Growing up on a cattle ranch in South Dakota, Lee Olsen was always around horses. Riding with his parents as early as six months old; horses, cattle and all things ranch work related fell into everyday life. After rodeoing and training horses in high school and college, Lee decided to make a career change. He decided that becoming an Electrician was the way to go, graduating from Western Dakota Tech as an Industrial Electrician. “I thought I’d be working more with my head than my back, but it turns out no one works harder than an apprentice electrician!” he says, “I figured if I was going to work hard, I wanted to do I my way, and get paid well for it.”
Lee wanted to learn how to shoe his own horses and had taken a short farrier course in South Dakota. Eleven years ago, after marrying his wife Jamie, they moved to Texas and Lee started to take farrier work more seriously. However, the more he learned, the more he realized a little knowledge does not go a long way when it comes to horses.
“When I decided to go through the certification process, I figured it would be easy, but I actually failed the shoeing portion, and it was the biggest eye opener I’ve ever had.” Lee states emphatically. “Ever since I’ve had a fire in me with regards to the dangers of not knowing what you don’t know. No one will ever now all there is to know about shoeing, and if you’re not willing to keep learning you’re not going to be able to help the horses way you should.”
This passion and determination carried Olsen through the journeyman certification as well. “When I failed basic farrier certification, I had never made a handmade shoe in my life, but I said I will be a journeyman! I just attacked it and went to 11 clinics in 12 months.” Lee pursued his journeyman certification with everything he had, all while juggling a full-time business and family.
This passion for learning and growing has led directly to Lee running Olsen Equine, a first-rate farrier facility in central Texas. “The way we design our shop is for these animals to feel safe and comfortable.” he says “They are far enough apart that they can’t touch, but they can all see each other. They’re herd animals so they find comfort in being able to see other horses in the shop while we’re working on them.”
Why is it important for the shop layout to comfort and sooth the horses? “A lot of horses don’t get prepared at home for the farrier. The fact is the horse has to like you and it has to respect you.” Lee says “A spoiled horse that doesn’t respect you, or a horse that fears you, are both equally dangerous. Horsemanship as a farrier is incredibly important, you’ve got to be able to read those situations and handle them in such a way that you and the horse are safe.”
Even though Lee is considered an expert in his field, he never loses his humility, nor his passion for learning. “Listen, if you’re going to be a bear, be a grizzly.” He says, laughing “I have weekend clinics all the time. I pay to have other farriers from all over the country come down here to teach our team. I’ll show them some of my tough cases and learn what we can do better to help horses. There is always more to learn in this business.”
His passion for learning is only rivalled by his passion for teaching. He has three hand-picked interns that are all learning their craft from him, and they will also earn their journeyman’s certification. Lee says he considers them family and looks after them like they are his own. He also regularly holds clinics for the general public to learn more about their horses’ feet and for farriers to improve their business.
The main challenge Lee has struggled with is how to say no to his customers. “It’s tough because you get to know them, and their horses, and you just want to do everything there is to do for them.” He says “But I love my family more than anything and I have to make sure I have time for them. When I first started out, when my son was a baby, I worked so much that I threw out my back bad enough I couldn’t pick him up out of his crib. That’s when I said to myself ‘OK, slow down.’ My shop is open Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm. The fact is, if I don’t take care of myself, if I don’t take care of my family, then I can’t take care of my customers’ horses. If I’m tired, or angry, or my back hurts, it will effect everything else.”
As a businessman, Lee Olsen has figured out that rest and time off are equally important to a successful operation. A great nutrition program is also important. Four years ago, he was introduced to Alfa-Pro. “We provide farrier services for Rocking P Ranch, and over time I’ve noticed how healthy and fit the horses always looked. 90% of the horses out there are able to go barefoot, and as a farrier that says a lot to me about how healthy their hooves are. I feed it to my own personal horses and have had zero issues.”
Hi-Pro Feeds is proud to partner with Olsen Equine. Stay tuned for his best advice on preparing your horse for the farrier!