Nigel Brown AWCF – Farrier Focus
Recently crowned UK national champion farrier (2013), Nigel Brown runs a farriery business in Abergavenny, South Wales. He is an ATF (Approved Training Farrier), competes regularly and is a member of the Welsh International Team.
Why did you decide to become a farrier?
“I had ridden all my life, including point to point horses. My Dad was involved in steel fabrications and, after finishing my A-levels, the pre-farrier course at Warwickshire College looked interesting. Within weeks of starting the course, I knew I had made the right decision and thought this is the life for me!”
Who (or what) has been your biggest influence or inspiration in your career both within and outside the profession and how?
“My ATF, Wayne Upton, was my business model – how to be professional, conduct myself and provide a service to clients. I gained an early interest in competing during my apprenticeship with good friends I had made at college and aspiring one day to be a member of the Welsh International Team. I am now a regular on the Welsh Team and past and current members including Billy Crothers, Grant Moon, Andy Martin, Jim Blurton and Marks Evans have provided motivation to constantly improve myself in addition to learning so much more about forging”.
What’s the most unusual shoeing job that you have done?
“That would have to be trimming a marching band mascot goat on my apprenticeship!”
What is the funniest incident you have experienced whilst at work?
“Without sounding cruel (and we do adhere to strict Health & Safety!) it would have to be either one of my apprentices branding his backside by sitting on a hot pony shoe or another burning the tip of his nose by the rams on the back door of our truck breaking off in the wind tipping him forward into the gas forge. I will just add they fine and I am not that cruel!”
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?!)
“Engineering or steel fabrications. If I was to do it all again I would definitely be a farrier.”
What has been your highest point of your career so far?
“Achieving my Associate examination in addition to wins in Open Shoeing or Shoemaking classes, and being a member of the Welsh Team. Also seeing an apprentice qualify with great results”.
What has been the lowest point of your career so far?
“We have had a couple of apprenticeships that have been terminated, both due to substandard work. When you work in such a small team and get on well it is always difficult to accept that it doesn’t always work out and not everyone strives for the best results that you desire for your business and that they can possibly achieve.”
What is the biggest regret you have in your career so far?
“I should have travelled before I set up my business. To have gained experience with other farriers across the world would have been an amazing opportunity and very difficult to do once you have an established business”.
What advice would you offer those just beginning their apprenticeship?
“Do not overlook the basics. They are the most important things for the rest of your shoeing career”
What advice would you offer those just starting up their own business?
“Set out as a professional, set your standard and don’t waiver. Advise customers to your standard, don’t lower yourself to theirs.”
What’s your next goal?
“Achieving the FWCF.”
Why do you participate in farriery competitions?
“Because I am competitive. The amount you learn from your peers in that environment is second to none.”
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?
“Training will definitely have changed. There will be a new fashion to add to the others! The importance will be to keep it simple. I can see a bigger gap forming between the quality of farriers. The farriers at the higher end will continue to get better and raise the standard but unfortunately there will always be work for substandard shoeing at a knockdown price.”
What do you think is the biggest threat to the farriery industry?
“Uneducated, little knowledge is dangerous, horse owners.”
What is your biggest concern for the farriery industry?
“The continued effort for the ‘one shoe fixes all’ solution. Horses are individuals and we shouldn’t jump on the bandwagon of one fashion or another. We have the tools to shape and create shoes to suit different horses and disciplines and we need to continue to use them.”
What keeps you sane and motivated when you are having a bad day?
“Family; my wife and our two children, Harry and Emily. Life is short and there is always someone worse off than you.”
Favourite past time away from hot steel and horses?
“Spending time with the family, shooting and golf (it’s more gardening than golf but I enjoy it!)”
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)
“I injured my back a few years ago and it was a real wake up call. I only realise now how bad my back had been for such a long period of time and I should have done something about it earlier. I now see an osteopath regularly in addition to maintaining my fitness levels and stretching before and after work and competing.”
Thanks Nigel and congratulations on your recent win at the nationals.