If the shoe fits: farriers put talents to the test

Art and science come together when blacksmiths compete at the Calgary Stampede.

Fifteen blacksmiths hammered out shoes for horses in timed events during a three-day competition. A panel of judges scrutinized every shoe as a work of craftsmanship that had to fit an individual’s hoof perfectly.

Using horses from movie wrangler John Scott, each class had special requirements, said Robert Hitchner of the Stampede’s blacksmith committee.

For the competitors, this event is an extension of their every day work but provides the bonus of a $7,500 top prize, he said.

Farrier Chad Lausen of Strathmore, Alta., works year round with three employees taking care of about 600 horses. There is enough business in the area, and the mobile shop never has to travel more than 45 minutes from home.

Lausen learned his trade at Olds College and has been in business for 12 years shoeing horses and making farrier tools. Competition is a big part of his life — he enters about 12 events across the continent annually.

Chad Lausen of Strathmore, Alta., competes in the Calgary Stampede blacksmith competition, where he had to make a horseshoe to fit an individual horse’s foot. | Barbara Duckworth photo

Two of his employees also entered the Calgary contest this year to gain more experience in a competitive setting but also to learn more about their craft.

“This is a big contest in Canada,” Lausen said. “I am really proud of my employees. They have stepped up in a big way.”

He has also been a member of the western Canadian farrier team and likes the pressure to create a perfect show in a timed setting.

“Your adrenalin keeps you going as the time clock keeps ticking down,” he said. “We do this every day, but it is nice to put yourself in a high stress situation against the best in Canada and have the opportunity to learn from that as well.”

People often ask if they are hurting the horses.

“Everything we do is for the benefit of the horse,” he said.

“That is the cool thing about our job. Everything we do is to make that horse’s life better.”

Colain Duret of Okotoks, Alta., was this year’s champion.

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