Gary Darlow – Farrier Focus

Gary Darlow – Farrier focus

An incredible 7 times National Champion, Gary is extremely well respected and talented farrier achieving consistently high results in farriery competitions, in addition to be a ‘dab hand’ at fishing too!

With thanks to his daughter Becki for her assistance with the interview, Gary shares a few thoughts and opinions…

gary darlow

Why did you decide to become a farrier?

It was a career based, not on my academic skills; but on my practical ability which was important to me as that was where my strengths were.

Who (or what) has been your biggest influence or inspiration in your career both within and outside the profession and how?

Mr. David Gulley for training me and putting up with me over the years. To all the competitive farriers across the country that make older farriers evaluate our practice and improve our standards.

What’s the most unusual shoeing job that you have done?

Shoeing a donkey, they aren’t ideal.

What is the funniest incident you have experienced whilst at work?

When we arriving at a yard in Leicestershire with another apprentice driving the works van. Mr. Gulley asked me whether we were ‘okay behind’, after confirming we were a few times we then went slap bang into a milk tanker and got capitulated a few yards forward. It wasn’t okay behind!

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?!)

I would have joined one of the forces, possibly the marines.

What has been your highest point of your career so far?

Training apprentices and watching them become successful. I have been lucky enough to have some very successful lads over my career.

What has been the lowest point of your career so far?

Dealing with unprofessional people, they only hinder us.

What is the biggest regret you have in your career so far?

I should have travelled more when I was younger experiencing more of the craft in other parts of the world.

What advice would you offer those just beginning their apprenticeship?

I would never put anyone off taking up this profession, but I would encourage them to have skills outside this field.

What advice would you offer those just starting up their own business?

Keep your standards high and ensure customers are happy with your work. 

What’s your next goal?

The next short-term goal would be to train my next apprentice. Long- term retire and enjoy all I have earned over the years.

Why do you participate in farriery competitions?

Quite simply, because I like to win. I am competitive and it keeps me young.

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?

Yeah training is definitely going to develop, the training scheme has to change to improve to raise standards. The quality and the dedication of the ATF’s has to improve.

What do you think is the biggest threat to the farriery industry?

Training too many apprentices that are not quality. Quantity, with no quality, will only damage this profession.

What is your biggest concern for the farriery industry?

 The putting off of the true craftsman due to over-training of apprentices.

What keeps you sane and motivated when you are having a bad day?

A beer and tea. Whatever happens I still get to come home to nice food.

Favourite past time away from hot steel and horses?

Fishing, any kind, anywhere.

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)

When competing do the basics very well (foot dressing, clenching up, nailing on) be consistent and you can’t go far wrong. The best farriers in the world are good across a broad spectrum of skills, not just exceptional at one thing. 

—-

interview by Claire Brown

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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.

My beautiful picture

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.

Posted in Farrier business | Tagged , , , ,

Ben Benson – Farrier Focus

Ben Benson

Based in Oxfordshire, UK, in the centre of a thriving equine area, Ben Benson has an established farriery business catering for many professional riders. An Approved Training Farrier, Ben was instrumental in the Forge at the London 2012 Olympics alongside Jim Blurton AWCF and acted as NTO (National Technical Official) for the Paralympics heading the team of 13 farriers who provided around the clock care throughout both events.

Ben Benson farrier

Why did you decide to become a farrier?

Ben’s Father was a farrier and as many small boys do “wanted to do what Dad did” and so it was arranged for Ben to spend time with a local blacksmith. After spending two weekends sweeping the floor numerous times he was allowed to do some forging, “something clicked” and Ben found it incredibly satisfying being able to “make something”. Despite interests in game keeping the more forge work he did the more addictive it became. Ben flew through the ‘pre-farrier’ course and successfully secured himself an apprenticeship with Haydn Price DipWCF. Through Haydn Ben was introduced to horse shoeing competitions and competition horses, his first real taste of “Formula 1 cars”.

Who (or what) has been your biggest influence or inspiration in your career both within and outside the profession and how?

