The Host with the Most - Danny Ward
The Southeastern Farriers Conference

by Andy Juell

© Anvil Magazine

published in ANVIL Magazine, April, 1999
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 something”)!

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 host—we 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

1. Specimen shoes

2. Amanda Daley

3. Judge Bob Becker

4. All the placing competitors

5. High Point Winners(L-R)
Mark Ingram, Div. II,
Alan Caswell, Open,
Bob Gore, Div. I

6. Borium Demo

7. & 8. Danny Ward—The host,
presented with a miniature
version of his shop, made by
Mike Wiited’s wife.

9. Allie Hayes & Lee Green
Little Bluegrass Music

10. Clinicians (L-R)Greg Davis,
Bob Becker, Lee Green

11. Eddie Watson, Glue-on Demo

12. Walt Koepisch, On the use
of aluminum shoes

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