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Living by the Cowboy Code

From a young age, Doug Butler has always had an affinity for the cowboy way of life.

From a young age, Doug Butler has always had an affinity for the cowboy way of life.

He grew up on a farm in New York State. His mother was from Massachusetts and as Butler puts it, “was always horse crazy.” Later, she imported and raised champion Welsh ponies. His father was raised in Arizona with a dairy background.

He recalls that as a teenager in the 1950’s his dad took him to Arizona to visit a friend on a cattle ranch, and from there Butler got the cowboy and rodeo bug in his blood. He fondly says, “I was ruined after that.”

Little did he know that his pastime was the unofficial foray into his lifetime career as a farrier. Butler tells that back then to rodeo and be a cowboy it was essential to know how to shoe your own horse. To learn the trade, he watched their local farrier, then went West and worked on ranches where he honed his skill.

Butler, eventually earned a PhD in equine sciences and has taught the farrier trade at numerous universities across the country, has authored several books on the subject, and has been blessed with a wonderful wife and seven children.

However, Butler hasn’t just focused on teaching the skills to becoming a good farrier, throughout his career he has also parlayed an important message about work ethic and character to his students – and his own children – as well.

Butler explains that cowboy heroes like Gene Autry and Roy Rogers showed how to treat others with respect. Butler calls it the “cowboy code,” and says, “I thought it was a good standard to live by.”

Thus, he incorporated those principles into his teachings and his family life and has documented many of those life lessons in a book he published in 2006 titled "The Cowboy Code: A sure-fire guide to ridin’ the trails of life.” Butler has even done speaking engagements – with a few rope tricks thrown in – to share his philosophy.

In the book, Butler chronicles the courtesy, conscience and common sense of many early American leaders and cowboy legends including Ben Franklin, Zane Grey, Will Rogers and Gene Autry. Butler then shares some of the lessons he and his wife used in raising their seven children. Some of these include:

  • Be a hero – Through clean-living mothers and fathers can set good examples of responsibility and integrity for their children.
  • Create a family brand – Determine what kind of legacy your family wants to be known for and live up to that expectation.
  • Master a skill – Teach children the value of work ethic and being good at what they do.

Today, Butler is continuing his efforts to share the Cowboy Code and the teach the farrier’s craft through his newest venture a professional farrier school that he has established near Crawford, Neb., in 2007. In the venture, Butler is joined by two of his sons, Jacob and Peter.

Ultimately, Butler says his reason for establishing the private school is to “raise the standard of farrier education in the country and promote the welfare of horses.”

Courses run six weeks in length which Butler has found to be the right amount of time for students to truly learn the craft. Classes are kept small, so that each individual is given close supervision.

He says, “Throughout my career I noted somebody might have skill, but didn’t always have character. You need both. Our goal is to produce people who can be trusted.”

He strongly believes that successful relationships with horses or people are based on communicating expectations and establishing habits. Those are the foundation of The Cowboy Code. Butler says he hopes his sage advice will help individuals forge firm foundations that they can live by.

Click here for more information about Butler’s book and the presentations he offers on the topic.