38th Michigan Horseshoers Association Annual Contest
The text of Jennifer Horn’s article in the ProFarrier magazine is below;
By Jennifer Horn
photos courtesy Jennifer Horn, CJF and MHA archives
Horseshoeing contests have been around for years. William Hunting describes shoeing competitions in his 1895 book, The Art Of Horseshoeing, stating that “competitions stimulate emulation amongst men.” Hunting goes further and says, “In those districts which have had the benefit of these competitions for many years past, horse-shoeing is best done.”
Almost thirty-eight years ago, back in 1970, several Michigan Horseshoers Association members designed and hosted this nation’s first modern horseshoe forging contest. Held at Michigan State University, it became an annual event for the MHA.
From the beginning, the event drew a crowd. In a Tom Brenningstall interview, Bob Reaume was quoted as saying, “we filled up that coliseum at the college. Everyone who was interested in horses came to that event and we had a good time. So it’s been an annual event ever since.”
The MHA has continued to host this annual contest and clinic to further our knowledge, to promote good farriery, and to have the pleasure of getting together with like-minded people. Yes, Bob was right. We do have a good time!
Through the years, a broad range of farriers have found their way to the Michigan event. One of those, a farrier named Walt Taylor, attended one of the first clinics as he was forming the American Farrier’s Association. Later, in 1978, East Lansing hosted a combined event, as the AFA’s Annual Convention was held in conjunction with the MHA’s annual clinic.
While there are many constants, there have also been a few changes over the years. First, the event has moved from the old coliseum at the Michigan State University to the spacious, heated, beautiful Livestock pavilion. The extra room is nice, but the heated facility is great!
Also, in the early years, our competitor pool was mainly from Michigan and Illinois. Now they come from all over, and they’re not all men; we’ve seen a considerable increase in the number of women entering the contest over the years. A number of our competitors have also returned to serve as our judges and clinicians in later years.
One of the biggest changes has been the switch to using pro- pane. Ken Mankel, who had more than a little to do with that switch, remembers the old pavilion billowing up with smoke as the coal fires burned. During the competition, the judge sat next to Ken’s workstation. When he questioned the judge, Ken was told that he’d never seen anyone build a shoe in a gas forge before and he just wanted to watch.
The building, the forges, the hats, the rigs, the clothing, and the hairstyles may change from year to year. But the camaraderie and the focus on farrier education are a constant. They’re not changing!