TWO MEMBERS OF OUR American Farriers Journal staff first met Burney Chapman in mid-January of 1992.
We’d only owned the magazine for 3 days and were getting acquainted with the industry when we met Burney for the first time at the Bluegrass Laminitis Symposium in Louisville, Ky.
Burney immediately took our new staff under his wing and started educating us about the shoeing business and continued to do so for the next 8 years. It was something none of us will ever forget.
Six weeks later, we saw Burney again at the American Farrier’s Association annual convention in Daytona Beach, Fla. He greeted us like we’d been his special friends for more than 20 years.
After nearly a 2-year bout with brain cancer, the world lost one of the most innovative farriers of the 20th century on November 11, which also happened to be Veteran’s Day. And thousands of people in the farrier industry and the entire horse world lost a true friend in Burney Chapman.
He leaves behind four sons, Brandon, Blane, Brice and Baker, three grandchildren and his good friend Ronda Parks, who cared for him during this serious illness. Three of his sons are successful horseshoers today, thanks to Burney’s lifelong concerns for his boys and his exceptional horseshoe training.
Burney was born on March 4, 1941, in Fort Worth and grew up around horses in Wichita Falls, Texas. By age 12, he was already shoeing working horses at the famous 6666 Ranch, near Guthrie, Texas, which left him with a fondness for shoeing ranch and feedlot horses. Honored as a Life Boy Scout, he graduated from Wichita Falls High School and completed college at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. He spent his career as a shoer.
He was an active member of the American Farrier’s Association (AFA), the Texas Professional Farrier’s Association, an AFA Certified Journeyman Farrier and served on a number of AFA committees over the years. He was also in charge of the 1990 AFA convention in Lubbock, Texas.
Burney belonged to a number of state and national horseshoeing groups and was a charter member of the “International Horseshoeing Hall Of Fame” sponsored jointly by the Kentucky Derby Museum and American Farriers Journal. Burney also served for a number of years as a valuable member of this magazine’s Editorial Advisory Board.
Devoting his life to solving shoeing problems with horses and educating farriers, trainers and horse owners to the benefits of effective shoeing, Burney was a popular speaker at hundreds of local, state, national and international foot care events.
Burney was always available to help others learn more about shoeing and the treatment of laminitic horses. He inspired thousands of shoers to take more pride in their work and profession and to continually strive to work for the benefit of the horses on which they worked.
Besides helping lame horses with the rediscovered heart bar shoe, Burney pioneered many other ideas in the farrier business. He contributed much of the early work with glue-on shoes with Glu-Strider/Mustad. An early advocate of the need for nutritional supplementation for hoof growth, he served as a consultant on Farrier’s Formula to Life Data Labs. He also worked with Thoro’Bred Racing Plate Company on new shoeing ideas, materials and shoes to help lame horses.
During the 1990s, Burney spent thousands of hours researching the causes and treatment of white line disease. This was among the best research work done anywhere on this dreaded disease.
Over the years, American Farriers Journal printed more than a dozen articles by Burney. Besides laminitis and founder, his articles dealt with white line disease, anatomy, sugardine, club feet, shoeing endurance horses, hoof cracks, tetanus concerns, the pros and cons of heel springs and use of deep flexor tenotomy. He was quoted in many other articles over the years in this magazine. In fact, his articles from back issues are among the most requested articles in the 25-year history of this magazine.
Heart Bar Shoes
Burney never claimed credit for discovering the heart bar shoe and said he learned about its use from reading an old shoeing text. But he truly popularized the use of this shoe and found new ways to use it.
While majoring in animal science at Texas Tech University and shoeing horses to pay his way through school, Burney became interested in laminitis and decided to write a research paper on the subject. A search for information found very little research data and revealed that many treatment procedures were simply not working.
He began dissecting equine cadavers’ feet and tried many new approaches to find a better answer for treating laminitis. As a result, Burney soon found new ways of treating laminitis and founder that worked.
His shoeing research indicated the heart bar shoeing procedure bolsters the central frog of the horse’s foot and relieves pressure, allowing normal blood circulation to resume. He recognized that this meant custom-making each heart bar shoe for each laminitic or foundered horse for every specific situation.
For example, Burney worked with a laminitic world champion Paso Fino stallion in Puerto Rico for 9 months, including numerous weeks of 24-hour-per-day care. The total cost to save the horse easily ran over $60,000.
His treatment methods were considered highly controversial in the horse world. It was not until the early 1980s that his ideas started to gain wide acceptance among farriers and veterinarians.
As a staff editor for 4 years in the early 1980s of American Farriers Journal and current Editor/Publisher of Hoofcare & Lameness, Fran Jurga knew Burney well. She maintains he’s best known as the farrier who reintroduced the heart bar shoe for therapeutic use on foundered or laminitic horses.
“For more than 30 years, his practice was limited to the shoeing of foundered horses,” she says. “His realm of influence spread from the ranches of his home state of Texas to royal stables of the Middle East.”
