Harley Larsen always knew he would work with horses. Growing up on 20 acres in Langley, he spent his formative years learning from them.
“My mom and grandmother owned thoroughbred racehorses and my dad owned standardbreds,” he said.
His grandfather, Bruce Larsen, former editor-in-chief of the Vancouver Sun, founded the British Columbia Standardbred Breeders Society and was a member of the BC Racing Commission.
“My family roots in horses in the province is very deep,” said Larsen.
From age three, Larsen was out in the paddock picking up their language, he said, and by eight he was grooming racehorses with his dad.
“The knowledge that I have of horses, even though I’m relatively young, there’s not a whole lot I haven't seen or dealt with because I’ve been doing it my whole life,” he said.
After working as an assistant trainer and managing show-jumping barns, he trained as a farrier at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.
“A farrier to me in this day and age is basically an equine podiatrist,” said Larsen. “You need to understand first and foremost the anatomy and biomechanics. Essentially we look after the overall condition of a horse's foot, whether it’s barefoot or wearing shoes.”
Farriery may be almost as ancient as humans’ connection with horses. The work employs both blacksmithing and veterinary knowledge. Larsen’s training was followed by a four-year apprenticeship with one of the top farriers in the world, James Findler.
“He’s a two-time world champion and fifth ever Canadian in the horseshoe hall of fame,” said Larsen. “I was really blessed that I apprenticed under him because we worked on the best horses.”
The experience with Findler not only built his skill, it introduced him to the pride of his craft’s history and continuing education.
“Apprenticing is so important,” he said. “This is something you can do for your entire life and you will still learn.”
Larsen began taking jobs on the lower Sunshine Coast a few years ago, and soon calls started coming in from Powell River. When he first visited he knew he had found his future home.
“The more time I spent here the harder it was to leave,” he said. “I just find this is the most beautiful, amazing place on the planet to be.”
Larsen, his wife and two children moved here in June. The rest of their extended families have also relocated here or are in the process of doing so, he added.
The beauty of the region, laid-back lifestyle and sense of community is what attracted them to the region, he said, as well as the opportunity to become part of the equine community and continue to work with the creatures he loves.
“Horses are mystical,” he said. “They’re amazing. I love every single horse I’ve met.”