Haydn ‘opened Ben’s eyes’, “his passion is never ending and he works in many different areas…he gave me the tools to work with”. Ben completed his apprenticeship with David Smith AWCF and Ben credits David for being the one who “told me how to use the tools” and it is David who Ben credits with helping him win the Apprentice National Championship.

In addition, Ben’s Father was incredibly supportive and as an apprentice would often pop a ‘note’ in an envelope with a “don’t tell your Mother” message included!

What’s the most unusual shoeing job that you have done?

“This would have to be shoeing a fat-bottomed cob, quite happily stood on its hind toes with its heels elevated off the floor – his owner seemed to be completely oblivious”.

What is the funniest incident you have experienced whilst at work?

“It would have to be watching a client hold a horse that I was shoeing and allowing it to chew the extension lead – there was actually smoke coming out of the wire. I also heard an amusing tale of an apprentice making an owner feint by holding a cadaver leg out on her return from making the tea which closely resembled her own horses…needless to say he was banned from the yard.”

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?!)

“I don’t know….yes I would do it all again though!”

What has been your highest point of your career so far?

“The Olympics and the Paralympics were amazing and for different reasons. The Paralympics was the most inspiring, humbling and emotional experience, the ability to ‘just get on with it’ and the sheer joy and sense of achievement that the competitors and their teams had for just being there was fantastic. We were overwhelmed at how friendly everyone was.”

What has been the lowest point of your career so far?

Ben failed his Diploma examination first time round – “with Honours!” Despite gaining ‘A’ grades in both theory and practical, Ben’s horse trotted up lame as he had bound a heel nail. This situation was made slightly better by a fellow apprentice also working for David Smith failing at the same time. Many clients thought they were joking when thy told them. Second time round Ben passed no problem at all. “You are only as good as your last job!”

What is the biggest regret you have in your career so far?

“Not doing the American Exchange as a newly qualified farrier”.

What advice would you offer those just beginning their apprenticeship?

“They need to absorb. Become a sponge. Don’t become fixated one way or another – there is more than one way to skin a cat. Ask your ATF as many questions as you can, step back and think about situations; it will set you up for life”

What advice would you offer those just starting up their own business?

“Realise you are a business, it is not just about how well you keep shoes on – farriery is not a transaction it is a service. You also need to learn how to deal with clients.”

What’s your next goal?

Ben’s next goal is his Associate examinations, “would love to be involved in another Olympics” and to continue his involvement in the Excel and World Class programme’s.

Why do you participate in farriery competitions?

Whilst Ben does not actively compete in farriery competitions he still sees himself as a competitive farrier. Nearly 90% of the horses he shoes are competition horses, many ridden by professional, full time riders. Ben does not feel you need to do competitions to be a good farrier.

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?

Ben believes the farrier industry in the UK is becoming “polarised”. The current problems with the training system in the UK will lead to big changes…

What do you think is the biggest threat to the farriery industry?

“Farriers are their own worst enemy; we can decide how it goes. Poor farriery promotes the positive aspects of barefoot trimming; work is there to be lost not taken”.

What is your biggest concern for the farriery industry?

Like many farriers in the UK Ben believes there are too many apprentices being trained. “It is about quantity not quality”. However, it is hoped that once the current problems are ironed out “we will come out of this bigger and stronger. The farriery apprenticeship needs to be recognised as further education.”

What keeps you sane and motivated when you are having a bad day?

“Your apprentices look to you for leadership and to be positive, failing that a few beers helps… tomorrow is a different day”

Favourite past time away from hot steel and horses?

“Shooting”

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)

Ben highlighted the need for horse handling skills, “calm, no screaming or yelling. The ability to handle a horse, put it at ease to get through a situation, how to hold a horse”. 

—–

By Claire Brown

Posted in Farrier business, Hoof Care and Treatments, Shoemaking | Tagged , , ,

Jim Blurton – Farrier Focus

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.

Jim Blurton

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?!)

Engineering.

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?

“Recession.

