Interview with Burney Chapman Part I

by Rob Edwards

Published in the September 1989 Issue of Anvil Magazine

ANVIL: Burney, the introduction of you as a personality within the
farrier industry would be almost redundant. Most farriers are aware
of your efforts to upgrade the farrier industry within the horse community,
particularly the area in which farriers work with veterinarians. But,
a little background might be in order.
BURNEY: I have a Bachelor's Degree in Animal Science from what is
now Texas Tech University, and have been involved in a lot of extracurricular
studies such as history. I also took all the pre-veterinary courses
-- chemistry and physics. At one time I aspired to go on to veterinary
ANVIL: Speaking of history, it used to be that the farrier took
care of the only animal worth taking care of -- the horse. Then somehow
the veterinarian emerged from the farriery profession and the two
professions split up. It seems to me that you've actually brought
the farrier back into the forefront of therapeutically working on
the horses' feet.
BURNEY: After World War II (I was born about the time the Japanese
dropped the bomb on Pearl Harbor), the horse was basically a "dead"
figure in the United States. The Thoroughbred horse in Kentucky was
still a viable, economic situation, but the farm horse was gone. He
had been replaced by the tractor, and the city draft horse had been
replaced by the truck. But in West Texas we had huge ranches and we
still had the horse; that was the main form of transportation for
cowboys in those days. We made $125 a month and our board and room.
And you didn't learn the great, scientific method of horseshoeing
because you didn't have blacksmith teachers or mentors as we have
today. There were no horseshoeing schools that I know of, maybe Cal
Poly or Oregon State.
When we were growing up as kids on the ranch, we had to shoe our own
horses. We had a claw hammer; that was the driving hammer and the
rounding hammer. The wagon hub was the anvil. We had Phoenix EEL shoes
or Diamond shoes -- all of them were rusty -- and we had a set of
bolt cutters.
ANVIL: Were the bolt cutters for cutting the heels?
BURNEY: Yes, bolt cutters were used for everything. That was the
portable hardie. I didn't know there was a hardie in those days. And
we had a box of No. 5 City Head, rusty Capewell nails; that was the
only nail in existence at that time. We had this old double-bitted
rasp that was dull on both ends, dull in the middle, and didn't have
a tang on it like our modern rasp. It was about a half-inch thick,
and it weighed about three pounds. It would worry you to death if
it had been sharp.
Cowboys hated horseshoeing. But you knew one thing -- when you shod
that horse, you had to ride him from point a to point b. And he had
to get you back from point b to point a. If you crippled your horse,
you were just afoot so you didn't cripple your horse.
The old-timers would help you shoe. In re-turn you shod their horses
because they were too old and decrepit to do it anymore. That's how
I learned. Then I went off to college.
ANVIL: How long ago did you start this learning process of shoeing
BURNEY: First, from 1956 to 1958 working on ranches like the Four
Sixes, and on a dude ranch in Colorado up by South Fork. Then in high
school we only had one or two horseshoers in Wichita Falls. Sam Cates
was one of them. He was an Army horseshoer before he mustered out
of the service. In fact, he gave me my first set of nippers.
When I got to college, I worked for a horse outfit and we couldn't
get a good farrier. Somebody said, "We can't get a farrier." And I
said, "We don't need a farrier just to trim broodmares. I can trim
broodmares and put a couple of pairs of shoes on." So I started shoeing
the horses on the Appaloosa farm where I worked when I was going to
ANVIL: You worked your way through school shoeing horses?
BURNEY: Yes. I realized there were people I didn't even know pulling
up at the farm with horseshoes and handfuls of nails. So I thought
this is stupid; I'm only making a dollar an hour working on this farm.
So I started charging them -- maybe $6 a head, which was a lot of
money, if they furnished all the shoes. There wasn't any minimum wage
in the early sixties. A dollar an hour is what a college student made.
Shoe one horse; it would take you 45 minutes and you'd make $6.00.
That was a lot of money.
ANVIL: You have been able to converse with veterinarians better
than any other farrier I know of. I would like to know if this ability
of yours to converse in the veter-inarian's lingo was because of your
schooling or on-the-job training or just the extracurricular activity
of studying manuals.
