By Debbie Laure
If you have or have had kids in Vicksburg Middle or High School then chances are you’ve noticed Bill and Becky Ruh’s property. It sits across from the practice fields with the large wooden horse pulled wagon that is always filled with beautiful flowers in the summer and sits at the entrance to their very well kept farm.
Ruh, originally from Centreville began working with horses at 13 when he went to work for his school bus driver, who owned and raced Standard Breeds. He said,” He would never forget the first time he saw a Farrier with a coal forge in the back of his pickup, with black smoke spewing out the chimney. He loved it!” He decided to go to farrier school and started his business at age 20.
Traveling about 200 to 250 miles per day, Ruh generally goes north to about Plainwell, east to Albion College, south around Three Rivers and west to about Dowagiac. This is how he met his wife Becky whose love of horses sprang to life on a family trip to Mackinac Island. She was a horse owner at one of his stops and from time to time she would have to change boarding locations. She would say good-bye, but he would offer to go where ever she moved. He said,” I would have followed her to Ohio if that’s where she was going!” They were married and looking for property when Bill Austin, Becky’s employer at the time told them, ”they should buy the neighbor’s farm in Vicksburg” and they did, and that has remained their home.
They started a family and have two boys Billy and Michael. And a great dog named Sam. Becky gives riding lessons and holds riding camps in the summer. They have about eight horses on the farm, some of them belonging to former pupils looking for a place to board. There is a vegetable garden and a few other farm animals they raise for food.
Ruh’s farrier trailer is a masterpiece. It is set up so everything is within reach from the ground. He opens the back and is able to swing out his propane fueled forge from one side and turns around and swings out the anvil. He grabs down his chaps and is so adept at putting them on that he can buckle them with one hand while grabbing out some of the tools of his trade, pincers and a hammer to give a demonstration. These features make his job more efficient and more effective, so he can service more horses.
He has continued his education by getting his certification which took him from just shoeing horses to a certified farrier. To maintain the certification you are required to participate in continuing education classes every year which Bill does to keep his techniques and standards high. The classes taught him techniques of taking bar stock and forging it into custom horseshoes along with other more detailed work. A farrier’s routine work is mainly hoof trimming so the hoof keeps its proper orientation to the ground and of course, shoeing. Depending on the everyday life of the horse he may or may not need shoes and if he does then it would be determined what if any, special needs there are and what the horse does, like working on hard pavement or racing, so then the shoes would be made or altered to fit his needs. Certification is not a requirement in the USA to become a farrier. With his certification he became part of Michigan Horseshoe’s Association. They hold competitions that Ruh placed in and won a couple of times in different divisions. He also works with veterinarians on issues horses are having, that he may be able to help solve, such as diseased or injured hooves that may require certain procedures to heal or need special shoes. He has taken care of some world champion horses, racers, hunters, jumpers, show, and pleasure horses. In his weekly routine he has the Albion College’s equestrian team, four other large farms and individuals.
Ruh says, he loves his business. It has provided a living for his family, he gets to travel, meet and socialize with a wide variety of people and most of all care for horses.” His goals are to continue to offer the highest standards with the best customer service possible.”