“For the want of a nail the shoe was lost,
“For the want of a shoe the horse was lost,
“For the want of a horse the rider was lost,
“For the want of a rider the battle was lost,
“For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost,
“And all for the want of a horseshoe-nail.”
– Benjamin Franklin
One suspects that Benjamin Franklin would like Dr. Jack Roth and that the feeling would be mutual.
Roth is owner/director of the Oklahoma Horseshoeing School, north of Purcell on the I-35 access road.
You see, Roth was a farrier long before he was a veterinarian.
In fact, as a young man, Roth went to what was then the country’s only horseshoeing school.
He was only 19, but what he learned at Cal State Poly Technical College might not have been quite what the college intended.
“I could see they could teach much more efficiently than they did,” he says.
Starting with a horseshoeing school had to be private to be a going concern.
At 21, Roth was an apprentice working for a farrier friend. He shared his idea about a better horseshoeing school with his friend who initially wasn’t interested.
“But we were close friends and I made him give me the money” for a 50-50 partnership,” Roth says.
His plans were interrupted, first by Vietnam and after his discharge, by life.
When he got out of the service, Roth applied to vet school but was turned down.
The second time he applied, Roth was admitted to the college.
By then his horseshoeing school at Stillwater was doing well enough that he couldn’t throw it away.
He graduated in 1977 and moved to Oklahoma City on Jan. 7, 1978, where he owned and operated an emergency vet hospital.
Roth took the equine and large animal cases and left the small animals to the veterinarians working for him.
“At one time I had five vets working for me,” he says. “It was a nice practice.”
He stayed there about 18 years until, as he put it, Oklahoma City became “too citified.”
He kept the horseshoeing school, which he relocated to McClain County and continued to rewrite the book on how to best train farriers.
“We do the basics,” he says.
While other schools tell their graduates that they need to apprentice themselves to farriers for a couple of years, Roths’ message to his graduates is this:
“When you are done here, you’re ready to go to work for yourself shoeing horses.”
“I know what my kids have got to learn — to make a set of shoes and put on that horse.”
Oklahoma Horseshoeing School offers three separate courses, with a new class starting every Monday.
There’s a 2-week course that is primarily for the horse owner wanting to shoe his or her own horses.
An 8-week course is “suitable for being able to shoe for a living — a tough row to hoe.”
The 12-week course is the most extensive and includes hands-on work with corrective shoeing and understanding the horsemanship that goes with it.
Time was Roth and his instructors would load the students into a bus and make farm calls, shoeing and trimming horses for the public.
Rosie Spurlin, the school’s manager, changed that.
“My father worked here for many years,” Spurlin says. “We came from Mexico and after high school, I started working for the school.”
She was 16 when she started work in August 1996.
“Rosie was so young, too young to know we didn’t have to do it that way,” Roth says.
Instead of farm calls, horse owners were soon setting appointments and bringing their horses to the school.
After 6 to 8 months, Roth sold the bus.
“We didn’t need it anymore,” he explains.
Spurlin says there’s no lack of customers. The school charges $15 for a hoof trim and $30 for shoes. That’s about a third of the cost area farriers charge.
The customers are on 6- to 8-week schedules so appointments are recurring.
“It’s just like a beauty school,” Spurlin says. “You take your risks, but we stand behind the students’ work.
Enrollment averages 15 to 30 students at any time with four full-time instructors.
The in-house rule is no more than 10 students per instructor, Roth says, and seven or eight is better.
Only 5% of students are from Oklahoma. Most by far are from out-of-state or out of country.
Student farriers come from Italy, Israel, the Netherlands, Venezuela — all over South America and Europe, and even occasionally from Asia.
“I’ve got a secret [to success],” Roth says. “Do it the hard way every day. There’s no easy way to make it hard.”
In her second to last day, North Dakota student Nell Hansen put it like this:
“They push you pretty hard. That’s fine. I don’t want to be mediocre.”