As many of you have heard, Roger Freeborn tragically drowned while snorkeling in the Caribbean last November. Roger was best known for his horseshoeing and blacksmithing skills; Roger was one of the first members of the American Farrier Association and his membership number was 232.
Roger Johnathan Freeborn was born November 28, 1939 in Syracuse, NY to Edie and Barney Freeborn. Roger’s love of horses started at an early age. He learned to love draft horses on his uncle’s farm in Cazenovia, NY where he spent his first 8 years; he started helping to drive the wagons from the hayfield to the barn when he was 4. His father was a Red Cross field director and after WW2 the family moved to England where Roger’s playgrounds were the stables in Newmarket and Newmarket Heath where they train the race horses. When his father was transferred to Germany Roger took his first riding lessons—Dressage.
After moving to Southern California through his high school years, Roger always found jobs cleaning stables so he could find a horse to ride. He grew up riding through the orchards and hills of Southern California and spent some time babysitting “dudes” on their trail rides.
After serving in the US Navy in the early 60’s Roger came back to Southern California. Within a few years he had apprenticed to Charlie Lampman who had been his Farrier before he went into the Navy. After his apprenticeship he started building a clientele; his break came when a horseshoer he had known came back to SoCal, down on his luck and with no tools. Jay Sharp had been one of the best-known shoers in Southern California and, working with Roger, they soon built up a strong business. They shod for many big barns and several well known trainers: Ronnie Richards and Jack & Linda Baker in the cowhorse and performance horse industry as well as people in the hunt/jump industry and some racehorse trainers. They even shod for John Wayne for awhile; Roger always said he wished he’d kept one of his checks from John Wayne—they were signed Marion Morrison—but he needed the money so he cashed them.
In the early 70’s Roger and his first wife, Melinda, decided to move from SoCal to Williams, OR to raise the family they were starting. Their first son, Matthew was a year old and after they moved to Oregon they had Mark and Luke. Roger started over again but soon was shoeing for many showhorse barns and some racehorse trainers in the Rogue Valley. He and his family had acreage, raised hay and livestock and enjoyed packing on their horses into the mountains west of Williams. Roger spent a couple years teaching horseshoeing at Rogue Community college but soon went back to shoeing full time. He started shoeing a lot of cutting horses and shod for C2 Cattle Company and Arrowhead Ranch until they closed down operations.
In the late ‘80s Roger and Melinda separated and after a couple years Roger started dating one of his customers, Mary Benson. Mary got Roger interested in cutting and the rest is NW cutter history.
Roger learned to make Farrier tools in the 80’s also. His goal was to start a line of Farrier tools after he retired from horseshoeing. After he and Mary got married in June of 1993, he semi-retired and started spending more time blacksmithing and developing his tool line. Roger was lucky because his work was his life and he loved what he did. He loved his horses and riding, but nothing made him happier than pounding on iron. He loved teaching people how to do it also, and we all mourn the loss of that incredible knowledge and skill.
Roger is survived by his wife Mary, his 3 sons and their wives and 6 grandchildren and his older brother Bill.
His oldest son, Matthew lives in Tacoma with his wife Connie where he works in the fabrication business. They have 4 children: Sierra, Mikayla, Autumn and Logan. Roger’s middle son Mark lives in Phoenix, OR with his wife Kelly and son Avery; Mark is a woodworker and cabinet maker. Roger’s youngest son, Luke lives in Sherman Oaks, CA with his wife Aubrey and daughter Shae and he works as an art director and set designer.
We will be having a Celebration of Roger’s life sometime this coming summer and will let you know when as he would want all his friends and fellow cutters to be there.