Meeting The Challenge
Staying motivated in an industry that’s both physically and mentally demanding and slow to accept innovations was never a problem for Burney.
“It’s the challenge,” Burney said in 1987. “I like the challenge of taking a horse that everyone says can’t make it and helping him walk again.
“Normal shoeing doesn’t hold any interest for me anymore. I’m somewhere out in the twilight zone.”
Jurga believes a high point of Burney’s shoeing career was a laminitis presentation with Dr. George Platt, now of Eagle, Colo., at the 1984 American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) convention in Dallas, Texas. This led Burney to a close working relationship among equine veterinarians and hoof researchers around the world.
While the heart bar shoe, founder and laminitis were Burney’s specialities, some in the industry feel his real legacy was encouraging the farrier industry to learn anatomy.
In nominating Burney as one of the American Farrier’s Journal “25 Legends of the Past 25 Years” last summer, one veteran farrier stated, “Burney may go down in history more for emphasizing the importance of anatomy to farriers than his excellent work with heart bar shoes.”
Others are convinced his major accomplishments, which included emphasis on anatomy, took place in the laminitis and founder areas.
“Without question, his efforts in laminitis treatment represented a major contribution to the foot care business,” says Myron McLane, a Somerset, Mass., farrier. “He looked at laminitis differently than anyone had ever done. He saw different ways to look at the foot.
“Understanding the anatomy of the foot and leg was critical to him and he shed new light for all farriers on this important area.
“Many people didn’t understand his demand for emphasis on learning anatomy and the importance of knowing the way everything worked. By always stressing anatomy, he showed farriers new ideas for treating laminitis.”
“I believe the high points in his career are all of the horses that were and are still being helped with the knowledge he so freely gave to anyone willing to listen,” says Tim Dodd, a farrier from Broadview Heights, Ohio.
“Burney Chapman became my friend not because of who I was, but because I was a farrier,” says Jim Church of Plant City, Fla. “Burney loved being a farrier and he loved helping us and the horses he worked on. He was truly dedicated to his chosen profession and I’m glad I had the opportunity to meet and know Burney.”
Next, we’d like to share a few brief stories and tales from our own American Farriers Journal staff, farriers and others in this industry regarding Burney.
1 Our staff normally went out to dinner one night during the winter farrier and equine vet meetings with Burney and a few other farrier friends. So he’s definitely going to be missed by us during these coming winter months.
2 I was always amazed during AAEP, the AFA convention and Bluegrass Laminitis Symposium to see the large number of farriers and equine vets who asked Burney for an opinion on X-rays taken from laminitic horses. He always took time to help these farriers and vets, even it meant being late for an appointment.
3 While Burney didn’t necessarily always agree with the thoughts voiced in every American Farriers Journal article, he always respected the ideas and opinions of others. He encouraged farriers and others to develop new solutions to age-old feet problems.
4 Because he was an American Farriers Journal editorial advisory board member, we once sent Burney an article written by another shoer for review. As soon as he looked over the article, he phoned and said, “Frank, if you run this article, I’m never going to speak to you again because this technique can kill horses.” I don’t believe he would have refused to speak to me again, but I respected his opinion and we didn’t run the article.
5 Another article we ran concerned Burney because he didn’t believe the unusual shoeing concept would work. He talked with me and we agreed to meet during the upcoming AFA convention. After trying to get together to talk about this article for nearly 3 days and being constantly interrupted by farriers seeking his opinion on laminitic cases, we finally went to my hotel room and spent 3 hours discussing this concept. We ended up putting together another article that voiced Burney’s concerns. The result was a set of articles Burney really liked that delved into the pros and cons of this highly controversial shoeing idea.
6 After we posted an American Farriers Journal Web site item in mid-November about Burney’s death, American Airlines employee Theresa Bowers wrote us, stating that Burney had been a true friend for 15 years.
“He always had a kind word for everyone he met and wherever his travels took him, he saw the good in people,” she wrote. “He made many friends at American Airlines around the world and this one will never ever forget him.”
There is more to the story about his favorite airline for flying to and from Lubbock. Burney was on a flight once when a passenger was giving one of the flight attendants a rough, abusive time. As the story goes, Burney got out of his seat, grabbed the man’s arm, led him back to his seat, told him not to move and be quiet for the rest of the flight.
The word about this Good Samaritan coming to the rescue of a flight attendant quickly spread. There were times when the tall Texan wearing his Stetson cowboy hat would get on an American Airlines flight anywhere in the world and flight attendants who he did not know would ask, “Aren’t you the horseshoer from Lubbock?”
Flight attendants around the world had heard the story of how Burney had rescued one of their own. He used to chuckle about how people he didn’t even know took such good care of him in the air after this incident.
7 Danny Ward first met Burney when the eyes of these two extremely tall farriers met in an airport. The Martinsville, Va., farrier says Burney was the only other person he could easily make eye contact with.
