Brendan "Captain Keith" Venne

Captain Keith, AKA Brendan Venne, has been in the school since February. Originally, he was going to be in the Farrier Blacksmith Course and follow it up with the Advanced Farrier Course. After seeing how much there was to know, how hard it was going to be to learn, and how we taught the material, he went in completely and signed up for the Journeyman Farrier Course.

For the record, almost every student wishes that they could stay for the longest class. However, it means more sacrifice and time, and is not a possibility for everyone. Brendan weighed the cost and decided it was worth it because he is the sort of man that is determined to be the best at whatever he does, whatever the cost. That is a great way to be if you want to be a great farrier.

Anyway, Captain Keith comes to the Heartland from Saranac, NY. He is 30 years old and has had a very unique past, all of it dealing with hard work. Working as a logger, dairy farmer, and vet tech is a great way to develop the badly needed work ethic to get through the HHS programs and survive as a successful farrier.

Beyond that, Brendan has had some very cool experiences herding sheep in the French Alps, harvesting coffee beans in Nicaragua and even spent some time in the Egyptian cotton fields. He has done some plowing, cultivating and harvesting with teams of Halflingers and Percherons in upstate NY, and that led him to his desire to work with horses.

Captain Keith is a newlywed, and his wife, Elsa, has been working at an organic truck farm in Springfield while Brendan has been in school. She is close enough to still see each other most weekends, and that has been a great help and motivator as Brendan works through achieving a diploma.

When Brendan was looking for farrier schools, he came across HHS. Through his research he decided that this would be the best fit for him. In his words, “I chose HHS because I heard that it was hard. The challenge was a big part of why Heartland Horseshoeing School appealed to me. I knew that I would get under horses every day and have 24-hour access to the forges. That counted for a lot.”

You can see that things are a little easier now that the final horse is passed


Captain Keith in the fire.

In my personal experience, the folks that hear about this school and think that it is too tough for them are probably right about that. We attract a very certain type of student, and those that shy away from the challenge will not fit in here like those that come here because of the challenge. Captain Keith is the embodiment of that sentiment.


He passed his final horse for the Journeyman Farrier Course, which is the same as the AFA Journeyman. (Four handmade clipped shoes in two hours to standard.) He had made it in time a few times just missing the standard by small points. When that horse was done he said that this was one of the hardest things that he had overcome. Farriery is a unique and perfect mix of intellectual and physical challenges. No wonder those with high level skills in this trade can make such a good living.

Brendan’s goals are not driven by money. He wants to be a great farrier so that he can first help the horse, and through that, do right by his clients. Ultimately, he hopes that farriery can lead to travel and educational opportunities as both a learner and a teacher of the craft. As he well knows, this is the sort of trade where a practitioner will never learn enough. I would say that Captain Keith is on track to be one of the future leaders of our industry.

Early days

Cody Striking for Captain Keith.

Watching a demo by Robbie Miller, ASF

Working on one of his final-horse runs

Front and center with Dr. Durham for the whole horse dissection.

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