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

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Grant Moon – Farrier Focus

Six times holder of the prestigious title of World Champion Blacksmith, Grant Moon AWCF is arguably the most famous farrier. He has shod in no less than 36 different countries and delivers clinics across the world.

Grant Moon

In our first ‘Farrier Focus’ we fire a few questions at Grant to give us an insight into who he is, where he has come from and where he is going…

Why did you decide to become a farrier?

“I decided to become a farrier after watching my horses being shod by Steve Langford AFCL who later became my Master. I was very fortunate because Steve was a member of the Welsh Farriers team and this exposed me to other’s who had a similar drive for excellence – the great Tommy Williams and Glyn David to name a few of the many Welsh farriers who influenced me.”

Who (or what) has been your biggest influence or inspiration in your career both within and outside the profession and how?

“My greatest influence came from my father who taught me how to work and this ethic has led greatly to my success, he has also been a great supporter of what I have done as a farrier. Yesterday he came over and struck for me to practice tooled and fullered hunter caulk and wedge hind for Calgary 2013.

There are so many farriers who have influenced me and helped set out the road to my success but to name one it would have to be Edward Martin FWCF, he seemed to be an inspiration to many as an ambassador to the industry. He had skills as a farrier, as a teacher of his craft and lived generously giving his best; he could be very humble. A highlight of my career was to take him on his last big trip to the AFA Convention and be able to listen to some of his wisdom.”

What’s the most unusual shoeing job that you have done?

“It would have to be shoeing long footed Arabian pleasure horses in Texas. It was work that could and would be judged by non farriers as the rules for shoeing included a maximum toe length and a weight limit for the shoes including the nails – breaking the rules meant suspension for the trainer and probably the sack from the job.”

What is the funniest incident you have experienced whilst at work?

“The very first time I was competing in the US where we had to weld a bar into an aluminium race plate. I had never used a gas torch before let alone welded aluminium and the steward could not hand me shoes fast enough to melt, lucky no one else needed one!
Or it could have been where I went to Barry Zoo to trim the donkeys, it took ages to drive them into the empty Elephant pen only to have them run out through the bars!”

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?!)

“My first want was to be a farrier and could not think of anything that could be better….except retirement but you need more income to do that as you have a full time job occupying yourself.”

What has been your highest point of your career so far?

“Having the opportunity to share my skills with the next generation of farriers.”

What has been the lowest point of your career so far?

“Having to shoe wet ponies standing in the mud under a tree, it was character building just hope it does not happen again, everyone should try it.”

What is the biggest regret you have in your career so far?

“Letting ‘Beanie’ (Steven Beane) beat me at Calgary repetitively, he is just a great farrier.. joking no regrets.”

What advice would you offer those just beginning their apprenticeship?

Be prepared to work very hard, you will only get out what you put into your apprenticeship and to have high expectations and goals for yourself. The Master is there to help teach you, not to do the work for you. There are a lot of hours in a week where you are not working, fill them productively with study and practice. Your exam will come much too soon.”

What advice would you offer those just starting up their own business?

“PUNCTUALITY, PRESENTATION of yourself, your tools and the work at the horse, COMMUNICATION with the owner or trainer; it’s their investment or pet you’re working with, it’s their money you will pay the bills with”

What’s your next goal?

“To be able to raise my kids to be good, hard working conscientious and very happy. ”

Why do you participate in farriery competitions?

“To try and keep my skills up to date or from declining too much, secondly to try and encourage the young farriers to be the next generation of teachers. There are no losers at a contest only the ones who will not put their work up for evaluation loose. It is another place to learn and develop camaraderie in the industry”

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?

“Very similar as in past generations to me, the skills to shoe have not changed much and the best way to protect horse’s hooves was developed a long time ago. There are small changes but today’s tradition was yesterday’s innovation. There have been no leaps in horseshoeing just subtle changes as horses are asked to perform different tasks in different environments.”

What do you think is the biggest threat to the farriery industry?

