There are probably now more horses in the UK than one hundred years ago when they were actually used a mode of transport. The majority of modern horses will be shod and this responsibility of keeping horses on the road and fit for the job their owner intends lay mostly with the craftsman we call a “Farrier”. The modern farrier is an equine scientist, a gait analysis, and a master craftsman with a bar of steel. Although the majority of horseshoes are factory manufactured; all good farriers would easily be able to roll up their sleeves and create your horse’s shoes from a length of steel.
With this concept in mind, Billy Crothers, five times World Champion Farrier, with his wife Lucy Diamond, Managing Director of Hand Made Shoes (UK) Ltd, started up their annual shoe making competition three years ago. The competition has entries from all over the UK and this year has attracted stars such as Steven Beane, twice former Reserve World Champion Farrier, and Andrew Casserley, current Reserve World Champion, fresh back from The Calgary Stampede, Canada where the “Worlds” are held.
Billy Crothers is passionate about the farrier work which he also considers to be his sport. “We train physically and mentally for competition shoe making. I find it improves my analysis of horses’ feet and the way I shoe. Competition shoe making can be very exciting as the farriers often only have a very limited period of time to create a horse shoe from a steel bar. The contest format means we are developing some very good farriers in the UK and this will be good for the equestrian industry as a whole”
This year’s competition developed into an excellent contest with good entries in all classes despite falling on the weekend when the UK received record rain fall and much of the south of England was flooded. This did little to dampen the spirits of apprentice and advanced farriers alike and seventy eight of the original ninety-one entries made it to Hand Made Shoes (UK) Ltd forecourt which hastily became the site for the event after the Mentmore field schedule to play host fell foul to the torrential rain and was under two feet of water.
Classes worthy of note included the “One Heat Challenge” which allows a five minute pre heat time and fifteen minutes to actually make the shoe. Alan Ferrier and Derek Gardner, eminent judges for the competition had some interesting shoes to examine. Alan explained “often the simple hunter style shoe with the fullered edge; done well, will always beat, a more complicated heart bar or T bar shoe; badly finished, in this particular class “
The “Skilled Eagle Eye” gave each competitor ten seconds to look at a horse’s hind foot and a further fifteen minutes to complete the shoe. We should add memory skills to the list of talents that a good farrier should have. There were nervous mutterings when the horse presented to the participants was accompanied by a very small donkey and some of the apprentices were convinced this was going to be the “sample hind foot” they were to memorise!
The whole day finished off with a dinner dance and awards. Lucy Diamond said “I am delighted with quality and quantity of competitive farriers coming forward to contest. All who attended took away valuable experience and all vowed to be back in 2008!”