Frigid temperatures and a driving snowstorm did not stop about 60 farriers from traveling from as far south as Texas and as far north as Canada to attend the Michigan Horseshoers Association Clinic and Contest on Tuesday, Jan. 8 at the Michigan State Livestock Pavilion in Lansing, Mich.
The 46th annual clinic features demonstrations and lectures from International Horseshoeing Hall Of Fame member Roy Bloom from Drummond, Wis., Tom Willoughby from Crown Point, Ind., as well as several forging contests.
Willoughby will be performing an artistic forging demonstration later Thursday and Saturday. Andy Canoy from Grand Blanc, Mich., and equine veterinarian Laura Pylman of Mid-Michigan Equine Services in Laingburg, Mich., are scheduled to speak Saturday afternoon.
"This is one of the oldest horseshoeing clinics in the country," says Dick Becker of Lapeer, Mich. "It's older than the American Farrier's Association convention."
While open division competitors forged egg bar and diagonal breakover front shoes to kick off the first of the 3-day event, Bloom took forging requests from novice and intermediate farriers. Bloom tackled a number of exercises including how to forge trailers, square toe bends, proper hammer techniques and fullering.
Bloom recalled a contest in which Hemet, Calif., farrier Travis Koons forged a fullered horseshoe in 4 minutes only to see it disqualified because the venue lost power, forcing organizers to restart the contest from scratch.
"He only had to draw a toe clip," Bloom says. "How did he build a shoe in 4 minutes? That's inhuman. Then, you study his technique and you realize that he saves time by hemming the material straight rather than at an angle."
During the open division class No. 1 competition, Olivier Dufresne finished punching nail holes in his onion shoe and put it back in the forge.
"Almost there," the Quebec farrier says with a ready smile and an easy demeanor as time winds down on the competition.
Dufresne looks forward to attending the clinic, despite the 13-hour drive and inclement weather.
"The weather was crazy," he says. "You could barely see the road. It's great to be here, though. It's like a holiday, you know? It gives us a chance to get away for a few days to learn and compete."