BURNEY: One of my college professors was Dr. Fred Harbaugh who,
in my opinion, was one of the great veterinarians who first came to
the south plains of Lubbock. He taught anatomy and physiology about
the sheep, cow, goat, pig, and the horse, but his main love was the
He taught comparative anatomy by using the horse. And the man was
a real artist. He would draw with colored chalk on the blackboard.
He could draw the mare's uterus, he could draw the foot, he could
draw the ear, he could draw the Fallopian tubes going to the ovary,
with all different kinds of colors. He was a great teacher.
And I also liked horses. I was working at the Appaloosa farm, and
when the old man sold out, I went to work for a veterinarian, Dr.
Cox, who at that time had the biggest veterinary practice on the South
Plains. We didn't have a farrier, and when someone brought a crippled
horse in, Dr. Cox would say, "Put a pad on the horse." And I'd say,
"Dr. Cox, we put a pad on those last two horses that came in, and
you know those horses are kind of history; we shot them." (Back then
we didn't call it euthanasia, we just kind of shot the beast.) And
he'd say, "Well, if you have any other idea, just try it." So, that's
how it all evolved. There wasn't any conflict -- you worked with the
veterinarian and the veterinarian worked with you. I owe a lot of
credit to Dr. Harbaugh because he was such a great anatomy and
physiology teacher. That's how I got really interested in lameness
and correcting that lameness.
I became the horseshoer for the university. We had different lameness
problems, and a lot of people brought horses to the university for
Dr. Harbaugh to treat. He was a very open-minded fellow and he'd let
you do what you wanted, but we'd work together. We combined ideas
and we used Dr. O.R. Adams' first book on lameness, and Dr. Harbaugh
thought some of those ideas such as a half-bar shoe were eccentric,
but they worked. And he'd let me do some experimenting.
ANVIL: So you started by working with a veterinarian. It never was
part of your practice to not have the veterinarian involved?
BURNEY: It was never a part of my practice, but it was never my
intention to ever be a horseshoer. It was the means to an end so I
could get a college education and go on to vet school. When I got
out of school at Texas Tech in Lubbock, I had a good business and
a good practice. I graduated in 1966 and couldn't afford to go to
vet school and couldn't afford to go to work for somebody else.
In 1968 I built my own vet clinic. I had a vet-erinarian friend there,
Dr. Dave Coleman, who had a mobile practice but wanted a permanent
veterinary clinic. He approached me about building the clinic, and
I said, "Sure, Dave, I need a veterinarian."
When he had a foot lameness problem, he said, "Well, what do we need
to do?" And so we did it together. And when I'd have a problem, I'd
say, "Call Dr. Coleman and we'll work together on it, or call Dr.
Ed Murray in Spur, Texas" who, by the way, is the president-elect
this year of the American Association of Equine Practitioners. Dr.
Coleman bought Dr. Platt out, and after Dr. Coleman left the clinic,
Dr. Ronny Lee was there. I was probably the only crazy horseshoer
in the world who ever owned a veterinary clinic. Back in those days
both professions tried to complement each other.
ANVIL: You don't think that's presently happening?
BURNEY: I think it should be happening now, and I think it still
is in 99 percent of the cases. I don't have any problem with it, but
I hear other farriers talking about problems they have with vets,
and veterinarians talking about their problems with farriers, too.
Farriers are not veterinarians. Many can't spell "phalanx" and most
veterinarians can't spell "shoe." The two professions should complement
each other when it comes to lameness problems. For instance, the farrier
accidentally quicks the horse or pricks the horse with a nail. He
should tell the client immediately. Let's not make a mistake because
that horse is liable to get sore. Don't try to hide it; it's going
to show up in a few days, and the vet is going to say, "Well, a guy
with a strong back and a weak mind quicked your horse." If we work
together as a team, the ones who will realize the end benefits will
be the horse and the owner.
Now there is some controversy about whether a horseshoer should repair
quarter cracks and do hoof resections. Some veterin-arians say that
the horseshoers shouldn't even put a bar shoe on without the overseeing
auspices of a veterinarian. That works both ways. Don't guess at a
lameness problem. Maybe the horseshoer thinks it's lame in the foot
when it has a knee lameness. Work together with your veterinarian,
that's the name of the game.
ANVIL: You were initially rejected by the vets, though. You'd be
called out on a job and there wouldn't be a farrier or a veterinarian
there, even though they had been asked. Do you feel a resentment toward
that initial approach with those professionals?
