World Horseshoeing Classic, Kentucky
08 March 2011
In the last week of February a community of Farriers converged on Richmond, Kentucky for the first ever team competition on U.S. soil, the first annual World Horseshoeing Classic. The event was held at Kentucky Horseshoeing School which is a brand new state of the art facility that is second to none. The table was set and it was going to be the combined efforts of KHS and the World Championship Blacksmiths to orchestrate the event. This event was to be old school in every way possible; we didn’t have a budget for golf carts, or caution tape to keep knowledge seeking Farriers behind the lines. With all contests you want it to be fair and unbiased, but that is simply not enough we needed three judges to be fair and unbiased and be able to convey and explain in an open forum. We had three men for the job and they did exactly that; Shayne Carter, CJF of Payson, Utah, Gerard Laverty, AWCF of Vancouver, British Columbia, and last but not least Conrad Trow, CJF of Shelbyville, Kentucky. Going into this project all parties involved knew that we had to get the first one out there before the Farrier community would understand what we were trying to accomplish and if our intentions were true to the trade. Americans putting on a team competition meant we had to have a goal in mind that not everyone could see until after it had happened and it affected them, teamwork and humility. In most contests it is important that you execute but in a true team competition it is more important that you formulate a go because to execute is the obvious.
The outline was simple - it would be three days of competition. On the first day all teams would shoe a draft horse with ¾ fullered shoes, agricultural turned up heels (Scottish heels) and a toe clip. Each team mate would do one foot and they could use their time anyway they formulated to fit in a 2 ½ hour go. Three judges would judge all aspects of judging; foot prep, shoe making, shoe fit, and final fit and finish, for a score of 1 to 10. This means that there is a total of 120 points possible for each category. On the second day the teams would shoe a horse with plain stamped bevels on the front with a bob punched toe clip, and a fullered caulkin and wedge with suitable clip behind. The scoring would be the same and the time limit would be the same. On day three the teams would shoe a horse hunter style with tooled and fullered 5/8” square stock. The fronts to be fullered heel to heel with toe clip and hunter heels, and fit to be penny on a penny, and the hinds would be ¾ fullered, quarter clip with a caulkin and wedge. There were no specimen shoes, it was all on the foot and the single most important task that we as farriers do on a day to day basis would win this contest, fit! Argue this fact if you want but fit is what makes all the gimmicks survive and cultivates new gimmicks. If you can read and fit feet you can cut your supply bill in half, and not warehouse gimmicks and substitutions for craftsmanship on your shoeing rig.
Now that we have explained what was going on its time to explain what happened. The most educational thing about a shoeing contest is that there are no atta-boys handed out, mostly constructive criticism and pointers on how to do better. When a go is over the three judges might have the only opinion that counts but everyone has an opinion and it flows like wine. No other format in the farrier world has this type of real time capability, and it is getting pissed away. If the knowledge hungry spectator is kept behind the line and not being able to be in the action then what is gained, can you get an idea of knowing what just happened from 20 feet away, I think not. I don’t care if you’re Billy Crothers or a shoeing school student in their second week you want a peek. Lately contests have strayed away from our strengths and given into our weakness, we just put up a barrier and say you stay out and the competitors stay in, there is no exchange of knowledge in that. Everything we do in the farrier world is observed, retried, and done over and over until muscle memory sets in. The spectators at the WHC were told that they should stay out of the way of the competitors, but other than that they were welcome to get any vantage point they could. Everyone at the competition was respectful of this luxury, they all made way for the competitors and the judges and we had no badge heavy steward wearing a white coat being a buzz kill (these are self filling positions that no one misses ever!) The things that make up a good time for a good contest are good tunes to keep a positive environment, good grub that is Johnny on the spot (food is love), and people who are all heading in the same direction which is obviously to get better, we had this concoction this weekend.
