Doug Butler Farrier Clinic in the Holy Land

I was invited by Guy Karsh, a former student, to go to Israel to do a clinic for farriers and equine veterinarians. My wife and I traveled there and gave a two and a half day program the last part of November. There were 30 farriers, 27 vets and 33 horse owners in attendance at the programs. There are about 30 to 50,000 horses in Israel with 50 to 60 farriers and 50 to 60 vets that work on horses. There are 7.2 million Israelis. They are 0.1% of the world’s population.

We felt very safe there. There are armed guards everywhere. And the ranches were all surrounded by high fences and guarded by dogs. The weather was perfect. The ranch where the event was held was a beautiful oasis garden just outside of Tel Aviv. It was owned by a gentleman named Arik Raizner, who was very kind to us. The venue was perfect.

The clinic emphasis was on Founder and Limb Length Disparity. Each person received a copy of Life Data’s Laminitis and Founder, written by Dr. Gravlee and myself. Guy constantly reminded us, “We are making history,” for this was the first time such a thing was ever attempted in Israel. It was very well received. The mornings were occupied with lecture and discussion. A delicious lunch was served, and in the afternoon we did hands-on shoeing.

The first afternoon, with the farriers and veterinarians, we did demonstrations on foundered horses. We were fortunate to work with veterinarian Amos Frishling, using his digital radiographs. Both horses were improved after we worked on them, and there was good discussion and interaction.

The second day, with the farriers, we talked about balance. Several brought horses with problems that we were able to solve, working together. The farriers had modern rigs and were knowledgeable. I was impressed with the horse owner’s level of horse knowledge and concern for their animals. One horse that we did had previously fractured a navicular bone. I made and fit some bar shoes and was able to see a very positive change in the horse.

The third day, we talked about balance and answered horse owner’s questions. Many farriers came again, too.  

I was very impressed by the Israelis. They are a happy and committed people. They are happy to be in their homeland. And they love their families. They are modest. They eat healthy. They believe in being prepared. Military service is compulsory – 3 years for men and 2 years for women. They all have weapons in their homes and know how to use them. They seem to have the same four problems as Arizona: hot weather, lack of water, poisonous snakes and dangerous aliens.

The first day after our arrival, we toured Jerusalem with Guy and Dr. Rachael Shuster, a former student of mine at CSU and now a horse vet in New Jersey. Her mother lives in the old city, and she was raised there. Guy had connections with the Jerusalem Mounted Police since he shoes their horses. We started our tour at their stable which is inside the old walls right below David’s Tower. The stable is very old. They employ a young trainer whose full-time job is to train and keep the horses fit.

Most of the police horses are large warm bloods, especially Friesians and Hanovarians. The police ride Western saddles made in the U.S. and carry a lot of riot-suppressing equipment in their saddle bags. The horses and riders are protected from rocks by various pieces of armor and helmets. They are shod with rubber shoes and some have steel plates to protect their feet from caltrops that may be thrown down by terrorists during a riot.

Security in Israel is unbelievable. Even though the guards at the entrance to the stable compound knew Guy, they still checked for bombs under his car. Going in to visit the Western Wall was like going into an airport. People and packages are checked with scanners and physically. On most of the ranches we visited they had high electrified fences with dogs that are turned loose at night.

There were soldiers everywhere, even at street intersections. Military service is required of all Jewish Israelis. Arabs are prohibited from serving in the military. In addition, along with the most religious Jewish clergy, Arabs don’t pay taxes. They mostly live in their own cities. Those that don’t live in Hebrew or Arab cities live in “mixed” cities. Palestinians are not allowed into Jerusalem and other Jewish areas for security reasons.

Jerusalem is a divided city – meaning that there are different quarters that are dominated by different religious groups. The shops are mostly in the Muslim or Arab quarter. We first visited Golgotha, or the place of the skull, where Christ was crucified. It is outside the old city walls and not far from the Garden Tomb, where many church authorities agree that His body lay until He was resurrected. Others believe that Christ was crucified in a place that is now within the city and He was placed in a tomb on the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

We passed through Stephen’s Gate (where Stephen was taken outside the city and stoned by Saul – Acts 7) and began our walk on the Via Delorosa (Path of Sorrows). This is the traditional path that Jesus walked as he was imprisoned, condemned, scourged and where he carried the cross to Calgary. There are 14 points on the Via Delorosa. It starts where Jesus is condemned by Caiaphas and ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. At each of the points there is a church as a monument to the event said to have occurred there.

We then crossed the valley and went into the Garden of Gethsemane, which is at the base of the Mount of Olives. Some of the trees are more than 2000 years old and would have been there when Christ prayed, as he worked out the Atonement for you and me.

The next day we went north to Galilee. We passed through the Valley of Jezreel where the Battle of Armageddon is to take place. It is a rich agricultural valley, the most fertile in Israel.  Our guide was a man from a kibbutz on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. He was in charge of banana plant propagation on a large plantation.

A kibbutz is a community of people who share resources. No one owns land and all that is produced and sold goes into a community fund. Each family receives a stipend and they usually all eat together at least one meal a day. Rules vary for each kind of businesses the people of the kibbutz own. Persons coming into the kibbutz must wait a year and show they have good character. Then they are voted on by the members before they can join. Later we visited the famous artist blacksmith Uri Hofi, who also lives in a kibbutz.