8 For several years, Burney worked with laminitic horses in the Milwaukee and Chicago areas. Alice Musser of the American Farriers Journal staff would often get a telephone call and it would be Burney saying, “Alice, I’m flying into Chicago’s O’Hare field in 4 hours. Can you pick me up?”
There was a ritual to these visits:
× Alice would make the 180-mile roundtrip drive to O’Hare and pick Burney up.
× He’d spend one or two nights at Alice’s house with her husband Mike and the three kids.
× While Alice was making supper, he’d phone a dozen friends in the business, ask about their day, tell them what horses he was working on and let them know that he was sitting in Alice’s dining room making these calls.
× Everyone would be tired the next morning because they’d stayed up late listening to Burney’s horseshoeing and Texas stories. 7 He’d come by the office the next day and give us a new shoeing lesson on the latest foot care ideas.
× He’d take one of our staffers with him to learn more about laminitis by watching him work on a problem horse.
× Finally, he’d have Alice make the 180-mile roundtrip back to O’Hare as he flew off to Qatar, Lubbock or places in between to deal with another laminitic or foundered horse.
Because of these special visits, he’s always enjoyed a special place in the heart of our American Farriers Journal staff. Just as importantly, he taught us a great deal about shoeing.
9 As he became a legend in treating laminitic cases, he occasionally crossed swords with others having different opinions. Many times, the company insuring a valuable horse would pass along X-rays to Burney for his analysis.
After evaluating a set of X-rays on a severe laminitic case, Burney told the insurance company that the horse would die within 60 days unless the treatment was changed. Others involved in the case didn’t agree with his prognosis, so the insurance company allowed the horse to continue to be treated the same way.
The horse didn’t die on day 60 as Burney had predicted. Instead, it lived to day 62 and rumor has it the insurance company paid off around $17 million. It was a horse Burney was convinced could have been saved!
10 There’s another story about a famous horse that Burney and Myron McLane looked at, recommended a laminitis treatment protocol for the animal and then never got the opportunity to carry out their plan. It was Secretariat, who ended up dying from laminitis complications
“We went to see Secretariat and came up with a laminitis treatment idea that was different than what others were going to use,” says McLane. “We thought we had a solution, but we never had the opportunity to work on the horse. It’s only speculation as to whether our idea would have saved Secretariat or not. But Burney did have an idea we thought would work.”
11 Jody Roberts, a shoer from Capitan, N.M., says Burney Chapman was involved in one of his most embarrassing moments. But it was much more of a problem for Roberts than for Burney.
“Burney and his son Baker came over to the Ruidoso track to work on a laminitic horse and the union wouldn’t let him work on the grounds until he took the union track test,” he recalls. “They assigned me to determine whether he passed or not. Burney was so much more talented than I was that I was really embarrassed. Burney told me not to worry about it. I made up my mind before he ever took the test that he was going to get a passing grade.”
12 Each time Alice Musser went to visit Burney, one of the rituals was that he would always show her a few more of the many photo books he had put together on the thousands of horses that he had treated over the years. “It was amazing how well he could remember the names of the horses and all of the details of cases from more than 20 years ago,” Alice says.
During a trip to Lubbock last spring, he reminded Alice that they hadn’t looked at any photos and pulled out a couple more books to look through. They soon came to a photo he had taken about 15 years earlier. Burney was upset because he couldn’t immediately remember the woman’s name, who looked like she weighed 300 pounds. But Burney quickly quipped, “Poor horse.”
13 At 6 a.m. while everyone was still sleeping on Easter morning a couple of years ago, Mike Musser answered the phone and it was Burney calling from his shop. Always an early riser, Burney figured everyone else should be up at the crack of dawn, too. Burney asked Alice what was going on and said he wished he were there. She told him Kelly Werner from AFA and farriers Jamie Guignon of Pacific, Mo., and Sheldon Olsen of Kings, Ill., were visiting for the weekend.
“If I was there, we’d be having a shoeing clinic right now,” cracked Burney. And he would have organized one—even at 6 a.m., as many friends who regularly received early morning calls from him knew only so well. Another unique thing he did during his travels was to send postcards to friends.
End Of An Era?
Everyone who ever meant and learned from Burney will greatly miss him and the great contributions he made over the years to the horseshoeing trade.
Red Renchin sums it up as well as anyone. He believes Burney’s passing marks the end of an era. “Few people have made such a positive impact on a profession as he has,” says the Mequon, Wis., farrier. “For those of us who were fortunate enough to have known and worked with him, he leaves us indelibly richer for the experience. We are not likely to see his kind again.”
Jurga agrees. “Burney Chapman’s tall, thin frame, lantern jaw and trademark hat crease were an unforgettable landmark in the global horse world,” she says.
“Whether remembered as he lectured on shoeing to a large audience or helping an owner through a long night with a foundered horse, all who met him will agree that a man of his generosity in sharing knowledge and friendship is irreplaceable.”
Donations in Burney’s memory may be made to the American Farrier’s Association, 4059 Iron Works Parkway, Suite 2, Lexington, KY 40511.