Area farriers take part in local competition

On Jan. 21 System Fencing of Rockwood hosted its first forging competition.

Forging is the art of creating horseshoers from flat bar stock. Several horses in the Ontario Standardbred Adoption Society’s program also lent a hoof or two for the competition.

System Fencing hosted the event, which boasted $2,000 in prize money, in combination with a two-day sale for farriers.

“We acquired this location last year,” said Nanci Job, special events and social media spokesperson for System Fencing. “From there we created the farrier division and expanded upon it. The next step was to host a forging competition.”

She said similar events are held across the province. “We thought, we have the facility, we have the space, so why not?”

A seminar was held the day prior to the competition for competitors, trainers and people who want to know more about specific products.

Job said the competition involves three divisions – novice, intermediate and open.

Novices are mostly new farriers or beginners. Some of them are still in school and haven’t obtained a job working at it yet.

The intermediates are established farriers. Many have a client base and are perfecting their skills.

The open division, she said, are farriers with quite a good customer base and who compete quite a bit.

“They are definitely competitors,” Job said. “Response has been great. We’ve had 21 competitors registered, which is pretty good for a first competition.”

She added that generally, participation in such events runs between 19 and 24 competitors – depending on where the event is held.

Job said competitors are from across Ontario – some from as far as two-and-a-half hour’s drive away, but they also numbers quite a few locals as well.

Each division in the various classes is required to build a shoe from bar stock – a straight piece of steel – to set specifications. Competitors are given a specified period of time to create that shoe, and are then judged on their creations.

Later Job explained the Eagle Eye class in the competition involves competitors being shown an actual horse leg and hoof. They stand back about five or six feet, and are given 20 seconds to make any observations or notes.

Competitors are not allowed to touch the hoof, Job said.

From there, they pick out the bar stock they believe is appropriate for the shoe for that horse. Then, they have 20 minutes to make it to their specifications.

Once that 20 minutes is up, the judge takes the shoe and places the horse’s hoof over top to see which competitor’s shoe is the closest match.

Novices start with a shoe and merely reform it, but the open and intermediate classes make the shoe straight from plain stock.

Doug Buck, of Glen Williams, is vice president of the Ontario Farriers Association, and a competitor in the open division. He said “Every division is geared to shoes appropriate to the skill level.”

He added that particular event includes a ground-level competition. He said there are also higher level events, including the Canadian competition in Calgary this April.

Buck added there will also be a convention in Guelph this year.

“That event is more established, so there will probably be about 30 competitors there,” he said. Buck noted the larger competitions draw people in from across the country and some Americans as well, and it is a long-time event for him.

“I’ve been shoeing about 37 years and competing about 20 years,” Buck said.

He considers them great learning experiences because most competitions are combined with a clinic as well.

“It’s really advantageous to be around some of the best people in the world. It picks up your skill levels a bit and your day-to-day work tends to improve as well.”

Tim Koelln, of Lasalle, is a full time farrier, and a director of the Ontario Farriers Association. He, too, appreciates the clinics held in conjunction with the competition.

“System Fencing was really good this weekend to put on a clinic yesterday. Today we had the forging competition to see who is going to come home with a red ribbon.”

He said one of the results of the various classes “just makes us better farriers.

“When we go out into the field we can do a better job for our customers.”

Koelln has been in the profession for about 30 years, and also served as president of the Ontario Farriers Association for two terms and is currently on the board of directors.