Tom Willoughby

Vultures, Horseshoes And Everything In-Between

A visit to Indiana farrier Tom Willoughby’s shop gives insight to how practicing ornamental blacksmithing can translate to forging skills with horseshoes

More so than any predecessor, Facebook has connected people who have never met in person or likely ever will. One person who has thousands of friends, many of whom he has yet to shake hands with, is Crown Point, Ind., farrier Tom Willoughby.

It isn’t his hoof-care work that has earned this popularity, but his skills in ornamental blacksmithing. Pictures of his work are widely shared and amaze those who see them.

Artistic blacksmithing it is somewhat of a recent pursuit for Willoughby. Although he’s had a keen interest in blacksmithing since he began shoeing, it wasn’t until arthritis in his back began limiting his shoeing workload several years ago that Willoughby began focusing on the artistic side of it.

A visit to his shop in northwest Indiana gave Willoughby a chance to show a project he’s working on, but also explain how his blacksmithing made him a better horseshoer.

Circling The Vulture

One of the projects that brought attention to Willoughby’s work are his anvil vultures (caricature vultures forged from steel). On this day in his shop, Willoughby will begin working on one to be auctioned at the 2015 American Farrier’s Association annual convention (the finished product earned nearly $4,500 at the auction).

“I start with 1 1/8-inch steel round stock,” he says. “I try to upset it to where I can get a wider beak on the vulture. In the past, I used to make these out of one piece, but now I make the head and neck…

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Jeremy mcgovern

Jeremy McGovern

Jeremy McGovern has been a journalist for nearly 20 years. He has been a member of the American Farriers Journal staff for 7 years and serves as the Executive Editor/Publisher. A native of Indiana, he also is a member of the board of directors for the American Horse Publications organization of equine media.

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