Q. Can you tell me what happens at a farrier competition? Is it the fastest person to shoe a horse who wins? My own farrier (he’s about 80 years old) takes a long time to put front shoes on my Clydesdale mare. Do you think that’s why he always says he’s too busy to enter competitions? Sally, Hamilton
A. Great question Sally. Speed isn’t usually the main objective in farrier competitions although for most classes, there is usually a time limit to complete the task.
There are some variation in classes at different competitions throughout New Zealand and the world but generally certain skill-sets are being tested and judged.
These often include forging skills (including shoe making, tool making and so on), foot dressing (trimming for example) and shoeing.
In many classes, the competing farrier will be required to make a particular shoe, prepare the foot and then shoe the foot within a certain time limit. The judge will mark each part of the process and compare the scores with other competitors to ascertain the winner. Other classes include just shoe making, forging and so on. The shoemaking generally involves making a horseshoe from a straight steel bar. In some classes where extra strength is required, the competitor will be allowed a “striker” who uses a sledge hammer to help shape the steel.
Some competitions have a mail-in class where competitors who don’t necessarily attend the competition can make something and send it in for judging.
Other classes are sometimes team events – a three man heavy horse shoeing for example. This can be particularly enjoyable to watch and a real crowd pleaser.
New Zealand has produced some exceptional talent when it comes to farriers. We are regularly represented in some of the toughest farrier competitions in the world – sometimes by NZ based farriers who travel overseas to compete and other times by NZ’ers who live offshore.
Farriers who compete often do so to improve their skills (a certain amount of practice is required), to learn from their fellow competitor and to stay in touch with other farriers.
Sally, I think your farrier has earned himself the right to pass on the opportunity to enter competitions if he so wishes. If he’s still shoeing Clydesdales in his advancing years then he deserves the time off!
David Hankin Dip.WCF
This question and answer first appeared in NZ Horse & Pony in December 2009