Butler Professional Farrier School draws students from all over the world with a reputation of publication, a broad range of experiences and a location they consider prime for practice shoeing.
Dr. Doug Butler runs the school with his sons, Jake and Pete, but they also produce farrier education tools used beyond the school walls, including textbooks, podcasts and videos.
Dr. Butler put together his first book in 1965, trying to save knowledge that could have been lost in a time when he saw horse dependence decreasing with the rise of the automobile.
“That was just a very small pamphlet, then I put it into a book, Principles of Horseshoeing, in 1974, when I was a student at Cornell,” he told Tri-State Livestock News.
The family’s school wasn’t founded until 2006, when they found a location they considered ideal.
“We looked at a lot of places before we came here. Coming to this place was very much, we feel like, the design of the heavens,” says Dr. Butler. “With this place, we can work in all kinds of weather; it is somewhere we could grow some feed for our animals, and we have room for our students.”
Having their own horses was a condition for where they would found their school.
“A lot of schools work on dead feet or no feet,” says Dr. Butler. “Having this place allows us to use our own horses.”
Outside horses are also welcome and owners are given the choice to have their horses worked on by students or an instructor.
“It does take a little bit longer [for students to work on horses],” says Jake Butler.
According to Jake Butler, it’s a joke at Butler Professional Farrier School that students will work on live horses — but some horses are more lively than others. “They’re learning and having that experience, but what a good thing for them to do, because they’ll get better, but also they’re being supervised and managed.”
Beyond working on horses, the school stresses theoretical, anatomical and business knowledge.
“We have homework every night,” Dr. Butler says. “We want them to learn theory; that’s how you learn it, you have to study. Everyday, they work on a horse in some way, and everyday, they work in the forge and that way, in a short amount of time, we can cram more into them.”
“That way, we don’t waste anybody’s time,” Dr. Butler says.
Tyler Lawson, a student at the school this year, doesn’t feel that his time is being wasted. “The instructors here are, in my opinion, just top-notch guys,” he says.
“The textbook they wrote is used by a lot of these other schools, so I thought, ‘Well, what better than to go to the source,” says Lawson.
“Dr. Butler has been all over the world and done just about any kind of shoeing you can imagine,” he says. “Pete went clear to Mongolia for a few years to study their ways of doing things.”
This reputation of a vast knowledge base has drawn students from around the world, including Israel, New Zealand, South Africa, Korea and Australia, to the 12-week course.
“Having that vast and collective knowledge is wonderful to be able to learn from.”