We had ten teams signed up for the event, but as we closed in we had to disassemble a team to fill spots on two others due to injury and sickness. The nine teams that competed were:
Team Horseshoes Plus Mark Schneider, George Barker, Jim Smith, and Travis Koons
Team New Jersey Eric Russell, Jason Gilliland, Daniel Jones, and Jeremiah Harris
Team Arkansas Tim Hoover, Tom Wright, Cecil Buffalo, and Lloyd Clayton
Team Kentucky Bryan Osborne, Chris Overly, Travis Smith, and Rodney King
Team Texas Jim Poor, Bill Poor, Billy Reed, and Jake Engler
American Farriers Team Dusty Franklin, Mike Augenstein, Brian Nelson, and Ben Mangan
Team WCB Tim McPhee, Gene Lieser, Raleigh Desiato, and Chris Madrid
Team Canada James Findler, Nathan Powell, Matt Keuchler, and Iain Ritichie
Team Wales Jim Blurton, Andy Martin, Mark Evans, and Billy Crothers
Day one started with a very insightful clinic with Conrad Trow demonstrating shoe fit with several cadaver legs. Conrad focused on medial heel fit, lateral heel fit, and fitting the toe with quarter clips and toe clips, after a question and answer session it was time to get the first round started. As we stated in the beginning of this article this was the first team competition of this kind in the U.S. and it showed; you had competitors saying how they just wanted to be part of it and didn’t want to let their teammates down, just be lucky to get done, but when the starting bell rung it took on a life of its own. The trophies for each day would be a replica of the foot that the competitor actually shod made out of wood that Ben Hupp made. The Welsh team finished strong and I mean they finished strong, no team really pulled away with trim and fit, but the Welsh team had pulled away by 12 pts in the finish and got the first day win on the Draft Horses, team Texas was second, and sitting in third was the AFT. The first day left no one discouraged but rather motivated by what they had witnessed, the Welsh team had displayed their experience and teamwork which before this had only been witnessed by a handful in the big picture. Team Texas left no one disappointed either with an all-star team that worked with old school/new school exactness.
The second day was the roadster shoeing and it was pretty evident that all the competitors had settled in and they had a new perspective on what it was going to take to win this deal. The day started off with a power point presentation by Gerard Laverty on the correlation between the invention of the assembly line and the demise of the blacksmith trade in North America, very interesting and informative! We reversed the go rounds so if you were in the first round the first day you would be in the second round today. The shoeing in the first round had obviously tightened up from the previous day and it only got tighter in the second round. The Canadians came out to redeem themselves from the previous day and they did just that by winning the Roadster day, with team Texas coming in second, and team WCB rounding out the third spot. The day ended with all the people at the event picking up every foot hundreds of times and rehashing it out over and over again. The third day would start with all four of the top teams staggered 3 points apart, and with 120 points possible in each category it was definitely a horse race.
The final day of competition was started off with Shayne Carter welding a Damascus billet, the clinic focused on starting and troubleshooting involved in welding multiple layers of a knife billet. Since Shayne has been consumed by knife making and is going for his journeyman knife makers’ certificate he had a lot to share. The Canadians came out and scored big in the first round with a horse that had been over trimmed several weeks prior and did a marvelous job. It looked like the Canadians had a score that couldn’t be beat the Welsh team drew a horse with feet that would be hard to score on. With a couple of low scores on the hoof prep the Welsh amped it up and did some pretty amazing stuff. While everyone was circle around watching the Welsh go team WCB were quietly having the go of a lifetime on the other end of the floor. After the smoke had settled team WCB had won the tooled and fullered day, Wales was second and the Canadians were third. No one knew the results of the day and it was close enough to keep it suspenseful for that night at the prize giving.
1st place was Team Wales awarded a Check for $10,000.00 and four belt buckles sponsored by Farrierproducts.
2nd place was Team Canada awarded four Todd Walker Creasers
3rd place was Team WCB awarded four Stainless quench buckets by Empire Farrier supply
4th place was Team Texas awarded four Andy Darden cone clipping hammers
5th place was the AFT awarded four engraved pocket knives sponsored by Emerson horseshoe supply
6th place was Team Horseshoes Plus awarded four pairs of Jim Keith tongs sponsored by WCB
7th place was Team New Jersey awarded four Battlecreek outfitters shoeing aprons
8th place was Team Kentucky awarded four Mark Milster shoeing knives
9th place was Team Arkansas awarded four Tosaky Forge creasers sponsored by WCB
The Best Shod Foot Award was for the highest scored foot for the entire weekend went to Billy Crothers with a score of 37. He received a handmade display box and folding Damascus pocket knife, both display and box were made by Scott Davidson.
On the fourth day we had a special treat for a special reason. Richard Ellis, a true friend to the farrier community has been diagnosed with cancer and is fighting the big fight. The Welsh team generously donated their time to come give a clinic on behalf of Richard and it was a special event, these four individuals pulled out all the stops and had everyone down on their knees inspecting and observing. The afternoon was a special day that had everyone in attendance understanding a little bit better on how to achieve excellence. The money raised for Richard through that clinic isn’t enough but I can definitely say it was all everybody had, and that was the note for the weekend giving everything you had.
I would personally like to thank all the teams for coming out and making it a fun, interactive, learning experience! Our two presenting sponsors that helped raise the booty for the prizes; SAS Global, Inc and Magic Cushion Hoof Packing. Hope to see a few more of you next year because it is definitely onward and upward!