BURNEY: No, I don't feel a resentment. For example, you're the farrier
and you're working with a "Dr. Jones." You both have worked really
hard and diligently, exhausting all of your resources to help this
horse. Mean-while, the owner reads about a case history similar to
the problem with his horse. The case history had a successful outcome
thanks to a particular horseshoer, and now the owner wants to call
him in on his horse's case. You and Dr. Jones "determine" that this
guy doesn't know as much as you do, and you don't even know who he
is! Who in the heck is this guy? He's Burney Chapman.
Even though they had never heard of him, the owner says that he's
getting him anyway. And I'm on the phone saying, "Please get the vet
and the farrier there," or "please have the x-rays there." When I
get to the farm, I ask about the x-rays, and he says, "Yes, the x-rays
are over there on the table." So, I look at the radiographs, work
on the horse, and if I'm lucky, the horse gets a little better. The
farrier and the veterinarian show up a week later: "You mean that's
all that guy did to that horse was put that funny-looking shoe on
and chop the front of his foot off, and charge you all that money?
We could have done that." The problem is -- they didn't do it. I wasn't
there to criticize that farrier or veterinarian, and I never have
done that.
But nowadays things have changed. The vet and the farrier will be
there. They may not agree. But I think the American public expects
too much from veterinarians. The vet basically has eight years' education.
He goes to college; he's supposed to know something about a sheep,
cat, dog, goat, snake, horse, cow, and a pig. No one human being can
know all the answers.
It's the same with the horse. The American public thinks the veterinarian
ought to know ALL of it, and that's impossible. There are equine reproduction
experts, general practitioners, and there are practices with 50 percent
small animals, 25 percent horses, 25 percent cattle practice. The
vet-erinarian has to know all about radiology. In human medicine that's
not the way it is. The world is becoming pretty specialized.
ANVIL: Actually, we're developing a cadre of farriers, like yourself,
who work exclusively on crippled horses.
BURNEY: I agree but here's the reason. If somebody came to me with
a stable of Saddlebreds and asked me to shoe them at any price, I
would say, "No, I'm not qualified to shoe that Saddlebred show horse."

It doesn't make any difference whether you're shoeing a Quarter Horse,
a Thor-oughbred, an Arabian, a Standardbred, a Hackney pony. All of
these horses develop the same basic kind of lameness problems, perhaps
one breed more than another. But when it comes to some of the problems
like quarter cracks, bowed tendons, shinbucks, laminitis, and pedal
osteosis, then that's a whole different field. Maybe you're specializing
in shoeing Hackney ponies or like Palmer Wilson and Seamus Brady,
specializing in hunter-jumpers. If they come up with a tremendous
lameness problem, they would probably be smart if they recommended
that to somebody who just specialized in lameness. The same with
the veterinarian. If he's an equine reproduction person, he should
call a veterinarian who specializes in lameness problems.
ANVIL: How many veterinarians are beginning to specialize in lameness
problems? What percentage of AAEP members?
BURNEY: That would be hard for me to answer. But for lower-leg lameness
problems, there are probably a dozen at the most. Out of that dozen
who really specialize, most of the farriers know them -- Dr. Ric Redden,
Dr. Jan Young, Dr. Carl Gubert, Dr. George Platt, and Dr. William


ANVIL: I'd like nothing better than to have a specialist in this
area on lower-leg lameness that I could call upon.
BURNEY: A lot of problems in the farriery profession, and maybe
in law, medical, veterinary -- maybe all professions -- occur because
egos sometime get in the way, and the long-term patient is the one
who suffers.
For instance, years ago I would call somebody -- a veterinarian, a
farrier -- and they'd say, "Euthanasia is the answer for that." Well,
that's the easy way out; just kill them. The specialist is just now
coming into the equine field. We've had equine reproduction specialists
who have really come into the forefront in the last ten years.
They have PhDs in equine reproduction; they are not veterinarians.
They have been trained just for that one purpose. The public, and
I'm saying this in defense of the veterinarians, thinks that the veterinarian
should know everything there is to know about a foot, reproduction,
an equine eye, colic -- he should be able to do colic, carpal, fetlock,
orthoscopic -- any kind of surgery that's known. The public doesn't
realize the overwhelming magnitude of that. And the farrier is not
trying to encroach upon the equine veterinarian's world. We're trying
to work with them.
ANVIL: I think some of the young veterinarians don't seem to realize
that they have certain limitations and that there's an expertise involved
with years of practice as a farrier that could be beneficial to them.
