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Sunday, January 04, 2009

Best of 2008: World Champion Farrier Clock Is in a Class of Its Own


Please double-click on the image to enlarge it and see details of the shoes. The image is extra-large for this reason. For those unfamiliar with elite farrier pursuits: these shoes were made from cold bars of steel, heated in coal or gas forges, and crafted using only hand tools such as hammers, rasps, pritchels and fullering blades. No power tools were used...although I can't vouch for the making of the clock! Photo courtesy of Carl Bettison.

World Champion's shoes and year of championship:
Left top to bottom: Fullered hunter shoe by Richard Ellis (1997)
Heart bar shoe by Jim Blurton (2005)
Hind heeled cob shoe with toe calk by Paul Robinson (2008)
Center: front fullered Clydesdale shoe with toe clip by David Wilson (1985)
Right top to bottom: French hind shoe by Grant Moon (1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1994)
Front fullered wide-web straight bar shoe by Darren Bazin (2000, 2002, 2004)
Hind calk-and-wedge roadster shoe by Billy Crothers (1993, 1995, 1996, 1998, 2006)
(Note: shoes identified by Fran Jurga, corrections are welcome!)

Looking back on 2008, there are some stories for the blog that have been in the pipeline for a while, dangling for details. This one definitely falls into the category of "Best of..." on several levels. I was challenged by labeling the shoes in the photo, but today I feel brave and am taking a stab at it.

The story begins with our friend Carl Bettison. Carl is a farrier and supply company executive for Stromsholm in England; he is also the new owner of Gibbins, the farrier apron and work clothing manufacturer.

But Carl's life this year is defined by being an executive of a different sort. He is the master of the Worshipful Company of Farriers, which is a livery company of London. What started 600 years ago as a craft guild to protect the practice of farriery in the city of London has evolved into a high-powered members-only "club" of influential professionals from all walks of life. The twist is that the club is still charged with the protecting the best interests of farriery and in fact, is the benefactor and advocate for the farrier educational system throughout Great Britain.

Since I have been involved in farriery, there have been four "masters" of the company who were farriers: Howard Cooper, Mac Head, Simon Curtis and now, Carl Bettison. It is an incredible honor and also an incredible duty to hold this office. I can also remember that Princess Anne, daughter of Queen Elizabeth, was the master one year. Normally, however, the master is a "normal" non-farrier member of the company. That would usually be a successful businessperson in London executive circles.

Some farriers are members of the company and participate in the events and programs, but all farriers are technically products of the WCF through the examination process that qualifies farriers in the UK. When a young farrier successfully completes college and the rigorous three-year apprenticeship, s/he earns the title of DipWCF, for the "Diploma of the WCF".

Among Carl's innovative activities since taking office was the commissioning of a centerpiece for a fundraising auction, the shoe-plaque/clock you see in the photo with this article. It's quite spectacular but even more so when you realize the sources of the shoes:

"I asked all the Calgary (Stampede) World Champions from UK plus Ireland to make a shoe each. Then Richard Ellis, helped by his father, made this clock. It was sold at a Worshipful Company of Farriers Auction last Friday for £5000 (approximately US$8000). The winning bid was placed by Grant Moon on behalf of Sarac Hotels Limited," Carl writes.

The clock wasn't the only interesting item in the auction. Carl mentioned that other items included a signed photo of European champion eventer Zara Phillips (grand-daughter of the Queen, daughter of Princess Anne) and her top horse Toytown, including a horseshoe from Toytown, authenticated and signed by her faithful farrier, our friend Bernie Tidmarsh from Wiltshire. (Toytown was injured just before the Olympics and Zara missed Hong Kong.)

Also on the list included the lucrative promise of a day's fly fishing in Scotland with Ayrshire farrier Jim Ferrie, and a day's golf at Woburn for three people with Billy Crothers.

This was no backyard auction. Carl reported, "We were lucky to have Hugh Edmeads, the chairman of Christie's (art auction house) in South Kensington (London) as our auctioneer. The total raised was £8240."

Thanks to Carl for this news, and thanks to the individual champions for pulling together for this project. If it looks like the British Isles dominates the world championship, it is quite true, although several Americans have won, as well. It is interesting to note that until David Wilson won in 1985, the champions were British born and trained: Bob Marshall, now of Canada, and Dave Duckett, now of the USA.

Another bit of interesting trivia here is that of the seven British Isles champions, four of them are originally from the tiny nation of Wales.

© Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing. No use without permission. You only need to ask. Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page). To subscribe to Hoofcare and Lameness (the journal), please visit the main site, www.hoofcare.com, where many educational products and media related to equine lameness and hoof science can be found. Questions or problems with this blog? Send email to blog@hoofcare.com.

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