Blacksmithing mixes skill, art

It sounds simple enough: take a flat piece of steel, add heat and turn it into a horseshoe.

But as you watch a farrier make a horseshoe, one blow at a time, you soon realize it is a combination of practised skill and art.

On Feb. 10, the Ag Arena in Barrhead, Alta., became one large blacksmith shop with coal- and propane-fired forges in operation for the 40 participants in the fourth annual Wildrose Blacksmithing Championships.

Competitors came from across the country to take part in this year’s event.

Organizer Kris Kremp said the number of competitors was up from last year, when about 30 participated. He said he is already looking ahead to 2019.

Kremp has been interested in blacksmithing from the time he was a boy on his father’s farm, and decided to make it a profession. He took the two-year blacksmithing course at Olds College and later taught the course there for two years.

He said he first organized the competition three years ago to “help promote excellence in the farrier industry.

“We’re a non-regulated trade and I did this to try to improve the quality of life and performance for the horses all over North America and try to raise the standard of our trade, and provide an opportunity for continuing education for the farrier.”

Kremp said he thought this year’s event went over well.

“The horses all stood really good (part of the competition was trimming and shoeing a horse’s hoof), the competitors all did a really great job. Our judge, Randy Brassard (of Ontario), was just fantastic. He was very thorough.”

Kremp said about 280 shoes were built during the event by the 40 competitors.

Sarah Vanderpol of Toronto was one of the female competitors. She’s been a farrier for seven years, but this was her first year competing at the Wildrose event. She makes up part of the five-person Canadian Farrier’s team, which expects to compete in Lexington, Kentucky.

“I just love it,” she said.

Greg Toronchuk of Onoway and Jason Wrubleski of Cooking Lake have competed at the Wildrose event in Barrhead from its first year. The pair work part of the competition individually and team up for the two-man event.

Toronchuk said he has been a farrier for about 11 years, and like Vanderpol, loves the work.

Wrubleski has been a farrier for 18 years, and said no matter how long he has been in the trade, he always learns when he comes to this event.

“If I didn’t learn, I wouldn’t come.”

The Canadian Championships are scheduled for March 24-25 in Chilliwack, B.C.

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