The profession of farriery lost one of its greatest members on November 11, and the horse world lost a great friend.
When I was still a wet-behind-the-ears shoe-horser down on the Charleston islands, I began hearing and reading about Burney's work in the national horse magazines. At a time when few shoers did more than try and get their iron to stay on the hoof without making the horse limp too obviously, this guy was being called upon to travel the country to use his horseshoeing skill and the techniques he'd developed to save horses the vets normally would've wanted to put down.
As I developed into what I would now call a "real farrier", I learned more about Burney's techniques. It wasn't hard to do, because Burney never kept his light under a bucket or tried to maintain any kind of monopoly with his approach. He shared what he had learned and the information became available to any farrier who made the effort to learn it. In time, I adapted Burney's techniques into my own approach. Usually with good success.
I got to know Burney in person several years ago at a farriers convention. My friend Henry Heymering (farrier, author, and current Guild President) knew him, and bummed a lift from the hotel to the equestrian park for us. Burney was about six and a half feet of lanky, gray-haired Texan, and he met us on the parking deck carrying a couple of aluminum suitcases. When you travel as much as he did, it's easy to forget what your rental car looks like. So he set his bags down and wandered around the lot looking for it. (We couldn't help, since we hadn't a clue what he was driving.) Burney found the car, and Henry and I each grabbed a suitcase and headed that way... We dang-near wrenched out shoulders out of their sockets! We figured the suitcases were full of spare clothes or papers, but they were full of HORSESHOES for Burney's lecture display. Must've weighed 80# each.
In the years that followed, I got to visit with him and listen to him speak on other occasions (too few for my liking). Although he had every right to be aloof as a living legend in farrier world, he always greeted me as though I were an old friend and peer. I always felt that I learned more in a few minutes of casual chat with him than I did in hours of studying technical journals.
Burney was dedicated to raising farriers to the level of professional experts worthy of respect. He called me on the phone when he joined the Guild, and told me that he'd support the organization so long as it worked to promote professionalism. If the Guild became another source of cheap credentials for incompetent shoers, he'd quit in a heartbeat. I felt the same way.
Burney volunteered his time to be a lecturer at the Guild's national convention in Knoxville last year. He'd been through surgery to remove a brain tumor some months before, and appeared to be well on the mend. With the help of his son, he made a great presentation. That evening I joined him with a small group of farriers for dinner. Despite all he'd been through, the man was still great company, and a wellspring of knowledge.
Although many of us will continue to implement and expand on his life's work, Burney Chapman's passing leaves a hole that will never quite be filled in the world of farriers.
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