There never can be too many opportunities for bridging the farrier community. Too many divisions exist, and these are sometimes based in perception rather than reality. Nothing just happens to generate unity — it takes the efforts of those within the industry to accomplish this.
After I finish writing this post, I’m driving to Shelbyville, Ky., for the Forge of July. There are plenty of options for education and spending time with other farriers, but it is the no frills nature of the Forge of July that makes it unique.
Billed as “an event for the farrier community,” the Forge of July is this weekend at Clear Creek Park. There is no fee to attend; there is no set schedule. As long as your work focuses on improving the hoof health of the horses you work with, c’mon down. There will be demonstrations, hands-on help, impromptu discussions, non-farrier activities, tool swap and much more. Family is encouraged to attend. There are plenty of non-farrier activities, including hiking and fishing. Essentially, it is a fellowship weekend for farriers.
“You never know what tips and tricks another farrier may use that could benefit you,” reads the Forge of July website. “We want people to feel comfortable enough to help one another and if something isn’t your cup of tea, there will be enough going on that you can simple stroll on past to the next learning opportunity.”
One of the weekend’s organizers, farrier Danvers Child has been kicking around the idea of such an event for some years. It took a conversation with fellow shoer Jimmy Gore to move the idea to reality. At the 2016 International Hoof-Care Summit, the two reminisced of the early days of the American Farrier’s Convention. Back then, they would pile a group into a truck and travel on the cheap, unburdened by concerns and resources. Today, they concluded, young farriers have many, many more educational opportunities, but may not be able to afford the larger events.
After kicking around an initial idea, conversations turned into actual work and the event began to materialize. There are many fingerprints on the weekend, but Child gives much of the credit to Pat Broadus, Brad Dirickson, Andy Knight, April Raine and Jason Usry. Throughout the planning, they were guided by the mission to keep the event all encompassing and affordable for farriers.
“We were also amused by the fact that we were such a mix, representing various professional affiliations, shoeing disciplines, and shoeing styles/approaches,” explains Child. “We wanted to stress the importance of working with others to find commonalities rather than differences — so that's where we're headed.”
That inclusive spirit is what the industry needs more of. Some waste far too much time tearing down the work of others and the validity of footcare theories. Here’s an opportunity to understand the different perspective of farriers who approach hoof care differently. Maybe there are good ideas and tips to learn from the other. Or more importantly, there’s an opportunity to exchange mutual respect in spite of disagreement. By eliminating aspects of division in the industry, farriers could find they actually have more in common and attack issues that the industry faces. I’m not completely naïve — there can be limitations to mutual understanding. It requires an open mind and lack of extremism. For example, I wouldn’t expect a Strasser devotee to show up and sing Kumbaya around the campfire with, well, any sensible horseshoer. Let’s see where things go after this weekend. In the least, those who attend will be better off for having done so.