Instead they seem to think that they have to come up with an answer
regardless of whether or not they have a backlog of experience in
that particular area.
BURNEY: I agree with that.
A lot of the answer is just experience. "Experience is an accumulation
of one man's many mistakes." That's a quote from an old friend of
mine, Dr. George Platt. You make the same three mistakes, and somebody
tells you to do the same thing the fourth time. You say, "Listen,
I've already killed three horses doing that. I'm not going to do that
again. I'm not going to nail the shoe on backwards on the first day.
If you want somebody else to do it that way, let him do it."
ANVIL: Speaking of Dr. George Platt, you made a presentation to
the AAEP Convention that was the first presentation ever made by a
non-veterinarian. It was based on research that you did with Dr. Platt.
BURNEY: Basically, it was based on research that I had done, and
Dr. Platt will concur with that because he was basically in equine
reproduction for about 18 years. For six or seven months out of the
year he bred stallions and palpated mares. His business card used
to have a picture on it with his arm up in a mare palpating it. He
could tell whether a mare was bred in about 18 to 20 days; he was
very good at it.
At that time I worked on all of his crippled horses and flew to Ft.
Worth, sometimes four times a month. George and I had been good friends
in Lubbock and then he moved to Ft. Worth. I said, "George, we really
need some help on these crippled horses," and he said, "Oh, Burney,
there can't be that many crippled horses in the world." And he has
his arm up this mare. I said, "George, this mare's got feet this long,
and they're curled up on the front and she just barely can get in
the chute." And he said, "She does. She has a problem, doesn't she?"
During the off-season I'd go to Ft. Worth and say, "Dr. George, what
are you doing tomorrow?" "Ah, nothing, it's dead down there; all the
mares are bred, nothing going on." He'd pick me up and we'd go and
work on crippled horses all day; two days in a row, twice a month
we'd do that. Then we got to where that's what he wanted to do. Then
we came up with the heartbar shoe. That wasn't George's idea, the
hoof resection wasn't George's idea. But we came up with the radiographic
techniques while driving down the highway. He drives down the highway
and he's answering the phone with this hand and he's drawing on a
napkin and saying, "Well, what about this? Look at this x-ray." But
that's where we came up with a wire on the front of the foot, the
thumbtack in the foot, and the wire on the bottom of the foot.
George Platt came up with a lot of those ideas, and we worked together
on the paper for the AAEP. That was a juried paper. We ought to have
more juried papers in horseshoeing. George and I, Dr. Harbaugh, and
Dr. Gene Snyder, who is now at Kansas State University, sat around
many a night cutting dead feet apart in the garage when I was in college.
The wives didn't like it at all because all we did was drink cold
beer and cut dead feet apart. That's how it all started. We'd sit
around and have intelligent discussions -- not a fight, not an argument,
not saying one guy was practicing medicine, and not one guy trying
to be bigger than the other. But we would make three mistakes and
then we'd have to admit: "Hey, that didn't work, let's go back to
the drawing board." And that's how it all got started.
ANVIL: So your current theories are based on years of experience,
you and Dr. Platt doing a lot of theoretical analysis, and working
with lots of live and dead feet.
BURNEY: The first hoof resection I did was at Dr. Ed Murray's clinic
in 1964 in Spur, Texas, on a guy's roping mare. I'll never forget
Dr. Murray saying, "When are you going to quit cutting?" We didn't
know about heartbar shoes then. In the early 60s, Dr. Jacques Denny
from Penn State was our hero when it came to foot problems. He was
the first guy who really went into acrylics -- building the foot back
with acrylic, getting everything back in alignment and then filling
the bottom of the foot up with acrylic.
That was in 1959. He gave that paper at the 9th Annual Meeting of
the American Association of Equine Practitioners. This guy was our
hero -- all the veterinarians who were fresh out of school when I
was still in school. I'd try anything and these guys didn't know anything
about the foot so they'd let me try. You know, they knew they were
going to lose so we just tried together.
I'll always remember Dr. Murray saying, "God, when are you going to
quit cutting on that thing?" I never did get any blood up and I said,
"Doc, what about all this old black stuff and see this green stuff?
