When practicing for certification or a contest, it might seem logical to grab a piece of bar stock and forge shoe after shoe. Instead, simplify your practice.

“I think one of the big mistakes that farriers make is that they practice the whole shoe instead of elements of the shoes,” says David Hallock, a Dansville, Mich., farrier and an American Farrier’s Association certification tester. “For example, if you’re practicing a calk and wedge shoe, practice them individually. You don’t have to build the whole shoe to sort out how to build the calk and wedges.”

It’s much the same when you’re forging bar shoes for the journeyman run.

“Practice making a bunch of hockey sticks instead of building a ton of bar shoes,” says the Michigan State University farrier instructor during a break from competing during the World Championship Blacksmiths season opener at the Midwest Horse Fair in Madison, Wis. “Get all of the steps down instead of just making a bunch of bad bar shoes because you haven’t sorted out your hockey sticks.”

How quickly one begins to get a handle of each section is dependent on the individual. Yet, there are some general guidelines that one can set as a goal.

“If you want to get proficient at it, you have to do it at least 10 times in a row,” Hallock says. “I think Heartland Horseshoeing School instructor Cody Gregory said that if you do it 50 consecutive times, then you are really starting to understand how to put it all together.”

When practicing, though, be prepared to set aside enough time in each session to accomplish your goals.

“Just doing it once and thinking you have it sorted out isn’t going to work,” he says. “If you have an hour to practice, then you’re going to get five to 10 done in a row. Practicing the first one comes out pretty good for me. The second through sixth runs are terrible. Then I start to see marked improvement at seven, eight and nine. Number 10 is almost as good as the first. So if you just keep doing it over and over, you’re going to further your skills quite a bit.”

After practicing each element of the shoe 50 times, it’s time to put them all together in one shoe. As the event draws closer, you’ll want to introduce a clock.

“I’ll start practicing a time-go about a week or 2 before an event,” Hallock says. “When you get proficient and you’re stuck in your pattern on how you’re going to approach something, then when you’re close to the event, a time-go will let you know how much work you have to get done with each heat to make it fit within the time. You should only have to do a couple of time-goes to get a good idea of where you’re at.”

For more advice for preparing for farrier certifications and competitions, read “Practice is the Key to Forging Proficiency” in the May/June 2019 issue of American Farriers Journal.