Have forge, will travel – to Cowboy Day
By PHOEBE DONALD ROBINSON / Community Columnist
One of Adam and Eve’s many great-grandsons, Tubal-cain, was the first blacksmith, “the forger of all implements of bronze and iron” (Gen 4:22). Blacksmiths, one of the oldest professions, are coming to Cowboy Day on Feb. 18 in Columbiana for you to enjoy demonstrations from members of the Alabama Professional Farriers Association.
The Fourth Annual Cowboy Day will begin at 10 a.m. on the Summer Classics land in Columbiana with demonstrations, live music, vendors, food, mechanical bull and grits-eating contest. John Wayne will be roaming around, too. The parade begins at 1 p.m. with horses, ponies, mules, goats and wagons but no motorized vehicles.
One of the major highlights of Cowboy Day is the demonstrations of the blacksmiths and farriers who have participated in Cowboy Day since its inception. They will bring their forges and make tools of their trade. Tom Saunders and Glenn Reese, both members of the Farriers Association and Certified Journeyman Farriers, will be there with other association farriers.
A Certified Journeyman Farrier (CJF) is the highest certification earned from the American Farriers Association. The test is comprised of three phases: written exam, practical exam shoeing a horse with hand-made horseshoes under time constraints and forging exercise making a bar shoe from a pattern in less than 35 minutes. There are only 14 CJFs in Alabama, see Alabamafarriers.org.
Both Saunders and Reese became farriers, CJFs and testers after being laid off from their jobs. Both are lovers of horses and enjoyed the idea of being their own boss.
“I enjoy working for myself, and I love horses,” said Reese. “You cannot do this kind of work if you do not love horses.”
Farriers not only shoe horses but also trim and care for horses’ hooves.
“We are not into fads, but the health and welfare of the horse,” said Saunders. “There are three reasons to shoe a horse: protection, therapeutic and gate enhancement.”
Shoeing is an exacting process and gives support to the horse. Starting with mild steel that is put into a fire till red hot, the steel is then formed with hammer to make the toe bend. A head stamp is used to punch nail holes and a pritchel pops square nail holes. The hoof is filed, and the shoe is shaped to the hoof which is part science and part artistry. After nailing the shoe in place, the nails are filed smooth.
Come to Cowboy Day and watch farriers at work.
Phoebe Donald Robinson can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.