That looks like some piece of horse manure that's been in there for
months." We cut in there, way back into that foot. Then we got it
all cleaned up and then filled it up with acrylic. We took the hoof
wall off so we could get to all this necrotic, dead material. But
then we thought we had to put something back on there so it would
look like a hoof. Well, we defeated our purpose. We took the hoof
wall out and we got all the rotten stuff out from under it and
then we filled it right back up with an acrylic that heated up to
a couple of hundred degrees Fahrenheit while it was curing. And within
a matter of 15 or 20 days we had another major abscess blow up.
In 1966 there was a horse called "Scooper Chick." He was one of the
first big stars of the American Quarter Horse racing industry. He
made a lot of money and was a very popular breeding horse. And he
came up with a case of laminitis; they put a shoe on him with a reverse
wedge pad. Then he got to laying down so somebody came in and they
cut the center out. They left the shoe in the reverse position but
they cut the center of the pad out. They x-rayed him again and everything
had fallen down a little bit farther. So the next guy came along and
said, "Well, the reason is they haven't lowered the heel enough so
the bone's not even over the ground; we need to lower the heel some
more. You couldn't lower the heel anymore so they raised the toe a
little more until they had the bone, the whole thing sticking out
the bottom of the foot, maybe an inch.
I'll never forget, it was in November of 1966, and I was at the Four
Sixes Ranch. They had a horse sale and the guy who owned the horse
called me on the phone. I didn't know this guy. The horse was in Norman,
Oklahoma. They had a big landing strip at the Four Sixes and I had
a friend who had a plane and so I said, "Well, I'll be back. I'll
see you guys later," and this guy flew me to Norman, Oklahoma. We
landed and we went to work on this horse. The horse had been laying
down for a long time.
Dr. Jenny had worked on the horse, and Dr. Jenny and Dr. Adams were
my heroes. It's a shame that they both aren't still alive because
I'm sure they would verify this story. By then I had figured out that
you can't take the foot off and then plug it back up. If you take
the stopper out of the bathtub to drain the water out and you put
the stopper back in the tub before you drain the water out, the water
doesn't leave the bathtub.
So, we were taking the foot off so we could get to this rotten stuff,
and then we covered it right back up, which worked real good for a
few days and then blew back up on us. Dr. Jenny worked on the horse
with me one time, the second trip I went up there. He said, "You know,
if we could ever figure out how to stop these abscesses, we might
fix one of these foundered horses." And I said, "Well, maybe we're
plugging up the bathtub before we get all the water drained out of
it." That was my simple-minded, kindergarten brain thinking. And Dr.
Jenny said, "You may be right."
The horse lived for a couple of years, but he lived a miserable existence.
He left there and went down to S. W. Stallion Station. The horse was
insured at that time, I think, for $75,000, and that was a lot of
money. The insurance ran out. When the guy ran out of money, he couldn't
put any more money into the horse. That was really the first expensive
horse that I ever worked on, but we learned a lot from that horse.
He didn't die in vain.
ANVIL: I think a lot of us, being in the practice of farriery or
veterinary medicine, owe a lot of our education to certain horses
that we have failed with, but we always keep in mind that that horse
didn't die in vain, that it taught us something. Then I think we can
proceed with a better outlook. .
BURNEY: Not only the horse, but the owner who was willing to spend
the money, which at that time was a lot of money. But some of us working
on those kind of horses worked for nothing, basically. We could stay
home and shoe horses or the veterinarian could stay home and worm
horses and give dogs their rabies shots and make more money than we
could working on those horses in those days. So some of us paid our
dues. It was like going to college. We documented all of this material,
and we said we failed and asked, why did we fail? Go back to the drawing
board and cut apart more dead feet. And you had to have a wife who
understood why you were in the barn every night cutting dead feet
apart. If you didn't have a good woman behind you, you were sunk.
ANVIL: Speaking of a good woman, you have four boys I understand.
BURNEY: Yes. Somebody said, "How did you have four boys when you
were never at home?" Well, they all look just like me. The youngest
will be a college freshman next semester.
ANVIL: And three out of the four are working as horseshoers to pay
their way.
BURNEY: Two of the three work shoeing horses. The oldest son is
mentally handicapped, but he's probably the only sane one in the whole
bunch. He doesn't care whether the Chinese are rioting. He doesn't
care whether somebody's horse is crippled. He just has a good time.
He comes home on the weekends and he has a good time and he's ready
to go back to his state school on Monday morning.
