Sunday, January 1, 2017

A Farrier Encounter: An interview with Farrier Bill Knowlton

Farrier Bill Knowlton

A Farrier Encounter:
An interview with Farrier Bill Knowlton
Archived Interview Florida Equine Athlete, December 2016 Issue

It’s early Thursday morning and the sun is up, slowly rising over the autumn hills. My farrier, Bill Knowlton, is on his way to my barn. He is always on time. Always. He drives into the barnyard with a ready-smile. He is a guy who likes horses – it shows through his posture and attitude. Some people dream of being a horseman, others pretend to be a horseman, while the select few are true horsemen; the humble ability to talk without speaking, demand without force, and feel without touching. Bill Knowlton is a true horseman. Opening the back doors of his pickup truck, he unloads his farrier tools and gets right to work. “Good morning,” Bill smiles.

Zubie, my Paint-Quarter Horse mare is flat-footed. She went lame over the summer, but is better now with appropriate shoes and a short regiment of phenylbutazone. Every horse owner/rider knows that consistency is important with horses (as most things). Having the right vet and farrier are key to keeping healthy horses.

All farriers are not created equal, and I am fortunate to have Bill as my farrier.  I thought it would be fun to share insights from Bill with you. While Bill is putting shoes on Zubie, I talk to him about horses, hooves, and happiness…

Welcome, Bill!

GM: When was your first encounter with a horse?
BK:   My grandpa had a plow horse. When I was very young, I remember holding the long reins and pretend I was plowing, just like grandpa. I would spend hours with grandpa’s horse.

GM: How long have you been a farrier?
BK:   Fourteen years. I’ve shoed well over a thousand horses. Currently, I have 300 horses. I turned three horses away just this week. Even though we have a farrier program at the local college, our area is short on farriers.

GM: Why do you suppose there is a lack of farriers in this area?
BK:   When the students graduate from the farrier program at the local college, they move on to larger facilities and breeding farms. Some go out West where there is a need for wranglers and farriers.

GM: When you decided to become a farrier, who was your instructor/mentor?
BK:   I trained under Kurt Underschultz [World Equestrian Games Farrier]. He actually taught farrier for 13 years. I was luckily enough to get with him for two years. I went to his clients with him. I learned a ton from him. I don’t see him very often. I pass him on the rode sometimes.

GM: What’s the best thing about being a farrier?
BK:   I’ve always liked to work with my hands. As a farrier, you work for yourself; make your own rules, your own time schedule. I like that. I like meeting new people and working with different people every day. It keeps my job interesting.

GM: What is the worse case you’ve ever seen?
BK:   I’ve worked on horses who had to be put down, mostly foundered horses with the coffin bone coming out of their feet – all four feet. I see a lot of foundered horses, but some cases are worse than others. Some horses are more sensitive to foundering than others. Some horses like to eat and don’t know when to quit.

Bill trimming Zubie.

GM: What other ailments may cause severe hoof issues that require special farrier work?
BK:   Besides a foundered horse, navicular disease can be an issue, too. Sometimes you can get horses who can be ridden with navicular disease, others require complete stall rest.  The worse thing is a horse who is really lame, and you can’t figure out what it is. You have to poke in the dark to figure out what it is. I know one horse in particular who was x-rayed multiple times and was always lame. X-rays showed no problems. Finally, we put plastic shoes on the horse, and fixed it. That horse was fine to ride and everything, as long as he had on the plastic shoes.

GM: I’ve never meet a farrier who doesn’t have horses of his/her own. What horses do you currently stable?
BK:   I have two horses of my own; a Tennessee Walking Horse and a Kentucky Mountain horse. I like them both. I spend more time on the Tennessee Walking Horse. The Kentucky Mountain horse is 34 years. I retired him and don’t ride him. He’s in really good shape. He would be good for kids.

GM:  What does horsemanship mean to you?
BK:    It’s all about understanding a horse; to be around horses, understand horses, and they understand you. To be respectful is everything. It’s all about respect. Once in a while I get horses I can’t get along with. It’s because they don’t have respect; they don’t trust people.

GM:  You are always healthy and pleasant, what is the key to good health and happiness?
BK:    Being around horses keeps you young. The quote is true… the best thing for the inside of a man is the outside of a horse.

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