RIP John Collins, beloved Central Kentucky farrier

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John Collins, a beloved Central Kentucky farrier who worked with any number of top Thoroughbreds including Horse of the Year Zenyatta, died suddenly at his home in Fayette County on Wednesday night or Thursday morning at the age of 50, the Paulick Report has learned.

Cause of death was not known, though friends said they believe he may have suffered an aneurysm.

“No one had more friends than Johnny Collins,” said Mike Cline, manager of Lane’s End in Versailles, Ky., where Collins spent a good part of Wednesday working with the farm’s horses.  “He’s just one of those people you wanted to be around. I feel really bad for his mother, his sisters and his family. We are all in shock out here. He was a really fit, healthy guy.”

“We are crushed,” said Don Robinson of Winter Quarter Farm in Lexington, where Zenyatta was foaled. Collins did the blacksmith work for Zenyatta, as well as on her dam and grandam at Winter Quarter, and also pulled her shoes off when she arrived at Lane’s End to begin her life as a broodmare.

“John was like your friend and family,” Robinson said. “And he had a way with horses ¬– he was a natural. He’s one of the few people I’ve seen that was just a natural with horses. He was absolutely at ease with a horse, and they felt it.”

Robinson said Collins honed his skills at what he called the “Jackie Thompson finishing school,” a reference to the highly respected Central Kentucky farrier who learned from the legendary George Tompkins. Though the three men, all of them African-American, were unrelated, their craft was passed down from one generation to the next almost as if they were family. Collins referred to Thompson as “Uncle Jack.”

“He was a class guy,” said Robinson. “I’m lucky to have known him.”

Bill Harrigan of Miacomet Farm in Georgetown worked with Collins for 25 years. “He was a like a brother,” Harrigan said. “We traveled together, went to a lot of places. He loved horse racing and loved sports. We went to the United Center in Chicago and watched Michael Jordan, and spent a lot of time together at the track. Johnny always had a smile on his face. He was just one of those people you rarely meet in life who never had a bad day.”

John Greathouse of Glencrest Farm in Midway is another Central Kentuckian who knew John Collins for many years. He posted the following on his Facebook page: “The world lost a great person yesterday. You were as good a guy as there was out there and a good friend. I will miss our time together. My condolences go out to Johnny’s family. I was glad to have known him and will miss him dearly. RIP Mr. Collins.”

Even Zenyatta had a soft spot for John Collins. A diary post written in her name at Zenyatta.com on Dec. 14, 2010, said: “My blacksmith here at Lane’s End is the same person who took care of my feet years ago when I lived in Kentucky! His name is Johnny Collins. He is the same man who put on my shoes when I went to the Keeneland Sale in September, 2005! He took care of my feet when I was a little girl! Now, here he is taking off my shoes at the farm several years later. This is absolutely adorable! Johnny told me he’d been keeping track of me and all of my progress since then! It was so great to touch base with him, my first blacksmith, after all of these years! We had a blast sharing all of the FUN times since we last saw each other!

Tucker, Yocum and Wilson funeral home will be handling the services for Mr. Collins.

Visitation 11am-1pm Tuesday at Consolidated Baptist Church, 1625 Russell Cave Road, Lexington KY 40505
Funeral 1pm Tuesday at Consolidated Baptist Church, 1625 Russell Cave Road, Lexington KY 40505
Interment Maple Grove Cemetery, Georgetown


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  • melaniegere

    What a shock. John touched a lot of lives- certainly mine.  I have never met a kinder more generous man- he would give the shirt off his back to help a friend in need. He lived for his family and friends, I will forever miss him.

  • melaniegere

    What a shock. John touched a lot of lives- certainly mine.  I have never met a kinder more generous man- he would give the shirt off his back to help a friend in need. He lived for his family and friends, I will forever miss him.

  • GUEST

    Johnny was a good friend and one of the finest people i have ever had the privilege of knowing. Our industry has lost one of its finest gentlemen. He will be sadly missed by so many, RIP Johnny.

  • GUEST

    Johnny was a good friend and one of the finest people i have ever had the privilege of knowing. Our industry has lost one of its finest gentlemen. He will be sadly missed by so many, RIP Johnny.

  • Joyraeb

    A true horseman and a true gentleman — Johnny will be missed by so many.  Many prayers and thoughts go out to his family and friends.

  • Joyraeb

    A true horseman and a true gentleman — Johnny will be missed by so many.  Many prayers and thoughts go out to his family and friends.

