I was born and bred in the heart of Sussex, the eldest son of a feed merchant. Indeed my father’s side of the family can be traced back to the 16th century in this part of the county.
They were mostly involved with the land, i.e. farmers, butchers, game keepers etc, so surprisingly, to my knowledge, I am the first farrier and blacksmith in the family.
As a boy at home I looked after chickens for eggs, and Turkeys and Capons which we sold at Christmas to help the finances. We had a prolific vegetable garden and always had a couple of gun dogs about which we took shooting with us in the season. My father and I also enjoyed fly fishing together. I still do all these things but sadly now without my father.
It was my ambition as a small boy to be like my Dad and Godfather, (who was a vet) not necessarily to do the same professions, but to have my own business, and so when at the age of fourteen, a local farrier and blacksmith gave us a talk at a YFC meeting, this occupation, involving working with horses with your hands, and having you own business seemed to tick all the boxes for me. After introducing myself to him, I used to cycle to his forge from home at the weekends and school holidays and help where I could, (I loved it).
I joined Dan Harding AFCL, after leaving school and went straight into an apprenticeship. I was very lucky in that not only was he an excellent farrier to work under, but a lovely man who taught me many other life skills by example. Dan was a very good blacksmith, and this is where his real passion lay. He decided to leave Sussex for Cornwall where he could concentrate more on the iron work side of the craft, as horse shoeing was taking over the business.
Dan had kindly let me go to college, (which was not compulsory in those days), and I chose to do the AEF course, which doesn't exist today. This involved not only farriery, but also fabrication, machine shop technology, tech drawing, blacksmithing and welding, I still believe it was one of the best things that happened in my early days, for that course gave me so many skills. I finished college at twenty years of age with a mass of qualifications and a boss that had left for Cornwall a few days earlier.
In the previous summer I had been offered a disused pig farm and a couple of acres of ground which I managed to get change of use on to a forge, and so inheriting the business and a project, I was off and running and still haven’t stopped yet!
I took my first apprentice on at just twenty one. Mark also achieved honours, and went on to be president of the Western Farrier’s Association and we are still great friends thirty five years later. He was the first of fifteen apprentices I have trained before giving up my ATF licence due to other commitments! Being an ATF brings with it many responsibilities, not only the training to be a good farrier, but also a good professional, with good moral ethics, as was taught to me by my master. Whether you like it or not you are a role model and as an ATF you should lead by example.
During my career so far, I was chairman of the Sussex Branch of the Association, retiring as chairman to run a pioneering Associate course at my forge with the help of COSIRA, for eight local farrier’s, including myself.. The course was run over seven months in the early eighties, with great friend, and vet Philip Glyn who handled the anatomy side of things, and one of the best farriers I have ever known, Colin Smith FWCF, who taught us so much. Without their efforts we would not have passed. Indeed after a further two courses run at the local college, all of the original group passed, along with other farriers from the area. I am sure the result of this course has had a huge influence on the standard of farriery in this part of the world and beyond, not only for that original generation, but for subsequent generations that followed. It just goes to show it doesn’t take a lot of effort to improve things!
I have also served on committees for NAFBAE in the past and FRC before being asked again to join the WCF. Being involved with the Company in its self is a huge privilege, but I never sought to be where I find myself today. But when you find yourself in a place where you can make a difference, and you care about horses and farriery standards, you take the chance to get involved or there is no point being here. One of my goals in my year of office is to try and motivate good sound farriers to become more proactive in the running of our craft.
Being in the profession at this time in the history of farriery has been one of the best periods. There has been so many changes. First it has become a profession, and secondly so much has moved on in the veterinary world with understanding more about the workings of the horse, there are also many modern material products available should you need them, hence the importance of CPD. But you will never get away from good sound basics i.e. simple farriery done well and you will never be far wrong, and this does include being able to make a shoe!
So over forty years later in the farriery world, I find myself happily married to Marisa, with two daughters Corrinn and Georgia, all heavily involved with their horses, (we have five)! I still have the same shoeing area, between five to seven mile radius from the forge, which I originally started with. We now have a lovely house and garden in a wood along with thirty acres with wild flower meadows, streams, ponds and a small lake. Four gun dogs, chickens and a prolific vegetable patch, I run a small shoot, fly fish when I can, and enjoy my natural history. We have been very lucky and farriery has been good to me.