Sparks flew, fire burned and metal clanked on metal. In a mere hour and 10 minutes, farriers—equine hoof care specialists—from around the country and the world transformed pieces of steel into working horseshoes.
Over the weekend, 70 farriers gathered at Wildlife West Nature Park in Edgewood, N.M. to test heir skills. Craig Trnka, who founded the World Championship Blacksmiths, said folks had come from England, Wales, Canada, and Mexico.
“And Arkansas,” he joked, “We have a few foreigners from Arkansas.”
After competing in horseshoeing competitions for many years, Trnka, an Edgewood resident, decided that farrier contests should be used to teach, too. He created the World Championship Blacksmiths in 2006 with the goal of showing the public the value of well-educated farriers.
“There are six go-arounds, but you’re only competitive in one,” Trnka said. “You’re watching way more than you’re actually competing. This is my ideal dream of how a competition should be formatted.”
During their off rounds, competitors watched others and studied other techniques. Swapping tips and tricks, all participants benefitted. “There’s very little education for farriers in this country,” said Trnka, “So this is a continuing education process.”
Although the organization has expanded and holds contests countrywide, Edgewood is still a favorite destination for competitors. Trey Green, a member of the WCB national team, fondly remembered early versions in New Mexico happening at Trnka’s house. “This was the original one,” Green said.
But the move to Wildlife West was a nice change for both the competitors and for the park, he said. Half of the proceeds from the 2012 Championships went to the wildlife rescue zoo, which protects animals native to New Mexican and Southwest ecosystems.
The Edgewood competition drew international star in horseshoe-making Mark Evans of Wales. A master of the craft, Evans has been shoeing horses for 30 years, competed throughout Europe, America and Britain, and taken on 10 apprentices. While evaluating each of the competitors, Evans meticulously followed each stage of their shoemaking process. He gave marks for the shape of the shoes, their fit and how they were nailed into hooves.
From the master farriers down to the onlookers, all who attended the World Blacksmith Championships came away more knowledgeable about the craft.