At the Sea of Galilee, we went to the area where it is believed that Jesus performed the miracle of the loaves and the fishes. Nearby the Sermon on the Mount was given. Where the sermon occurred was probably about a mile outside the city on a hillside. Last, we went to Capernaum, on the northern end of the Sea of Galilee. There is a church built over the top of the remains of the home of the apostle Peter. His home was next to the Sea and is very close to the remains of the synagogue where Christ preached (Mark 1:21).

After the clinics we traveled south to the Dead Sea. Guy had lived near the Dead Sea when he was younger and had shod horses for Itzik, the man who ran a horse riding concession at the Kalia Kibbutz that owns the site of the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran. Itzik was very knowledgeable about the Essene people who were apparently like monks who wrote and copied biblical manuscripts on to scrolls. The prevailing theory is that many of the scrolls found here were apparently taken from the temple library in Jerusalem to hide them from the Romans before they destroyed the Temple in 70 A.D. Copies of all of the books of the Old Testament have been found here, except the Book of Esther. Itzik wonders if the Arc of the Covenant isn’t still hidden nearby! He told us that the Dead Sea is going down about a meter a year. I asked if their government is doing anything about it. He said, “Yes, they’re talking about it!” Some things are the same everywhere you go.

 Last of all, we went to Masada. This was the stronghold of the Jewish Zealots who held out against the Romans until 73 A.D. We went up on a cable car to the top rather than walk “the snake path.” The ramp made by the

Romans to breech the fortress was clearly visible. There were many storerooms and cisterns to hold supplies of food and water. Herod’s palace was built here in 37 B.C. and is hung on the side of the mountain where he felt safe for a time. Soon after his death in 4 B.C., the Romans took it over. Before the Romans could breech the walls and force the Jewish people into slavery, the Zealots killed their families and themselves. Israelis soldiers are sworn in here with the words, “Masada shall not fall again!” The horses that were used in the Hollywood movie “Masada” were shod by Guy’s father.

Near Guy’s house and property is the ancient city of Geza, inhabited at the time of King Solomon 3000 years ago. There is also a beautiful forest and park nearby where his family can ride their horses.

Even though we thoroughly enjoyed the weather, and were treated royally by our hosts Guy and his wonderful wife Liat, we were very glad to get back to the United States. We now have a new appreciation for Biblical events. We, more than ever, recognize the importance of family ties. God bless all of us to remember the true spirit of Christmas brought to us by Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

  1. Jon WhiteDecember 21, 2010   

    Sounded like a trip of a life-time.

  2. Jim GoedeDecember 21, 2010   


    I have been a farrier for about 9 years now, but prior to that I was in high-tech for a number of years. In that time, I worked for 2 israeli-based companies, and made many trips to Tel Aviv. In that time I had many of the same experiences that you had (I could tell you some interesting stories). I got to know them as warm genuine people…ableit at times a bit stubborn. It would be an interesting experience taking my current vocation there.

    I have one question relating to one of the horses you worked on there. I have a paint mare that I shoe that has a broken navicular bone. It was broken a couple of years prior to me working on her, and by the time I saw her, the foot with the broken bone had atrophied and looks somewhat like a club foot (smaller and more heel). I tried a couple of things, but found that what seems to work on her is an aluminum navicular eggbar shoe (for heel support and light weight), with a soft no vibe pad and equipad injected underneath for shock obsorbsion. She seems to do well, although she has a somewhat stilted gate. When I look at the shoes after 7 weeks, the toes are worn evenly, which makes me think I’m doing the right thing. I haven’t seen many references to shoeing for this kind of injury. Any additional things I can/should do?

    • Butler Farrier SchoolDecember 27, 2010   


      It sounds like you are doing the right thing for the horse. There is a picture in Principles of Horseshoeing III, pg 711, of a horse that I shod with the exact same problem. I put clips on the sides of the shoe to stabilize the foot after he had broken the navicular bone. Keep up the good work.


  3. English StoneDecember 21, 2010   

    Wow! That was a very interesting letter! My wife and I have talked about making a trip to Israel, maybe soon. I hope you and yours have a most wonderful and safe Christmas!

    God Bless,
    English Stone

  4. Rick SpencerDecember 21, 2010   

    Dr. Butler what an ultimate gift for you and your wife to visit Israel and to put on a clinic for the Farriers and vets. Also to see and walk where our savior commenced his work and died for our salvation. What a spiritual joy you must of experienced. It has been a goal of my since childhood to visit Israel and Lord willing I plan to make a trip to Israel in the next couple of years. God Bless and Merry Christmas.
    Rick Spencer Farrier from Oregon

  5. Jacov BashiDecember 21, 2010   

    Shalom Dr. Butler!
    I enjoyed to read this article very much!!
    I been in Kibutz Kalia between 1974-1978 there i started to trim my horses.

    I’ m very glad that you and Mrs Butler enjoed the trip in my land,
    Israel need good friends like you.

    jacov Bashi

  6. Darrell HaynesDecember 21, 2010   

    Dr. Butler,
    I enjoyed reading this article. I agree that we should put aside all the commercial aspects and look at the real reason for Christmas. The greatest gift ever given.
    Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  7. DAVID HILL DVMDecember 21, 2010   


  8. Tom McNewDecember 22, 2010   

    We are so proud of yall …Wish we could all have made the journey with you …Merry Christmas …Tom Sandy and Lane

  9. Paul AppelquistDecember 22, 2010   

    Thanks for the fasinating sccount of your trip. Wish I could have been there.

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