WRITTEN BY TENLEE LUND | PHOTOGRAPHED BY ANDREA BAUMANN
A CENTURY IS A LONG TIME, ESPECIALLY IN THE HORSE WORLD, where the animals’ tasks have evolved from mainstays for transportation and farm work to more discretionary uses. Yet Larry Curell’s family history with horsemanship goes back more than one hundred years. His great-grandfather was a member of the U.S. Cavalry.
Larry picks up a black-and-white photo of his grandfather, Russell Underwood, his uncle Larry (his namesake), and himself as a boy, and says, “That is what started it all. Three generations—that was the root of all of it right there.”
Larry grew up on a working ranch, breaking horses, and branding cattle. His grandfather had a blacksmith shop in the back of the barn. “The way I see it, it’s a lost art. I grew up with it and took a lot of pride in it.”
He’s the only one from his generation who stayed in the industry. His brothers, sister, and cousins all chose different paths, “but I wanted my kids and my grandkids to understand what it is to grow up raising animals and understanding animals and having that love for them like I do.
“Sara grew up in a barn,” he says, remembering taking his oldest daughter with him when she was six months old. While other kids were playing video games, “my kids were cleaning box stalls and taking care of horses.”
Son, Cody, has been going along on farrier calls with his father since he was six years old. Larry says, “I’ve had him pulling shoes since he was eleven and trimming since he was fourteen. I had him nailing shoes on by the time he was sixteen, the same thing my grandpa did with me.”
Cody laughs, saying, “It was a big learning curve.” The first time he pulled the shoes off a horse, the animal stepped on his foot and smashed his toe. The first time he actually nailed shoes on a horse it took him two-and-a-half hours to get the first one on—and his father made him pull it off because it wasn’t done right.
Now father and son have developed a seamless partnership. The work flows between them effortlessly, even as they trim and shoe twenty-five horses in a day. “The connection is incredible,” Cody says, trying to explain how they work so closely that one knows what the other needs when neither has said a word. “The last couple years have been like that. When I first started, it was not like that,” he laughs.
The three—Larry, Sara, and Cody—have all fallen in and out of love with aspects of the horse industry before coming together to form the nucleus of the Curell businesses. Larry actually quit shoeing some twenty-five years ago after he burned out on the business. For two years he worked in construction before customer demand—and his love for the animals—brought him back.
Cody trained to be a diesel mechanic but after six months of “the same thing every day,” he was bored. He came home for a summer, started shoeing horses, and “that was it. You can see new places every day and meet new people.” He was hooked.
Sara enrolled in a pre-veterinary program but, as she shadowed female veterinarians, she “realized they didn’t have families.” This triggered some soul-searching and led her to chiropractic medicine. Eventually Dr. Sara became the first certified animal chiropractor in northern Minnesota. She works on horses, dogs, and cats in addition to people.
“She’s really improved our business,” says Cody, although he admits he was skeptical at first. “When she came home with all that chiropractic stuff I thought it was just a joke.” Then she successfully adjusted the shoulder on his roping horse and “that horse went off like a million bucks.”
Now Cody says Sara’s contributions have “taken our business to the next level.” She’s also saved her brother and father from some physical encounters with horses that can weigh a thousand pounds or more. If a horse doesn’t stand still to have its feet worked on, it could be because it’s painful for the animal. Some localized stretching can alleviate the stiffness, protecting both horse and farrier.