  • Srwatkins

    Truly one of the finest gentlemen in Lexington!! Always positive and always a kind word!! Thoughts and prayers go out to his family and all of those he touched with his gentle smile and kind words…. RIP You will be greatly missed!
    “Easy Money”

  • Srwatkins

    Truly one of the finest gentlemen in Lexington!! Always positive and always a kind word!! Thoughts and prayers go out to his family and all of those he touched with his gentle smile and kind words…. RIP You will be greatly missed!
    “Easy Money”

  • Grant

    Johnny was a GREAT blacksmith and an even better person. We have lost a great friend and a true gentleman. His smile will be missed by everyone who knew him….thinking of EZ Money as we enjoy Fall racing at Keenelnd

  • Grant

    Johnny was a GREAT blacksmith and an even better person. We have lost a great friend and a true gentleman. His smile will be missed by everyone who knew him….thinking of EZ Money as we enjoy Fall racing at Keenelnd

  • Dorothyhakim

    Thank you Mr. John Collins  horse racing needs more John Collins to continue and promote racing from the farm to the back stretch to the Winners Circle . Thanks Johnny for years of hard work and a passion for your job what a grand model for everyone!!!  The men and women I’ve met in the horse industry are the best…

  • Dorothyhakim

    Thank you Mr. John Collins  horse racing needs more John Collins to continue and promote racing from the farm to the back stretch to the Winners Circle . Thanks Johnny for years of hard work and a passion for your job what a grand model for everyone!!!  The men and women I’ve met in the horse industry are the best…

  • Fran Jurga

    What a tragic loss to Kentucky, to the farrier world, to horses. There is a great, great story between the lines here. I worked with the Kentucky Derby Museum back in the 1980s on a “horseshoer’s hall of fame” exhibit to honor some of the senior African-American horseshoers from Louisville and Lexington. I remember the opening ceremony and their stories and the old photos. It was one of the most special days of my career. Johnny’s relationship with Zenyatta was such a great story. This is truly a tragic loss.

  • Fran Jurga

    What a tragic loss to Kentucky, to the farrier world, to horses. There is a great, great story between the lines here. I worked with the Kentucky Derby Museum back in the 1980s on a “horseshoer’s hall of fame” exhibit to honor some of the senior African-American horseshoers from Louisville and Lexington. I remember the opening ceremony and their stories and the old photos. It was one of the most special days of my career. Johnny’s relationship with Zenyatta was such a great story. This is truly a tragic loss.

  • john greathouse

    I’d like to think that John was not only our friend but a go to guy at the sales and the farm
    will he be missed? More than anyone can know
    RIP Johnny

  • john greathouse

    I’d like to think that John was not only our friend but a go to guy at the sales and the farm
    will he be missed? More than anyone can know
    RIP Johnny

  • Dooda12

    Johnny was a great guy and a great friend…. A true loss

  • Dooda12

    Johnny was a great guy and a great friend…. A true loss

  • Emjohns06

    I couldn’t agree more with the statement that he was one of those people who never had a bad day…I have never met anyone who truly always had a genuine smile on his face, a positive outlook, and a way about him that brightened any room. A friend to all. He is now and will always be truly missed. —Emily S.

  • Emjohns06

    I couldn’t agree more with the statement that he was one of those people who never had a bad day…I have never met anyone who truly always had a genuine smile on his face, a positive outlook, and a way about him that brightened any room. A friend to all. He is now and will always be truly missed. —Emily S.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/MyBig-Red/100000980578079 MyBig Red

    May God Bless Mr. Collins and his family. I’m sorry for your loss, but rest assured, John is in Heaven taking care of the horses that have gone on before him. John will be missed by those here on earth, but soon we all will be together, once again.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/MyBig-Red/100000980578079 MyBig Red

    May God Bless Mr. Collins and his family. I’m sorry for your loss, but rest assured, John is in Heaven taking care of the horses that have gone on before him. John will be missed by those here on earth, but soon we all will be together, once again.  

  • Shonachis

    well didn’t expect that. only farrier you didn’t mind holding a horse for in freezing conditions in the middle of a paddock, always bright and happy and made it feel like a sunny day, god bless

  • Shonachis

    well didn’t expect that. only farrier you didn’t mind holding a horse for in freezing conditions in the middle of a paddock, always bright and happy and made it feel like a sunny day, god bless

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