After 10 years of forging various shoes ranging from the simple to the complicated, the Calgary Mail-In Forging Exercise shifted gears this year. This year’s exercise encouraged American Farriers Journal readers to sharpen their forging skills by producing a pair of bolt tongs from 3/4-inch bar stock.

The new challenge didn’t phase the winner of this year’s exercise. Mark Lieser is no stranger to this valuable stay-at-home educational opportunity, having captured several top placings in this event over the past 7 years.

The Weslaco, Texas, farrier forged two complete pairs of tongs and three partial pairs before being satisfied enough with one to mail it to Calgary for evaluation. “The only problem I encountered was leaving enough material in the boss jaw area,” he says.

Lieser has been shoeing for 9 years and works mainly with backyard horses along with horses performing in roping, barrel, dressage and hunter disciplines.

“The Calgary Mail-In Forging Exercise is always a good forging exercise,” says Lieser. “Being able to see where you match up with others around the world is why I like to be part of the Calgary Mail-In Forging Exercise. It has really helped me develop my forging skills.”

There were a dozen entries in this year’s Mail-In Forging Exercise from nine states, Ontario and Brazil.

Co-sponsored by Calgary’s World Championship Blacksmith Competition and American Farriers Journal, this educational event is a valuable way to gain forging experience. Most importantly, the forging work can be done in your own shop before having your mail-in efforts critiqued by the judges during the mid-summer Calgary Stampede competition.

Alabama Runner-Up

Capturing second place honors was Glenn Reese of Springville, Ala. He made eight pairs of tongs before he was happy with one to send to Calgary. He kept three other sets of tongs to use in his daily shoeing work and tossed away four pair that weren’t worth saving.

Reese says his critical concern was learning how to forge the tongs, as he had forged only a few pairs of tongs in his career. “Chris Gregory’s article on how to forge these bolt tongs was a big help, as were some good folks that helped me out,” he says. “Russell Colvin and Phil Box worked as strikers and I couldn’t have done it without their help. You can’t draw that bar stock out by yourself.”

Reese didn’t have any real problems in forging the tongs, although he had to figure out a way to make the loop for the head of the bolt.

His shoeing work consists of about 50% Quarter Horses and 50% gaited horses. One of his specialties is shoeing both types of horses for trail rides.

Reese has entered the Calgary Mail-In Forging Exercise several times. “It’s a valuable learning experience that you folks put together for farriers,” he says. “Since I can’t make it to Calgary, this is a great way for me to have a presence there.”

Teaming Up In Montana

Third-place honors went to Bryce Kawasaki of Gallatin Gate, Mont. He and another farrier, Josh Stanley of Bozeman, Mont., made about a dozen sets of tongs before they were happy with the ones that they mailed to Calgary.

“I’ve been interested in making tongs since seeing legendary shoer Jay Sharp make a pair,” says Kawasaki. “Since then I’ve been helped by some real handy guys like Jim Keith, Roy Bloom, Chris Gregory, Jim Poor and Lee Hecker in clinics,” he says.

He says the biggest problem he had was getting the jaws long enough to leave room for the bolt head and then getting the two jaws symmetrical.

Kawasaki shoes with his wife, Jenny. Their shoeing practice consists of everything from ponies to Clydesdales. The husband-and-wife team does some roping horses, barrel horses, dressage and a lot of pleasure horses.

Forging Awards

Along with perfecting their tool making skills, each participant received $347.85 of products while another $9,049.48 in prizes were split between the participants.

These $13,223.68 of valuable products were donated by Castle Plastics, Apex Tools Group, Delta Mustad Hoofcare Center, Empire Farrier Supply, Equinox Int’l., Equine Innovations, G.E. Forge & Tool, Gray Mapston Horseshoeing Hammers, Hawthorne Products, Hoof Wraps, Horse Science, Life Data Labs, Meader Supply, Nature Farms, NC Tool, Plum Shade Farm, Rusty Brown Enterprises, Save Edge, SBS Equine Products, Stone Well Bodies & Equipment, Thoro’Bred Inc., Vettec, Vibram Hoof Pads, W.F. Young and American Farriers Journal.