British competitors dominated the blacksmiths’ World Championships (4-8 July) in Calgary last month.

Three of the top five places went to British raiders, with Andrew Casserly, Steven Beane and Billy Crothers finishing second, third and fourth respectively. There was further success for East Sussex-based Mr Casserly, who was crowned shoeing champion and took the rookie award home to Uckfield.

Nigel Fennell, from Yateley in Hampshire, went to the championships for the first time
and finished tenth. He told H&H he was thrilled.

“I’ve been competing for 10 years, but getting to the worlds demands a lot of experience. I wanted to go a few years ago, but you have to be ready, as the competition is so tough,” he said.

“When I found out that I’d finished in the top 10, I was in tears. I didn’t think I’d get that far.”

More than 60 blacksmiths from around the world took part in the five-day event, which has been running for 28 years. Competitors are judged on their performance in a range of shoemaking classes and standards are high. Overall winner was Bill Poor, from Texas, USA.

Mr Fennell explained: “The stewards vet the shoes before passing them on to the judges and if the specifications of the shoe are wrong then you’re out.”

Mr Fennell, who had been in training for the competition for three months, said the biggest challenge in Calgary was the heat.

“There were 20 fires on the go and so we were working in 40° C,” he explained. “Doing well does strengthen your name, but the main reason I compete is because I love my craft. I can’t wait to return to Calgary next year and I’ll be aiming to make the top five,” he said.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (2 August, ’07)