Like hooves he trims, Wyoming farrier reshaped his life
January 8, 2016
Lives are like a wilderness with paths leading thousands of directions. Choose one and wait to see if you reach your chosen destination or, if the road ahead seems wrong, turn around and take another trail.
When Cody Quick was just 4 years old, his parents divorced. He and his two siblings moved with their mother to her parents' Longmont-area horse farm. His father moved away and the young boy never again saw him until Quick was in his 30s.
Soon thereafter, another man came onto the scene, which quickly turned ugly for the children. Quick distinctly recalls returning home from kindergarten in the fall of 1982 to find his mom packing her bags. At first delighted at the prospect of moving, he asked where they were going.
"I am going to Oregon," she replied matter-of-factly, "but you are staying here."
The boyfriend wanted to return to his home there but refused to take any of his new girlfriend's children along.
Crying and begging did the 5-year-old no good. His mother left and Quick never saw her again until he was in his 20s. He admits to being hurt and angry, with serious abandonment issues that he carried into adulthood. His grandparents were also left in the lurch; forced to deal with the angry little boy, his special needs brother and a baby sister, their methods were anything but nurturing.
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Said Quick, "Being of the Great Depression generation, they were stern, tough folks. Their philosophy in life was, 'If something doesn't work, beat on it until it does.' This applied to both horses and children. They never really tried to figure out why I misbehaved; they just beat on me every time I did something wrong."
He went on to explain that, after his grandmother was diagnosed with diabetes and took appropriate medications, beatings slowly gave way to time-outs. Physical abuse was replaced by emotional mistreatment. There were blocks of days to months when Quick wasn't allowed out of his room except for meals, chores and school. Summers were better because he was banished outside from sunup to sundown. The summer he was 13 he started his first horse, a broodmare named Ellie Mae. Having watched "Pa" (his grandfather) trim horses — albeit harshly — Quick also "gave it a whirl with nominal success," he said.
Early elementary school was a troubled time for him. He was expelled from second grade and placed into a special ed school. Once social workers began suspecting an abusive home situation, Quick's desperate grandmother yielded, finally recognizing that her bright grandson needed help. She placed him in a private Lutheran school, where he learned discipline through compassion and understanding. This was a glimpse into a world that didn't revolve around violence and rejection.
"Later in life I observed similar concepts utilized by great horsemen in training horses," said Quick, who is now a horseshoer and livestock owner/manager.
He eventually transferred to Faith Baptist School, which he credits for introducing him to Jesus Christ. Quick became a Christian and God began healing him from his abusive past, a process that he admits is an ongoing process.
After graduation, Quick served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps, married his high school sweetheart, Amy, then moved back to Colorado where he worked for the Denver Police Department as an officer on Capitol Hill.
Horses and agriculture were a powerful magnet, however. After several years in Denver, the Quicks moved to Chugwater, Wyo., where he took a low-paying ranch job. That led to a riding job at Padlock Ranch in Sheridan, Wyo., where he learned a form of horsemanship that takes into account the reasons for equine behavior. Reminiscent of the understanding he received at the Lutheran school, Quick studied the wiser method and began correcting horse behavior gently instead of "merely pounding on it to get a desired result".
Sheridan/Buffalo horse trainer Buck Brannaman's writings and videos followed, exciting Quick so much that he scraped up enough cash to eventually attend a Brannaman clinic. At about the same time, an old Padlock ranch hand suggested horseshoeing school to refine Quick's home-honed trimming skills. Tucson School of Horseshoeing won out in his search for the best course of study.
"If you've ever experienced winter in Sheridan, you'll understand why the idea of going to Tucson was so appealing!" Quick said.
Post shoeing school, he cowboyed full-time and began shoeing part-time. But a growing family combined with low ranch-hand pay eventually took the Quicks to the southeastern Wyoming/northern Colorado area where the coin flipped: full-time shoeing, part-time cowboying.
The techniques he learned about horsemanship from Brannaman and others well-serve him in his farrier work.
"Understanding when a horse is nervous or fidgety or lazy and how to address those issues has helped me immensely with gaining its cooperation in the shoeing process," he said. "I feel like I'm intrinsically different from some farriers … some of them enjoy the art of working with metal and the horse is just part of the deal. For me, the horse is the art. It's the part I enjoy and the tools of the trade are secondary."
Does reshaping hooves parallel reshaping a life? Both improve one's footing on paths traveled and sometimes relieves pain. Perhaps that's the true art.
As do other businesses working with the public, horseshoeing yields interesting experiences and Quick surely has many tales to tell of lessons he's learned.
"One time I had a guy call me up to shoe his horses and when I arrived at his farm he proceeded to brag and blow about his horses and how many race horses he'd trained," shared Quick. "Every single one of them was scared to death, however, and every time they'd flinch he'd either jerk their halter or hit them. Of course, the horses never got better but instead progressively got worse as the day went on. Meanwhile, this guy was just insufferable to be around."
He continued that, over the course of visiting the man's farm a few times, he learned that the disagreeable fellow had been married and divorced multiple times. Quick surmised that there must be a correlation to behaviors that destroyed those many relationships and tormented his animals. Ultimately unable to tolerate that client's stress-packed farrier sessions, Quick called it quits.
"I suspect the horses wished they'd had that option, too," he added.
Although sometimes dealing with "a few kooks out there," Quick is happy that the majority of his customers have been decent, caring people, some of whom have become longtime friends. Many clients give him and his family Christmas gifts every year; one even sent them to the Nutcracker ballet.
"That kind of generosity and loyalty blesses me to no end," Quick said.
Combining family with working life, Cody and Amy Quick are currently raising kids (the two-legged kind) and cattle in the Burns, Wyo., area. Along with three sons and a daughter, ages 2 through 14, the couple maintains Quick Livestock Company, LLC. The whole family enjoys horses and own several used in their ranch work. Several years ago, the Quicks began selling home raised, all-natural beef and pork. They recently purchased a freezer trailer (inspected by the state of Wyoming) to store, sell and deliver by-the-pound beef/pork products.
Also within the past year, Amy has "picked up the nips and rasp," informed her proud husband, to learn how to trim horses.
"Most days, you can find my wife and me side-by-side, whether trimming horses, fixing fence, feeding cows or chasing kids," remarked Quick.
That faithful, loving partnership, his proud role as a devoted father, and the gentle horse-handling methods he embraces are a far cry from his violent youth. He boldly proclaims that, with Christ's leading, he made a "Quick" turn-around from a painfully wrong direction onto a rich and fulfilling path. In this wilderness we call life, Cody Quick has found and made his way. ❖