Amish man's expertise with horses in high demand on P.E.I.

Perry Kuepfer's work as a farrier has taken him well beyond the Amish community.

Perry Kuepfer has been busy working as a farrier since moving to P.E.I. in 2016

Perry Kuepfer shoes Penny, who pulls a buggy for a local Amish woman, in his barn in Dundas, P.E.I., recently. (Shane Ross/CBC)

Frank, a 2,100-pound Percheron draft horse, was fine until you tried to touch his feet — then he'd start kicking. Nobody could trim his hooves or put horseshoes on him, says Sarah Greenan, the owner who rescued him from the slaughterhouse.

Nobody, that is, except a 35-year-old Amish man in Dundas, P.E.I., named Perry Kuepfer.

"Perry taught that horse one real quick lesson and the horse never acted up again," Greenan said. "And I'll say that Frank was pretty dangerous to go near."

Greenan, the owner of Emerald Isle Carriage Tours, is one of a growing number of Islanders who are hiring Kuepfer for his expertise with horses.

"Horse shoeing is definitely an art," Greenan said. "He does excellent work."

Kuepfer works six days a week in the summer shoeing and trimming hooves for Island horse owners. (Shane Ross/CBC)

Kuepfer works six days a week in the summer — never on Sunday — and his services have become so much in demand that he has had to turn people away.

It's more laid back than Ontario. People out here are never in much of a hurry.— Perry Kuepfer

He not only shoes most of the buggy horses for the Amish community in eastern P.E.I., but also hundreds of racehorses and and draft horses from around the Maritimes.

"It's a lot harder than it looks," said Kuepfer, a humble man who agreed to be interviewed but asked that his face not be shown in pictures. "Start picking up their feet when they're little, they get used to it."

Like other Amish people, Kuepfer doesn't drive a motorized vehicle. Customers will either pick him up in their vehicles, bring their horses to his barn or, if it's too far for his horse and buggy to travel, Kuepfer said he will hire a driver. He's also taken the bus when travelling off-Island for work.

'Very gentle'

Cookie Jager of Red Point says she and two other horse owners in eastern P.E.I. take turns driving Kuepfer to their stables to get their horses shoed and trimmed.

"He's a good farrier," Jager said. "Easy to talk to, very gentle … I hope I can keep him."

Kuepfer said he's happy living on P.E.I. He moved from Ontario two-and-half-years ago with his wife and two children. They are soon expecting a third.

Because the Amish don't consume electricity, Kuepfer uses a fan powered by gas generator to keep Penny cool while he works on her. (Shane Ross/CBC)

His parents and five siblings live nearby.

"It's more laid back than Ontario," Kuepfer said. "People out here are never in much of a hurry."

Kuepfer said he's been working as a farrier for about 16 years. He worked on the family dairy farm in Ontario, and has worked in construction, but said horses are his passion.

"I like horse shoeing the best," he said. "I get to shoe a lot of horse show horses and race horses."

Sarah Greenan of Emerald Isle Carriage Tours has been getting her horses shoed by Kuepfer for two years. (Shane Ross/CBC)

Greenan has been bringing her nine horses — including Frank — to Kuepfer once a month for the last two years.

Because they are bigger horses that pull carriages on city streets, shoeing them is more challenging, Greenan said.

"Mine have like a sneaker in between the hoof and the shoe for padding, and they also have a lot of grip put on the bottom of the shoe so they don't slip."

Kuepfer shoes most of the buggy horses for the Amish community on P.E.I. (Shane Ross/CBC)

Greenan said Kuepfer's knowledge of horses goes well beyond shoeing.

"We've gone over all my horses' conformation and Perry can tell me what's going to go wrong with them and when," she said.

"I don't think I'd ever buy a horse again without taking Perry with me."

Kuepfer's buggy sits outside his barn in Dundas. His customers will pick him up in a vehicle if it's too far to go in the buggy, or they will bring their horses to his barn. (Shane Ross/CBC)

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About the Author

Shane Ross

Shane Ross is a former newspaper and TV journalist in Halifax, Ottawa and Charlottetown. He joined CBC P.E.I.'s web team in 2016.