Jim Blurton AWCF
World Champion Farrier Jim Blurton is head of multi-farrier practise Forden Farriers in addition to successfully manufacturing his own range of tools and specialist shoes. Last year he was Head Farrier at the London 2012 Olympics.
A highly respected farrier, businessman and clinician Jim answers our second ‘Farrier Focus’….
Why did you decide to become a farrier?
Jim’s Father was a farrier and Jim found himself “pushed in the right direction”. As Mr Blurton Senior suffered from bad health Jim was encouraged to help him whilst in his last few years at school. Jim soon realised that there was an opportunity to develop a decent business as there appeared to be plenty of work.
Who (or what) has been your biggest influence or inspiration in your career both within and outside the profession and how?
Jim’s Father and Dave Duckett; at the time Dave had the shoeing round ‘next door’ and Jim watched Dave compete regularly.
What’s the most unusual shoeing job that you have done?
Jim was once brought a pony to be shod at the forge – in the back of a car! When the gentleman got the pony out he was found to have feet measuring just 35mm across, needless to say shoes were not fitted on this occasion!
What is the funniest incident you have experienced whilst at work?
Some 30 to 40 years ago Jim went to shoe a horse with his Father. “The client was a ‘traveller’ and had a rather large money belt. Before the work began it was agreed that the horse would be shod for £20.” When the job was completed the Traveller said he wanted to pay £15 and passed the money over to Jim’s Father. Mr Blurton Senior agreed but instructed Jim to remove the shoe on the off fore. The shoe was removed, (£15 worth of work was left behind), and they left. Needless to say there were not invited back again!
If you didn’t become a farrier what do you think you would have done? (If you could do it all again would you be a farrier?!)
What has been your highest point of your career so far?
World Champion 2005
A close second, being Head Farrier at the London 2012 Olympics.
What has been the lowest point of your career so far?
When his Father died; Jim lost his mentor – the one person he could turn to and discuss any shoeing dilemma.
What is the biggest regret you have in your career so far?
Jim feels that perhaps the geographical location of his business could be better. There are areas, such as Oxfordshire, that Jim feels may be more lucrative. However, “there is an advantage to being the better farrier in an area.”
What advice would you offer those just beginning their apprenticeship?
Jim feels that only the best, most professional will make a decent living – “be professional”. Jim also cites the quality of workmanship and customer service being particularly important.
What advice would you offer those just starting up their own business?
“To price yourself as a professional and be willing to put yourself out…answer the phone over the weekend, you are in a service industry.”
What’s your next goal?
Jim would like to further improve the quality of products they produce and ensure that their service to their clients is second to none; increasing the footprint within the market place. Would rather “be a leader than a follower”.
Why do you participate in farriery competitions?
Jim “gets a buzz” from competing but also cites camaraderie as being particularly important. To Jim competitions are a “still improving exercise, after all it is how it all started”. Competing provides an “education of the market you are in…you pick up new skills” furthermore, Jim feels it is an essential experience for apprentices. Without farriery competitions Jim feels that he wouldn’t be at the level he is at and “probably the best ATFs are from a competitive background”.
What do you think the farriery industry will look like in the next 20 years? Do you think we will have more or less farriers, do you think training will have changed?
“The present system of training (in the UK) is unsustainable….there appears to be no awareness of the demands of the industry”. Jim would like to see improvement in the quality of ATFs and feels that all ATFs should be proven to have the “ability to teach”. He does however feel that the system will “sort itself out” and that “farriers should be left in charge of supply and demand”.
What do you think is the biggest threat to the farriery industry?
The current VAT rate at 20% is a large burden to many farrier business particularly when not all farriery businesses are VAT registered.”
What is your biggest concern for the farriery industry?
“The number of farriers being trained……….pricing………….not enough emphasis for apprentices or newly qualifieds on how to run a business”. Jim believes apprentices should be given a better insight into the “pricing of a job” and that many do not have enough business acumen.
What keeps you sane and motivated when you are having a bad day?
“Insanity keeps me motivated.”
Favourite past time away from hot steel and horses?
“Shooting, fishing and walking (where there is no phone reception)”!
Trick or tip (please provide a trick or a tip, this may be shoeing, shoemaking or trimming or could be getting money out of bad payers or handling nervous horses)
In shoemaking “the first bend in steel is the most important. Everything comes from the toe bend.”
In shoeing horses “keep it simple”.
Words and photo courtesy of Claire Brown