By Jeff Cota, Associate Editor

Chris Gregory and his family are throwing a party this weekend in the Heartland.

Celebrating 20 years of farrier education at Heartland Horseshoeing School in Lamar, Mo., the Gregorys are hosting a clinic, forging contest and a Farrier’s International Testing System (FITS) exam.

Much has changed in the 2 decades since the school opened.

“I had five students who lived in the upstairs bunkhouse, which was just barely that,” the Hall Of Fame farrier recalls. “Below them was a dirt floor dairy barn.”

Today, that bunkhouse has all the necessary amenities and draws students from around the world to earn their farriery education.

The clinic kicked off the festivities Thursday morning with Gregory, his son Cody and Dusty Franklin instructing attendees on a number of topics including drawing clips, boxing and safeing, keg shoe modifications and forging plain-stamped shoes.

“Forging a plain-stamped shoe is one of the hardest shoes to make because you can’t hide anything,” says Franklin, a long-time friend of the Gregorys and owner of Five Star Horseshoeing School in Minco, Okla.

After heating the center of the stock, Franklin holds it vertically with the tongs just inches from the anvil and begins to hammer.

“I hold the stock off the anvil just a little bit,” he says. “Why it works for me is it makes me let go of my tong handle. When I hold it solid on there, I keep my tongs gripped and the bottom of my steel bounces everywhere. But if I have to hold it above and loosely, it just stays right on top and I can bump straight up and down. It doesn’t distort steel as much.”

The celebration will continue Friday with forging contest consisting of three divisions, as well as an examiner contest. Division winners and the top examiner will be awarded belt buckles. The FITS exam will take place Saturday and Sunday to train new examiners and hone the skills of those who are currently serving in those roles. A conference will be held Monday to establish guidelines and rules that will govern FITS.