By David Leestma

Farrier, Charley Bunyea, who e-mailed me upon his return to this area, has an interesting profession and story to share. Meet your new neighbor, Charley Bunyea.

You’re a new Polk County neighbor, but yet you have lived here before.  Tell us about your round trip journey to Monterrey, California, and back.  What prompted you to leave the area, and what brought you back?


The Bunyea family and Schimer.

The Bunyea family and Schimer.

I’m originally from a small town in NC off of I-40 by the name of Kernersville and what prompted me to leave?  The call to adventure and the road almost always leads West!  I think there is something within us all that is calling us to a higher, enriching experience of life.  If we can quiet ourselves enough to listen we can hear it but if it is ignored for too long it will fade.  Everybody hears it at some point in their life and for me it was a completely unplanned and unexpected journey to Monterey California with a beautiful girl.  To do what? To shoe horses and get married of course!  (All of which was also completely un-scripted, or was it?)  I’m close to mid-life and in hindsight when I look back on my experience of life so far I could say that it is like that of a perfectly written novel but the irony is that I wrote every page.  My wife is from Santa Cruz, CA and three months after we met we were driving cross-country with all of our stuff crammed in the back just like the Beverly Hillbillies!   The central coast of California is different yet similar to Western NC in so many ways.  The amazing beauty incorporated with water, mountains and the majestic redwood trees were certainly a sight to behold.  Aside from the landscape, the Monterey Bay is a marine sanctuary full of wildlife such as whales, seals, otters and sharks.  The drought facing CA was a reality that I have not experienced and it really affected everyone’s way of life.  My water usage was always in the back of my mind. It rained maybe a handful of times for a couple hours in the five years I was there.  I will say that the new Tryon Equestrian Center caught my attention when looking to escape the ever increasing and absurdly unaffordable place that CA has become.  I had remembered coming to Lake Lure as a child and thought, what a great place to live and raise a child!  There’s water and mountains and horses all over the region, and so off we went on another cross country caravan.

For some of us, the term “farrier” is not familiar.  What is a farrier, and how did you become one?

In short, a farrier is a specialist in horse hoof care which includes the trimming and balancing of hoofs every six weeks and the correct placement of steel shoes on horses’ feet.
Just a few hundred years ago the farrier was often the most important person in town; He was the town blacksmith, the mayor, town banker and even sold real estate.  I was a journalism major in college but always found myself working with horses in between jobs.  After a stint on the Outer Banks, NC, I moved to Raleigh where I took a job in Equine Radiology at the NCSU Vet School where I helped to take digital x-rays of horses feet, and it was there that I took a fervent interest in farriery. I then went to the oldest farrier school in the country in Virginia. After that I served an apprenticeship for three years where I worked with a mentor in Southern Pines, NC.   I most like the interdisciplinary nature of the profession.  You have to pull from so many different skill sets like blacksmithing, sculpting, biomechanics, locomotion, anatomy and just plain old business skills.

What gives you the most satisfaction as a farrier?

Charley and "Schimer", a Hanoverian horse belonging to Swedish trainer Jenny Gardner.

Charley and “Schimer”, a Hanoverian horse belonging to Swedish trainer Jenny Gardner.

There is a deep joy in doing something every day that makes you happy and means a lot to you.  For me in farriery, it’s a multitude of things like meeting new people and traveling the countryside.  In the past 12 months I’ve shod horses at places like Pebble Beach, Savannah Georgia and just recently, Biltmore Estate.  Farriery is hard work, there’s no doubt about it, but at the end of the day if I can help a horse and rider to move better together or help a horse get through some lameness, that’s what gives me the most satisfaction.

What would you like to achieve in your profession?

I would like to achieve the ability to pass on the profession of farriery to someone else, whether it’s my new baby boy or just somebody who want to keep this ancient craft going.

What do you like best about our larger western North Carolina community?

I have always felt at home here. The lush greenery, the opportunity for outdoor adventures and the rich history of Appalachia has always been of particular interest to me.  This place even has developed its own music (bluegrass) and styles of dance which many places can’t lay claim to.  I went to Western Carolina University and ever since I left I think I’ve been trying get back here.  I suppose my patience paid off!

A final comment, please.

Nothing good ever came from not working hard.  Work like a horse!  

Connect with Charley at: