Mustad 'Champion of Champions'
Cited as a prestigious event not to be missed, the Mustad Champion of Champions Exhibition did not disappoint and surpassed expectations. Champions began to arrive at The Forge, Stoneleigh, UK on the Friday afternoon and, within minutes of meeting again for the first time in years for some; stories were being exchanged amidst much laughter and palpable excitement.
Each previous winner of the Calgary Stampede World Championship Blacksmiths Competition had a different story to tell and, each a legend in their own time held in the highest regard by their peers for their renowned forging and shoeing capabilities - despite photo albums depicting hilarious fashion crimes! A quiet determination prevailed amongst all participants to put on a fine display of farriery in an open environment where skills can be passed on to each other and the audience. The bonus of representing individually chosen charities further compelled their desire to take part.
Participants in the competitive shoeing rounds were confirmed as Darren Bazin (Cancer Research UK), Paul Robinson (Neonatal Unit, Crosshouse Hospital, Kilmarnock), Steven Beane (Cancer Research UK), Grant Moon (Riding for the Disabled), Billy Crothers (Breakthrough for Breast Cancer), Jim Blurton (Hope House Children’s Hospice), Shayne Carter (Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund), Mark Milster (Parker Milster Memorial Fund), Craig Trnka (Lance Armstrong Foundation) and Bob Marshall (MacMillan Nurses). Unfortunately Richard Ellis (Aviation Without Borders) and Austin Edens (Sisters of the Presentation) were unable to participate due to injury, Dave Duckett was also present. Bill Poor (Breast Cancer Foundation) was unable to attend due to an accident; our thoughts go to Bill’s Mother for a speedy recovery.
The value of farriery competitions in every day work was noted by many of the Champions. The competitive environment encourages each farrier to constantly better themselves and their results; regular evaluation and scrutiny of your work by your peers increases overall awareness of your individual abilities. The remarkable camaraderie that exists between farriers demonstrates a willingness to help each other to improve and each Champion recognised great farrier influences that have helped them along their way. An extraordinary level of humility demonstrated that each previous winner of the World Championships believed they still had much to learn and the capacity to improve. Steven Beane considered the event to be “fantastic, a learning experience and a lot to get out of it”.
The impact of winning the World Championships on individual farriery businesses provides an “ownership of the trade” (Craig Trnka) and Jim Blurton conceded that winning the World Championships had provided him with improved credibility in both his shoeing and tool making businesses. Shayne Carter noted a definite increase in “efficiency” in his own business in addition to being able to “share his knowledge” in the form of farriery clinics.
The acquisition of shoeing and forging skills at the ‘top level’ can be “trickled down” to competitive and non-competitive farriers at a local level through demonstrations and clinics was noted by Darren Bazin; Paul Robinson considered that this was particularly relevant of the younger farriers and apprentices coming through. Inevitably this impact on the wider farriery profession ultimately benefits the equine, and the larger equine industry, as a whole. Grant Moon expressed a “love of the industry” in addition to a desire to “repay the industry” by passing on acquired skills.
Mark Milster, Richard Ellis, Billy Crothers and Austin Edens all admitted to enduring their share of nerves in the run up to competitions! “Focus” and “using the energy to compete” were acknowledged as ways of getting passed the nerves and indeed, Mark felt that the first few seconds of a class were his most enjoyable. “Dedication”, “desire”, a “strong work ethic” and “determination” were all highlighted as necessary attributes. A large range in the amount of time spent in the forge was reported by the Champions in preparation for the event however, Bob Marshall felt that every day work should be your practise too.
Judges David Wilson BEM FWCF AWCB and Marshall Iles CJF were both delighted and honoured to have been asked to evaluate the work completed on the day. David Wilson, himself a previous winner at Calgary, acknowledged that the “young generation has improved so much” and that he himself had learnt so much from watching other people. Marshall Iles, Chief Steward at Calgary Stampede, acknowledged that judging the work produced would be no easy task!
Following consultation with the judges times were drawn and details of the shoeing rounds were confirmed –
10 minutes for the trim, can measure the foot and a steward will cut the steel
40 minutes to make and fit a three quarter fullered shoe for a front foot and to start making the specimen, a three quarter fullered roadster to be made from 11” of ¾” by ½” bar stock
20 minutes to nail and finish and complete the specimen
Between each section the competitors were removed from the shoeing floor and their tools and equipment covered to allow for ‘anonymous’ judging. Once each section had been judged independently by both judges, competitors were allowed to return to the floor.
Approximately 300 farriers attended the NAFBAE ‘Farriery Focus’ day on the Saturday and the viewing stands for the Champions Exhibition were well-stocked. A number of autographs were requested and gladly provided and the competition ran extremely smoothly, aided by a great team of Stewards on the shoeing floor. If any nerves were present they were certainly not noticeable and the forging and shoeing skills displayed revealed the finest collection of farriery ever exposed. The friendship between the Champions was warming and the respect for each other humbling.
The evening black tie dinner continued to expose the sheer delight at being united by so many farriers present which culminated in the announcement of the overall winner of the Exhibition. Paul Robinson was crowned ‘Champion of the Champions 2010’ and was obviously “delighted” to receive the amazing trophy made by Jim Keith and a cheque, donated by Mustad, for £5,000 for the Neonatal Unit at Crosshouse Hospital, Kilmarnock where his beautiful daughter Kate spent time after she was born in December last year. Thanking Mustad for putting on the event, Paul further endorsed his belief in farriery competitions as helping to “raise the overall standard” and noted that the Champion of Champions Exhibition has been an “amazing event for farriery”. Celebrations continued into the early hours of Sunday morning(!)
A total of £8,000 was raised for the various charities by participating Champions. A further auction on Saturday night with prizes donated by many of the Champions raised £3200.
The weekend was rounded off with a further treat for NAFBAE members – an intimate clinic with the Champions and a chance to ‘get up close’ - further demonstrations were kindly provided by Jim Blurton, Grant Moon, Dave Duckett and Bob Marshall.
A truly amazing occasion and a rare opportunity to experience a tremendous showcase of talent in an educational, inspiring and friendly (if not very humorous at times!) environment. The Mustad Champion of Champions 2010 is an event which will go down in the history books and was an absolute privilege to be a part of.
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