On June 13-15, the World Championship Blacksmiths held the second phase of their five-phase, year-long blacksmith competition in Eureka, Nev., with Jason Harmeson, CJF of San Diego Calif. serving as the judge. Eureka’s competition had 70 competitors from across the U.S., England and Australia.
The five-phase World Championship Blacksmiths competition takes place in a different city for each stage at five different points in the year. This year, the competition will be held in Madison, Wis., Eureka, Nev., Sheridan, Wyo., Edgewood, N.M. and Kissimmee, Fla. with the first two having been completed earlier this year. Competitors travel to the different stages in the various cities and must compete in at least four of the five phases to win the competition. The competitors’ scores for each phase are totaled to decide the winner, with the top four competitors going on to compete as a team internationally.
Each phase is a 3-day event with a clinic from the judge on the first day, the Mustad Match Play and the two-man forging on the second day and more Mustad Match Play, a second clinic by the judge and the individual forging on the third day of the competition.
The judge changes with the phase of the competition by choosing the shoe list that the competitors will create for that phase of the competition. In Eureka, Judge Jason Harmeson chose to have the competitors create a light draft barshoe and a diamond toe hind reverse graduated shoe for the two-man portion of the competition. For the individual forging portion of the competition, Harmeson chose to have the competitors create a French toe weight and a Swiss Hind.
Jason Harmeson started shoeing horses in 1975 at 10 years old. He joined the American Farriers Association in 1990 and went on to become a Certified Ferrier in 1994 and a Certified Journeyman Ferrier in 1995. Harmeson was the president of the San Diego County Farriers Association from 1999-2009 and was elected again in 2013. He also sat on the board of the American Farriers Association from 1999-2010.
Harmeson loves competitions and doesn’t believe in shoeing for just one breed or discipline. He believes that shoeing for the basics is a very important part of the job, so that’s what he focuses most of his attention on. That being said, he still believes that you should challenge yourself to learn all aspects of the trade.
In the clinics that precede the competition on 2 days of the event, Harmeson gave presentations and an exhibition of his work based on his personal preferences for the specific shoe he would be having competitors create later that day, says Craig Trnka of the World Champion Blacksmiths. “These clinics are an opportunity to learn from the judge about new types of shoes and their idiosyncrasies,” Trnka continues.
The competitions are focused on providing a learning experience for farriers in addition to being fast-paced competitions with international stakes and prize money. “The 3-day competition includes a novice division for people who just want to dip their toes in and see if they would like to compete in the full competition or who just want the experience of one,” Trnka says. “Horseshoeing is a practice and you need to have a certain skill set to be able to perform well in a farrier career. In order to get this skill set, you have to practice. We provide this practice and experience through our competitions. People competing for the first time may be nervous or may believe that there will be a lot of chest bumping, but there’s really not. Farriers will find a lot of like-minded people at these events and they will find themselves learning from each other and from participating in the competition.
“Part of the reason our competitions take place in five different cities throughout the country is so that people who would not be able to travel far for the competition might get a chance to compete in a city nearer to them. We also have prizes and sponsors for our novice class. It doesn’t really cost them anything to compete and they leave with lots of goody-bags.”
There is also a significant sized group of spectators that are drawn to the competitions. “Our competitions are also focused on promoting the farrier trade,” says Trnka. “In our first competition of the year in Madison, Wis. 54,000 people showed up to watch. Eureka is a much smaller town and draws a smaller crowd, but the city really appreciates our competition and number of people we bring with us who stimulate the local economy. They even put up a $10,000 prize for the Eureka competition. We are currently working on growing the spectator portion of the competition even further.”
The World Championship Blacksmiths competitions are a great learning experience for advanced farriers and novices alike, as well as those farriers who choose to spectate, with opportunities to learn new styles of shoes and meet and learn from other farriers.
The third phase of the competition will be held from August 30- September 1, 2014 in Sheridan, Wyo.