ANVIL: Have you ever had any affiliation with the handicapped riding
BURNEY: In many ways, indirectly, yes. The three younger boys are
all Eagle Scouts, and we have what we call in the Scout pro-gram,
"Handicapped Awareness Week," and these boys all have to go and work
with the handicapped. They have to tie their legs in a wheelchair
or they have to tie one leg up and work on crutches for a week with
these kids who are handicapped, both mentally and physically. Livestock
and people who are handicapped go hand-in-hand because the livestock,
even mean horses, won't hardly hurt a kid who is mentally handicapped.
They just won't do it.
It's amazing how smart the horse is if they know that the individual
is not a threat to them. A mentally handicapped child, if he doesn't
feel that you're a threat to him, is going to be your friend.
Brandon, our oldest son, used to stick his hands in a bad horse's
mouth and the horse would never bite him. He could go in a pen with
a horse that would kill anybody else. Everybody was worried about
him, but the horse never hurt him and he never hurt the horse.
ANVIL: Does he really like horses?
BURNEY: He likes everything. He likes a tree, he likes a horse,
he likes an eagle, he likes the fish. He likes everything. He's happy
and he just goes along. And now that his brothers are older and they've
been through the handicapped horse program, they accept him for what
he is. They have fun, they laugh together. He remembers faces, he
remembers names, he can sing, he can do a lot of things that some
of us can't do. But the handicapped horse program is really something
if you have the right horses. A lot of the crippled horses that can't
be athletically sound can help those kids. These horses for the handicapped
awareness programs have helped hundreds and hundreds of people.
ANVIL: I think what you started to touch on was really important.
If we can keep these older athletes going, and working with handicapped
people, we will be doing an incredible service to humanity. I would
like to see the American Farriers Association get behind the different
handicapped programs in supplying shoeing for these horses.
BURNEY: Let me give you an example of that. For instance, we have
the Texas Boys Ranch, we have the West Texas Boys Ranch, we have Cal
Farley's Boys Ranch. Cal Farley had the first rehabilitation (not
for the mentally handicapped) boys' ranch in the whole history of
the world, I think.
And now we have boys ranches in other places, and the ranches have
these old kind of horses we're talking about donated. They're real
gentle. They were either old roping horses or racehorses that had
gone into the jumping horse field, and they're 18 or 19 years old.
They are still sound, but they can't compete.
So, many years ago we'd go and shoe those horses for free. We charged
the regular price, it's just that no money changed hands. We would
go out to the Texas Boys Ranch in Lubbock and we'd shoe, say five
head of horses and trim five head of horses, and the bill, just a
guess -- $150 or $200. Instead of charging actual money for that,
we donated all of our services. All it does is make the farrier and
the veterinarian money when they donate their services to a worthy
cause such as handicapped riding or boys' ranches.
ANVIL: Speaking of sharing knowledge and services, is it true that
you traveled one million miles last year?
BURNEY: Not last year, but on one airline in the last couple of
years I went one million miles. I go about 700,000 a year on an average.
In the last two or three years prob-ably 50 percent of them are just
for clinics.
ANVIL: Are you trying to get other people knowledgeable in attending
to laminitic horses to the point where you can spend a little more
time at home?
BURNEY: Let's go back to 1981 with Dr. Bill McMullan from Texas
A & M University and Jack Miller. I didn't know Jack Miller any more
than I knew a pine tree in the Rocky Mountains, and Jack Miller never
heard of Burney Chapman.
I went to Houston to do this clinic. Jack Miller called me and I said,
"Sure." And he said, "I understand you have some foundered horses
down there." And I told him we had several. Jack asked if I could
get one there and I told him I doubted if anyone would haul one of
those expensive horses over to wherever this thing was.
So I went down there with a bunch of x-rays, antiquated x-rays, and
no viewer. These horseshoers had never seen an x-ray. That's how it
started. "How can we get an x-ray? We work on foundered horses everyday."
Dr. McMullan was there. That was the original clinic in 1981 or whenever
it was. So I'm up there talking and showing a zero radiograph. They
come out like a picture instead of a negative. They are beautiful.
I'm standing up there and finally somebody says, "Well, when are you
going to work on this crippled horse? When are you going to show us
what you can do?" And I said, "Gee, guys, I didn't . . . ."
