Handmade Shoes (UK) Ltd Autumn Clinic 2011
Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th November 2011
The second clinic of this year and the 8th Handmade Shoes Clinic to date, ‘Bonfire’ weekend at Pitstone Green Business Park played host to yet another exemplary clinician; perhaps the “Granddaddy of all clinicians”, Bob Marshall. With no less than 5 World Championships under his belt, Bob is renowned not just for his own forging skills but also the exceptional ability to teach others.
Following a warm reception (and the obligatory leg-pulling) we sat down to a slide presentation.
Slide Show Presentation
“The horse tells you whether you are doing a good job”. You can’t argue with that! Quite simply if Bob shoes a horse and it’s been lame for two years and it is then sounds for ten years you have your answer.
Bob advises to consider the foot and what we expect of the horse. We were shown a variety of images – the Grand National where horses are shod in their simplest form yet exposed to extreme demands; the inappropriate use of eggbars in a jumping horse landing on the wrong lead; a video example of riders feeling the difference in different types of shoeing and, the application of concave shoes in a variety of situations. You may have been forgiven for thinking that this was a mixed, perhaps random, selection of images if it not for one common underlying theme - simplicity in shoeing.
With 52 years in the farriery industry Bob has seen many fashions and fads come and go. ‘BS’ shoes (for those not familiar this is purely a reference to ‘not very good’ shoes; eggbars and natural balance included!) were regularly referred to. Whilst he freely admits that he doesn’t always know what is right, when faced with a particular shoeing dilemma he won’t do what he knows to be wrong – even if it is what the vet wants. Most farriers have, or will, in their careers face difficult situations with vets and the solution is to work alongside each other, explain your ideas, discuss them with the vet and gain mutual respect.
Bob believes the reason for shoeing a horse is for protection and to give traction, the trim supports it. If you stand a horse square and draw around its feet, trim it and then try to get the horse to stand back in the same position it won’t. Bob believes the longer the distance between the toe and the heel, the longer the foot stays in the ground - the foot needs to come out of the ground quickly for it to be able to do its job.
Bob has a preference for pencilled heels finishing in line with the centre of the cannon bone. The quarters therefore need to fit accurately – requiring accuracy and Bob acknowledges that this keeps him “tuned up”. To maintain support and fit, a six week shoeing cycle is recommended although with horse owners having “the shortest memory in the human race” this can be hard to stick to!
The Interview with Billy
Continuing with the theme of ‘pencilled heels’ the interview kicked off with a discussion of Bob’s preferred style of shoeing. As he says, when you look at the outside heel of shoes you have removed you will see that they are worn –the horse is telling you “he does not need that bit”. Bob does not shoe passed the widest part of the frog and indeed feet don’t appear to have been worse for it in years gone by.
At the age of 15 Bob began his apprenticeship with his Dad in Stockport - a time when tools were carried on the handlebars of their bikes and nailing on happened in candle light. Bob’s father shod Red Rum when he won the Grand National in 1973. The story, he says, speaks for itself. Exposed to difficult ground conditions at a fast pace and taking on huge obstacles, shod “sound, safe and solid” Red Rum was able to get on, do his job and return home sound.
Bob left work with his Dad following a 5 year apprenticeship and spent time in Gloucestershire in the early ‘60’s. Following a return to Stockport a few years later and the subsequent tragedy of a friend losing a daughter Bob was inspired toward applying, and gaining, a teaching job in Canada with accommodation, food and a great salary – too good to refuse, despite the fact he hadn’t taught before!!
Now known for his ability as a clinician – clinics were the main source of income for 20 years -his last clinic prior to this one was perhaps 6 months ago stating a desire to spend more time in the area he now lives. Despite time spent travelling and giving clinics Bob has maintained his time both shoeing and shoemaking as it is, after all “the base of where it all comes from”. He believes 3 or 4 pairs of shoes made regularly is required to “get that feel”.
