|Danny Ward, owner and operator of the Eastern
School of Farriery, has been hosting the Southeastern Farrier’s Conference
for 21 years - hosting being the operative word. Many conventions cover the
basics, things like hotel reservations, speakers, schedules - logistical
stuff. Danny takes this one step further by making sure everybody feels like
they came to grandma’s house for dinner.
It’s the small stuff that makes a difference, and also draws the crowds (this
year, like most other years, around 300 participants.) There were coffee
and donuts in the morning, a catered barbecue for lunch, bluegrass music
at night, a guaranteed raffle (which, in Danny’s words, means that “if you
don’t win something good, we’ll go through somebody’s truck and find you
The various clinics offered during the one-day program November 7th at the
school located in Martinsville, Virginia, combined practical knowledge with
new product demonstrations. These were in conjunction with marketplace vendors.
The clinicians included Dick Becker, Lee Green, Greg Davis, Walt Koepisch
and Eddie Watson, among others. Most of the lectures were on the practical
side, focusing on foot shapes, trimming, keg shoe modification and glue-on
applications. The main theme was, in Greg Davis’s words: “... to not make
brain surgery out of it.” He also emphasized “not to get pigeon-holed on
one set theory or practice.” The various demonstrations were greatly enhanced
by the use of large video screens, allowing everybody a complete view of
the action. Participants were also encouraged to practice what they were
learning, probably to the chagrin of Danny’s neighbors, who might not have
appreciated what sounded like the Frank Zappa version of the “Anvil
Chorus.” Well, music is, after all, a matter of individual taste. At least
the police didn’t show up.
The real highlight of the day was the auction. Unlike many other auctions,
the proceeds for this one go to some of Danny’s favorite charities: The
Make-A-Wish Foundation, an organization that helps terminally ill children
turn their dreams into reality, St. Jude’s Hospital for Children, and the
Get Well Fund of the Virginia Horseshoer’s Association, as well as a few
other charitable causes - not a bad place to lose some of that expendable
income that’s been collecting dust. The auction raised close to $14,000 for
these fine organizations, thanks primarily to Danny’s well-orchestrated ambush
on everybody’s wallets.
Here’s how it worked: A certain unnamed member of Danny’s family is a notorious
part-time “bootlegger,” wanted in five states. She (whoops!) produces the
smoothest fruit-flavored spring water in the Southeast. I know this, because
the ANVIL Magazine was the official taste tester. The small mason jars of
spring water are always auctioned first - in this case, at $45 a jar. Two
professional auctioneers, Cary Epps and Jerry Fowler (who are not only
mathematically impaired, but subject to wild hallucinations when the bidding
gets intense) were in top form. By the time the auction was over, the whole
crowd went downtown to apply for food stamps. The bluegrass music certainly
helped ease the pain of financial ruin, and luckily, most of us were able
to scrape up gas money the next morning. But that’s the trouble with combining
a good cause with a somewhat sneaky hostwe all get pleasantly burglarized.
The conference is preceded by the annual contest hosted by the North Carolina
Horseshoer’s Association, held just down the road in Reidsville, North Carolina.
The judges for this year’s event were Dick Becker and Lee Green. The contest
offered three divisions with a high-point award for each. The contest was
extremely organized, which it needed to be in order to accommodate the large
number of participants. By 6:00 p.m., everybody was on the road to Danny
Ward’s in Martinsville. The high-point winner in the open division was Alan
Caswell of Vermont, who went four for five in his division. Watch out for
this guy in the future.
Prior to the Southeastern Conference, rumors were circulating that this would
be the last year the event would be held at Danny Ward’s. After a great deal
of coercion (we threatened to take away his toys, which everybody knows Danny
can’t live without), he agreed to make it 25 years. So next year, y’all come
down for some barbecued chicken - and don’t forget your gold card. You might
need it to get home.
note: Additional Photos below