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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Competition Farriers Unite: WCB's First "SuperClinic" is a Success

They came from all over the United States. They also came from Brazil, The Netherlands, Sweden, Canada, and Great Britain, too. And they kept on coming, hammers in hand and trucks lined up.

An estimated 181 farriers congregated in an arena outside Houston, Texas on January 11-13, to see, hear, and evaluate a concept called "World Championship Blacksmiths", farriery's newest experiment in entrepreneurship and originality. The WCB's "Super Clinic", presented by Anvil Brand Shoe Company, used a "who's who" of the game's top experts as instructors to draw in the attendees, but many were also curious to know what the organization might be like, and how it would run its events.

WCB Chief Planning and Operations Officer Jill Ballard of Ithaca, Nebraska reported having trouble getting the attendees out of the arena at the end of the night. "We shut off the music, we told them it was over, but they just stayed and stayed," she told Hoofcare & Lameness on January 17. "Finally, we had to turn off the lights to get them out of there!"

WCB has ten work stations but added rigs of member farriers to accommodate the demand from attendees to practice forging skills with the clinicians. After the formal lessons of the day, the work stations were opened for practice and Ballard said the attendees poured out of the stands and right to the work stations, ready to try what they'd just learned.

While the corporation's purported mission is to run a national series of farrier competitions leading up to a grand finale championship, the Super Clinic was an educational first step. The clinic was offered free to farriers who wish to become members of the organizational side of the corporation, which already has over 200 members and has received "chapter" status from the American Farrier's Association, including a seat on the AFA's Board of Directors. The company was only launched in June of 2006 and is the first private company to be delegated chapter status by the AFA.

A quick math calculation shows that nine out of ten current members of the organization attended the event.

Clinicians were Jim Quick, Craig Trnka, Jason Smith, Jim Poor, Shayne Carter, Jim Keith, Mark Milster, and Austin Edens, as well as the current members of the American Farrier's Team, which represents the US in international competitions. All the clinicians have attained the level of the Certified Journeyman Farrier in the AFA. Current World Champion Blacksmith Billy Crothers of the UK also was part of the program; Crothers is an Associate of the Worshipful Company of Farriers in Britain.

WCB Chief Executive Officer Craig Trnka of Albuquerque, New Mexico was pleased with the turnout and the program. "All the clinicians involved stuck to the core basics of horseshoeing and that's what made this clinic such a success," he said.

The entire program was videotaped and projected onto a large screen so that attendees could see the workmanship clearly and at close range, while remaining comfortably seated. Media services were provided by Dan Burke, Dave Farley and Royden Bloom of Farrier Product Distribution in Shelbyville, Kentucky. DVDs from the event will be sold by WCB in the spring.

In addition to Anvil Brand and FPD, sponsors included Centaur Forge, Life Data Labs, Vettec, and Emerson Horseshoe Supply.

The next event on the WCB calendar, besides attendance or competition entries by most members at the annual convention of the American Farrier's Association in February, will be the first regional WCB competition, to be held in Bossier City, Louisiana on April 20-21. This will be competitors' first opportunity to attain points toward qualifyinig for the national championship.

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