comfortable enough to hand the reins over to the next generation of Master Farriers who had embraced the bond and unity that had been so decisive in structuring a professional and intuitive association. The committee consisted mainly of former apprentices of the leading farriers during Ron’s time as president. This group of men had been together through the early years of formal apprentice school training under Ron King and Malcolm Lord and were now being considered as the leading farriers in the early 2000’s. Ron Barrow handed the reins over to this group of men in approximately 2002 and they continued to initiate the changes and policies required to keep the VMFA as the peak industry body in Victoria and Australia.

The VMFA celebrated its 50th year of incorporation in 2009 with a Black Tie Dinner Dance Ball. The association had developed a long way from the initial meetings at the back of Ernie Shinkfield’s workshop. The night was a celebration of the efforts in the past years with a fantastic dedication to all the life members or their relatives. Shortly thereafter, the wheels started to move towards an amalgamation between the Victorian Farriers and Blacksmiths Association and the VMFA. The new committee had respectfully honored the past and had also secured the future with the amalgamation voted for in 2010 and formally completed in 2011. It was now time for the next generation of leading Farriers to take over the reins. Coincidently, the current committee has all been through the early years of apprentice school training under Colin Smith.

History does repeat itself in strange ways, and the story shall continue…..

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