“Apathy, with all that is happening inside the industry such as barefoot and the easing of standards for those entering the craft, we do need good representation and the BFBA (British Farriers and Blacksmiths Association) is the ideal organisation for us as individuals to have an opinion for the future of farriery. Alone our opinions will just be lost.”

What is your biggest concern for the farriery industry?

“Will my generation create an industry that will encourage the best from the young or just leave the industry floundering? Will there be enough work for the amount of young farriers we have in the industry, or are we about to have the first generation of part time farriers? If we have part time farriers standards will probably fall as there will be less commitment to our craft.”

What keeps you sane and motivated when you are having a bad day?

“There must be more good ones out there to have.”

Favourite past time away from hot steel and horses?

“Mowing the grass – it’s a great place to switch off.”

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)

“Having a rule for when marking the steel for a shoe and always know if it’s a left or right –
Place steel on anvil with outside heel away from you, visualize a line down the centre if you mark it to the left of centre it’s a left and if you mark it to the right of centre it’s a right.”

_____

Thanks for the insight into your life and career Grant.

Another Farrier Focus next week – stay tuned and subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss any.

If there’s a farrier you think you’d like to see featured, please let us know!

Interview by Claire Brown

Posted in Advice, Farrier business | Tagged , , , ,

Oh dear

 

 

 

Some horses just shouldn’t be messed with!

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Connect with Odd Job Bob on Facebook

Posted in Horse care, Horseshoes and hoof boots | Tagged ,

American Farriers Journal

Just arrived in stock – the April 2013 issue of the American Farriers Journal.

AFJ_Cover_April_0413_web

 

As always, these are free for our farrier customers when you place your next order.

In this issue:

  • The basics of drilling and tapping
  • Smartphone trends for business
  • What farriers are looking for in their shoeing rigs
  • Shoeing Showcase

American Farriers Journal

Posted in Farrier business, Farrier Services, Farrier Supplies Australia, Farrier supplies NZ | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Farrier supplies Australia

Farrier Supplies Australia

We’re increasing the range of farrier and hoofcare products we supply in Australia. Our company ships daily to Australian customers who include farriers, vets, saddleries, trainers and horse owners.

New products are being added to our farrier supplies Australia website regularly and we’re looking forward to adding in new and innovative products as well as some old favourites to the Australian market.

We can ship to locations in all parts of Australia and use a combination of carriers and couriers to get the orders delivered quickly and accurately.

I’m keen to talk to any farriers in Australia about what they use, what they’d like to use and if we can help make available horseshoes, farrier tools and farrier supplies gear at the right price all with exceptional service levels.

Australian customers can now contact us via email david@farriershop.com.au or on 1800 195 088 from within Australia.

Visit our Farrier Supplies Australia website and please drop me a line

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What’s the one piece of advice you’d give a new farrier starting his/her career?

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give a new farrier starting his/her career?

Share your thoughts in the comments section (below) of this farrier blog or our Facebook page  or Twitter @nzfarriers

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Farrier Supplies New Zealand

I’ve been working on putting together our stock list and it’s just about done.

My company supplies farriers, saddleries and horse owners in New Zealand but also Australia and various other countries around the world.

We stock a very wide range of quality hoof care products from many major manufacturers and have them all under one roof.

We’re based in Christchurch but ship daily to both the north and south islands of New Zealand and of course, the world.

The stock list is just that – an ever growing list of our current stock. To avoid any confusion about prices – the stock list doesn’t have prices! Many of our products have prices on our farrier supplies NZ website but for ease of use, check out our autumn 2013 Farrier Supplies stock list.

We have access to a huge volume of farrier products from all over the world. If there’s something you need that isn’t listed here, let me know – we’ll likely be able to get it for you!

Click on the link below to see our list of products:

Stock list Autumn 2013 New Zealand Farriers Ltd

I’ll be sending out paper copies of this stock list to farriers in New Zealand over the coming month or two. If you’d like a copy, please give me a shout!

If you want a quote for any of our products, I’ll be very happy to help.

Posted in Farrier supplies NZ | Tagged , , | 2 Comments