Kenny Knowlton is a great example of an interesting friend, colleague and horseman that I get the joy of spending time with. Here is some of his story over the last 59 years or so.
I first heard of Kenny in the 1990s from Grant Moon when he talked about going to Brazil. Grant has a lot of great stories of that time, and you will see how that weaves into Kenny’s life a little later in this blog. I actually talked to Kenny on the phone once around 1997, but I am sure he doesn’t remember that.
Kenny grew up in the ranch country of the southern Arizona desert. When he was 15, he got a job on the Adobe Ranch close to Magdalena, New Mexico. He went there to start colts, but within a year he found himself as the cow-boss on the 360-section, (over 200,000-acres) ranch. They had about 2,000 cows year round, but could handle another 9,000 steers on the summer pastures. Part of his job was shoeing, so he would do the shoeing required of him as cowboys have done since the beginning of cowboys.
Kenny was one of six kids and he left his family young when the job on the Adobe Ranch came up. The following year, he got his dad a job as a foreman, and his dad kept that job for the next ten years.
In 1978, at the age of 20, an opportunity came up for Kenny to move to Brazil. A Mexican neighbor named Macario wanted someone to run a quarter horse operation in Brazil. That person became Kenny and he moved to Brazil and lived in the middle of nowhere training quarter horses. In 1980 Kenny and Macario became partners in another ranch and Kenny was able to move closer to a town. That lasted for the next 8 years, but things were also changing for Kenny as well.
While in Brazil, time went on and Kenny’s visa expired. This was when Benedito Araujo was born. Benedito was from the end of the last trail where you could see the edge of the world, and he needed a Brazilian passport and papers. Easier to do then than now, so Kenny became a new person for long enough to get back to the US and regain his US citizenship and American passport. The interviewer at the Brazilian Embassy was certainly impressed with how well Benedito was able to speak English. Must have been quite a missionary that visited the edge of the world.
In 1987, Kenny won and placed second in every big cutting show in Brazil. He won the national title and even came to the US and placed in the Super Stakes. His horse ranch had over 80 horses in training, and at the end of the year, he was still without any money to show for it. Kenny says, “I looked at it, and I had done as well as a trainer as I could do. Since there was no money in what I was doing, I had to look into something else, and that is when I decided to really get into shoeing.”
Kenny contacted Grant Moon and had him go to Brazil every month for the next 3 years. Kenny used these visits as his farrier school, and this led to the skills that he uses now. In 1991, Kenny became a full time farrier around Arascatuba, Brazil. Ole Mustad was the main man in charge of Mustad back then, and he met Kenny and had him start doing a few farrier clinics. He is still doing clinics for Mustad to this day, although he is even better known for his horsemanship clinics that he has done on four continents.
1994 is when he moved to Fort Worth, Texas. He shod horses there for the next four years and ended up moving back to Brazil in 1998. He did clinics, shod horses, rode a few and pretty much stayed in the middle of the South American Quarter Horse scene until 2014. There was a 3 year stint in there where he ended up going to the United Arab Emirates to shoe some horses. That led to him running a ranch in the UAE and he was only in Sao Paulo for a few weeks a year during those years.
2014 found Kenny moving back to the US, (legally this time) and running another ranch in Florida. As time passed, that has turned into fulltime shoeing, and you can now find him and his wife, Karla, in the Ocala, Florida area where Kenny primarily shoes Eventers and Gypsy Vanners. Of course he still has a hand in the quarter horse world and keeps shoes on several quarter horses as well.
Kenny and I have done one clinic together in Mexico City, and we are about to do our second one this weekend. To say that we work well together would be an understatement, and I am just happy to have someone that will take up my slack and carry the load. He is a gifted farrier and a great speaker who is equally talented in Portuguese, Spanish and English, (just ask the lady at the embassy). Our last clinic really flowed well and I felt like we had worked together for years instead of just hours. We will see if this one goes well enough to get another blog at the end of the weekend. Stay tuned faithful reader, and thank you for reading.