There at the beginning of what is now known as the World Championship Blacksmiths Competition held at Calgary Stampede, Bob noted how the competition scene as a whole has evolved. An Australian gentleman known as Murray Smith started the Championships in the car park at Calgary – there were no specimens and no budget! Borrowing left over rosettes from other areas of the Stampede, Bob has in his possession the “Best in Show Guinea Pig” rosette for a winning pair of pencilled heels! As years passed and the competition gathered momentum, fellow farriers Dave Duckett, Allan Ferrie and David Wilson to name just a few travelled to meet and compete against each other and the Championships became the inaugural event it is today held in the Big Top tent (inside the park!).
Bob now lives at the beginning of the Alaskan Highway; 100 miles of wilderness with bears as neighbours and -60 temperatures in the winter. He readily acknowledges he is enjoying life, has an incredible family, good health and loves his job. He has become a huge influence across the farriery world and is largely responsible for farriers in his area shoeing with concave. Bob himself acknowledges his Father, Tom Allison and Dave Duckett as being his largest influences to date. His Dad in particular was completely dedicated to a horse being sound – letting the horse do the talking himself.
Prior to the beginning of the shoeing demonstration Bob noted the particular impacts shoemaking and shoeing can have on your health. Care and protection of eyes were noted in addition to your position at the anvil and the positions of the tools you are holding in order to maximise performance and efficiency yet decrease the risk of injury and unnecessary wear and tear.
According to Bob there are four parts to a horse shoe –
the first is the bend,
the second are the nail holes,
the third is the fusing together; welding or brazing and,
the fourth is the forging; to draw out, flatten, clip or wedge.
The shoeing demonstration itself kicked off with a trim; the medial lateral balance assessment typically made with the use of a t-square and the same method applied to both front and hind feet. Allowing 13 ¾” for a foot measuring 6 ¼” x 5 5/8” Bob stressed that concave should be “treated with respect” and that you should “just turn it”; it is already made and therefore just needs turning. The made shoe is banged on the anvil after it has been in the bucket to rid it of scale which can interfere with nail holes. The biggest nail he uses is an E6 or an E7 and prefers to have nails one third of the way up the hoof wall. Generally toe clips are used unless a horse is particularly “run out” and then he will use double clips.
A simple, straightforward demonstration perhaps but the accuracy and ease at which the shoe was made and fit cannot be denied. Whilst Bob has a wealth of experience under his belt, natural talent prevails and the audience left satisfactorily impressed.
The final session of the day took on a new twist to previous clinics. Given Bob’s reputation as a ‘teacher’, volunteers from the audience were invited to be given hands-on tuition. Bob finds it easier to let the farrier/apprentice have a go and to watch them work before jumping in with a demonstration.
Bob states that it is essential to always find something positive, especially when judging at competitions, “the guys at the bottom are having a go; still there to learn”. Learning to forge takes time and forging itself is split into logical, sequential steps making the most of the time, and heat, at each stage – there is no point in “beating it cold”.
Apprentices Adam Illston and Arnie Pamment were the first to be given the chance to hone their forging skills, specifically drawing a clip. Through watching them work in turn, Bob took them through the stages of drawing a good strong clip. It was evident his teaching was effective and the results showed for themselves. Additional advice referring to body and tool position in relation to the anvil was well received.
The day was completed with further informal demonstrations and cross examination by eager attendees. There are certainly many talented farriers throughout the world of which Bob is undoubtedly one but the ability to pass on those skills is a particularly special gift. With a passion for not just his job and the industry but also for the horses and the work they do it is without surprise that Bob is so highly regarded among his peers. A superb weekend and yet another successful clinic complemented only by an impressive product display and lunch including a particularly good apple crumble.
Billy and Lucy Crothers would like to thank Bob for making the journey “across the pond”, to the staff at Handmade Shoes for their work before, during and after the clinic and to all those that attended. See you in Spring 2012!
The full photo gallery can be viewed on the Forge & Farrier website - please click here