La Forge Des Hautes Alpes Presente Le 8th Concours international de Marechalarie
At 5pm on good Friday myself and Andrew James set off from my forge in Buckinghamshire on a 760mile drive to Gap in the high alps, France (Andrew had already travelled 130 miles to get to me from Shropshire) we caught the ferry from Dover and without stopping except to fuel the van and ourselves, we arrived at the venue for the competition at 10:15am French time,
We helped set up the tents and forges as best we could with only one Frenchman who could understand us! We were then taken to lunch in the hotel where all the farriers were staying before returning to the venue for everyone to set up their own kit. The weather halfway up the mountain was cold to say the least and as the afternoon went on it started to rain. We made a pair of tool and fullered hinds, this was watched by many of the French farriers who hadn’t seen a tooling block used before, soon it was time for dinner in the hotel.
After much good food and too much red wine we went back to where the competition was being held to partake in the first class, speed forging at 9pm! The specimen came out, a ¾ fullered French caulk and wedge roadster, and we were told that we had 25mins to make a pair, unclipped. Thankfully, this sobered me up and we were pleased with our efforts. The intermediate class and the novice were still to follow but we decided to head off back to the hotel for some much needed rest.
Sunday morning, I receive a text message, which woke me up. I look at my phone and it was 8:45, oh no, first class started at 9! There had been snow in the night, we got to the competition for just after 9, not a disaster as the first class was the eagle eye, or 'eye of the lynx' as the French put it and we were just in time to see the foot, 10 seconds no touching or measuring, pretty standard compared to here, but, then we were informed that the shoe is a ¾ fullered straight bar, clipped as well, 15 mins. The shoemaking didn’t start for an hour so we had to try and bed this into our just awake brains, again the class went fairly well but waiting for that flux to get hot enough seemed to take up so many precious seconds with the time limit given.
Throughout the morning there were various other classes for intermediate and novices. The intermediate standard is not far behind the pro and in the novice there are classes where they have some difficult forging, and other classes where they have to adjust machine made shoes to match the specimens.
Sunday lunch was served in a marquee at the competition and it was an equally high standard as the hotel the day before. After lunch we had two more classes, these were staggered for ease of judging, out first class was the prepared forging, we had 55 mins to make a ¾ fullered square toed caulk and feather and a ¾ fullered toe weighted straight bar, this was supposed to be a class we had prepared for but unfortunately I hadn’t discovered the website until it was too late, hence the class did not go so well for me, Andrew faired much better.
The second class of the afternoon was the shoeing class, we had 60 mins to make and fit a pair of ¾ fullered shoes, hammer drawn clips. The intermediates had the same to put on but 65 mins. I found this class hard as it was an Italian judge, in France with very little English, I was pleased with how I did but found myself short of time, Andrew too struggled with time but had done a real tidy job and had he found a few more minutes from somewhere would have been right up there in that class.
At dinner that night the specimens for Monday were revealed in all their glory, the hind had the biggest masselots I’d ever seen and the heart bar had a toe cap that was just under 7 inches in length!
Monday morning arrived and there was no snow, no rain, just glorious sunshine, we got in the van and there was a layer of ice on the inside of the windscreen, we had seemed to have had every type of weather imaginable. We made our way to the competition, our class was due to start at 8:30. Again this did not go so well for me, we had 55 mins and I really struggled with the heartbar, the toe cap just got in the way and the steel really wanted to twist and was impossible to level, it was a nightmare. Andrew coped much better and was fairly pleased with his effort. We had finished all our classes, there was still more for the inters and novices but we had a train to catch! We said out goodbyes and headed off on the long trip back.
Using the euro tunnel was much quicker and we got back to my forge in about 13 hours, Andrew still had another 2 1/2 until he was back but it was worth it. We had a fantastic time, met some great people and learnt a lot. It seems to me that over there they make some amazing specimens and give us very little time to complete them, it must be much easier to judge as the challenging time limits really showed a big difference in the quality of shoes being made. I will definitely plan to go to back again next year and will hopefully be much better prepared as I know more what to expect, getting quicker will be a must!
For full results visit -
With grateful thanks to Jason for submitting this report and images!