From The Calgary Stampede
Calgary, Alberta, Canada - They're often called blacksmiths because they work with iron. They usually call themselves farriers or horseshoers. Whatever you call them, David Varini of Dalry, Ayrshire, Scotland, is the 2013 World Champion.
He first came to the Calgary Stampede's World Championship Blacksmiths' Competition (WCBC) presented by Mustad in 2004, Varini remembers, and then didn't return until 2008. That year, he was Reserve Champion.
From then on, says the 34-year old professional farrier, "It's become a bit of an obsession with me - to take it one step further and win it. I feel more relief than joy at the moment."
Between that runner-up finish in 2008, and this year's victory, Varini's best outcome at the Stampede was third last year. He did achieve a measure of success by being a member of the winning four-man team in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
"I don't do lots of competitions every year," Varini says. "The ones I do mean a lot to me, so I put in quite a lot of prep time. For 3 months prior to the Stampede, I pretty much spend my life between my anvil and my forge. I finish my day work and then it's practice, practice, practice."
Varini's win in this year's WCBC snaps a streak of four consecutive victories by Englishman Steven Beane of Northallerton, Yorkshire. Beane was one of the five competitors who made it to Sunday's final round and finished fourth.
Three strenuous days at Heritage Park with smiths earning points in ten classes narrowed the field of 62 entrants from 15 countries down to ten competitors. The ten semi-finalists moved to the Stampede's Big Top on Sunday morning and were each tasked with shoeing the front feet of a randomly selected horse in no more than an hour. After a break to check their equipment and catch their breath, five finalists then had to shoe the back feet of that same horse.
Judges James Blurton of Wales and Canadian farrier Nathan Powell assessed each farrier's work on the quality of shoe forging, finish and nail placement as well as preparation and balance of the horses' feet in a blind judging process.
Reserve Champion, or runner-up, in the WCBC was Matthew Randles of Biddulph, Staffordshire, England, in only his second visit to the Stampede.
Randles, who also won the shoeing and forging competitions, said, "I thought it was going well. It's an amazing feeling. I can't believe it. It's a pleasure to compete against these guys. There are some top guys here - serious guys."
Grant Moon of Wales, the only five-time WCBC winner, was third this year and took the best-shod title. Beane was fourth and Englishman Jonathan Nunn was fifth.
Semi-finalists who did not make the final were Jack Casserly of England, Jesper Eriksson of Sweden, and Scotland's Devin Crerar - who was named Rookie of the Year and Englishmen David Smith and Nigel Fennell.
The four-man team draft championship went to the quartet of Nunn, Moon, Eriksson and Askel Vibe of Norway.
"In spite of a rough start, we recovered strong," commented Erik Swanby, chair of the Stampede Blacksmith committee. "We just put our heads down and went.
"Anybody in the top ten or fifteen could have won this year. It's quite a humbling experience to get to the top. I'm sure, when things settle down a little bit, I'll be able to look at it and enjoy it more."