Education through competition: knowledge of the hoof marches forward


Chad Rice, CJF, is known among his farrier contemporaries for his quick wit and willingness to manufacture a practical joke at the drop of a hat. He’s taken ample opportunity to participate in his fair share of them while attending some of the nation’s most intense shoeing competitions, but when it’s actually time to compete, Rice is completely serious.

These competitions, most of which have taken place under the WCB (World Championship Blacksmiths Association) tent, have pushed Rice to take responsibility for elevating his education to new heights. The required travel takes a lot of logistical planning and time – especially for farriers like Rice who are supporting families and operating full-time shoeing businesses.

* What exactly is the WCB? Find out here.

Chad Rice, CJF, left, works on a shoe with the aid of a striker. (Photo courtesy of WCB)
Chad Rice, CJF, left, works on a shoe with the aid of a striker. (Photo courtesy of WCB)

The WCB events take place at various far-flung locations across the country – Wyoming, Virginia, Las Vegas. Coke forges are provided for competitors; participants pack their tools and check them before boarding a plane. Just getting there can be a feat, but it’s worth it to Rice.

“It’s about dedication,” he explained.

Participants compete in one of four categories, based on level of aptitude. All competitors are assigned the same shoe to attempt to produce. At the time of judging, participants are placed within their competitive categories and also overall. Judging takes place in an open format, so all competitors can observe the process. This factor makes WCB events particularly educational, according to Rice, and it also ups the ante of the concept of shoeing competition.

“I think the coolest thing about the WCB is that your work is up against everyone that’s there,” he explained. “It’s just raising the bar.”

Some years he’s on the road more than others. He attended about 10 competitions with various associations in 2012, often traveling with several fellow farriers with whom he has developed close friendships through competition.

Rice has also participated several times in the WCB’s World Horseshoeing Classic, an international level competition held in the four-man format. In these competitions, each farrier team is assigned a horse, and each team member trims fits and and nails on one of its shoes – all within two-and-a-half hour timeframe. The prep work requires numerous weekend practice sessions with each team member typically hosting at least one session and the others driving several hours to attend.

Rice said the experience, as a whole, was immensely beneficial.

“That was probably the coolest thing I’ve ever done – the team aspect of horseshoeing,” he explained.

When Rice isn’t traveling, he calls Nashville, Ga. home, shoeing horses from as far north as Tifton, Ga. down to Live Oak, Fla. on a regular basis and sometimes even doing work in Palm Beach or Ocala. His wife, Lacey, is a teacher and an avid rodeo competitor, and the couple has two children, who are also involved with horses.

For someone who works and plays as hard as Rice, farriery seems to be the perfect fit. Next year marks his 10th year shoeing on his own. Although he serves a comparatively large book of clients and keeps a packed schedule, Rice maintains that he’s never had a “real job -” a characteristic statement from someone who has found his niche.

“I’ve been pretty fortunate,” he said simply.

He likes to give credit for his hard-won education where it’s due, including to the dozen or so horseshoers for whom he has worked and from whom he has learned  over the years.

Travel seems to have become somewhat of a theme for Rice. He recently worked the Capital Challenge under the show’s official farrier, Bud Adams, of Atlanta. Rice was one of several farriers Adams brought to help him at the prominent two-week hunter event, which took place indoors in Upper Marlboro, Md.

He’ll be on the road competing a few more times this year with some WCB events among his upcoming destinations.

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