A guy named Adolph Stricker said, "Don't worry, I've got a laminitis
case here, got it right out in the trailer." And I said, "Well, let's
unload her and get on with the program." Well, she's laying down on
her side, she can't even stand up. When they drag her out of the trailer,
she has sores on both sides of her. Jack Miller is videoing all of
this. We had the guys holding her up, and we have a board under her
Well, there were 4,000 dogs and a bunch of horseshoers in a big arena
out in Houston, Texas. The dogs are fighting underneath the horse
because we're digging maggots out of the feet. So all of the dogs
have congregated, and we have all of these people standing around.
These dogs smack everything down -- they wrecked the first video cassette,
and they wrecked the second one, and they wrecked the camera.
Well, we get the first heartbar put on the horse, and everybody sits
her down from holding her up, and she stands on this foot.
Those guys didn't come to watch me win. They came to watch me fail.
And you ought to see the shoe the farrier had on the horse. He had
a hinge on the front so he could jack the coffin bone back up. And
the next morning it would be down so he'd jack it up again until he
just pulled everything off.
But that's the way we were taught. Raise the toe or lower the heel
if the bone's not parallel with the ground, get it back parallel to
the ground and rasp the front of the foot off. Then take another x-ray
to show you did that.
ANVIL: So the philosophy at that time was to jam the coffin bone
back up into the foot.
BURNEY: Yes, but you forgot you had a fingernail. Hold the bone
in place and give the horse something to walk on. I mean it's a real
shame that we don't have this first case recorded on video.
ANVIL: What was the next milestone?
BURNEY: The next year was when they asked me to speak at the AFA
in 1981 and then 1982, and I believe it was 1983 when we had it in
The first clinic that I ever did was the one I just talked about in
Houston, the one where the dogs tore up the tape, and you had 100
guys standing around trying to watch you do this. It doesn't make
any difference if you're demonstrating how to build just a simple
horseshoe; 100 people can't stand around and watch that.
So somebody suggested that we put this on a video screen, so that
if there were 800 people in the audience, those people could sit in
relative comfort in an air-conditioned building and watch it on a
24 x 24 foot screen.
The night before we did this, somebody said, "You'd better go down
and check your slides." So Don Weiland, my wife and I went through
my presentation. I put my anatomy slides up on the screen; they were
simple anatomy slides -- this is the third phalanx, second phalanx,
first phalanx, this is the lamina, this is the hoof -- anatomy we
all could understand. Then I went into a little more complicated anatomy.
My wife said, "Burney, if you use those terms, you're going to lose
90 percent of the people." The night before she had heard some guys
say, "We don't give a damn what the guy is going to say because we've
fixed foundered horses before." And it really upset my wife, and she
said, "If you use big words like 'necrosis,' you're going to lose
The night before my presentation Don Weiland and I put these slides
through the projector and showed them on this great big movie screen,
and I'm talking. I have this electronic pointer -- I had never seen
one of those dudes before; I always used a broken old car aerial or
something similar. The next morning I go down there and Walt Taylor says,
"Oh, we're going to make you famous."
"I was more nervous than a whore in church. We brought this crippled mare up into the convention room. This is downtown Houston. We brought the mare up the service elevator through the kitchen of the Sheraton Hotel! This is the truth. I get up there and give my little presentation and it's on video. Some of you have probably seen the video; it's very crude, it's very common, but at that time it was the best we had.
ANVIL: That was a real breakthrough. There you were on stage, a non-veterinarian, doing what a lot of people would have considered a surgical procedure.
BURNEY: There wasn't any blood, was there?
ANVIL: Nonetheless, it's considered surgery in a lot of cases, but Dr. Platt, who had worked with you, was also there.
BURNEY: But he didn't go to that one; that was the next year. George didn't even bother to come to that one. My friend Dr. Platt and my friend Dr. Murray and all the veterinarians who had backed me said at the 1983 AFA Convention, "Burney, all you're going to do is stir up a can of worms if you get up there and do this."
Right wrong, or indifferent, whatever anybody says about me, I got up there and I did what I thought was right. Whether the heartbar shoe is right or wrong, whether hoof resection is right or wrong, it did one thing for both professions: it got their behinds off the middle of the fence. And there would have been a lot of horses that would have been dead today if it weren't for the heartbar shoe. You'd have a lot of horses dead today if it weren't for the hoof resection. It is not my fault because I cannot control what somebody does later, and lots of other people have done it successfully since. But I did open up a can of worms.

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