Farrier Ian sets his sights on Calgary

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A Kelso farrier swept the boards at the Royal Highland Show last month.

For Ian Gajczak, now at Wanton Walls, Lauder, won all six classes and took bonus prizes too.

The 32-year-old dad said: “It is a massive achievement, and I will remember it for a long time to come!”

He won the hunter, roadster, farm horse, shoe making – including a two-man class when he paired up with his brother Jason, based in north Yorkshire – and therapeutic shoemaking classes.

And he gained bonus awards for the best trimmed foot, best shod foot and best specimen shoes.

A member of the Scottish international farriers team, Ian explained: “There are usually one or two judges. You have a very tight time limit to do the task and it’s all judged on quality.”

Competitors trim the hoof, make the shoe, fit it and finish the hoof: “It’s all judged on how well you do each part, “ said Ian.

The farrier, whose other brother Adrian was Kelso Laddie in 2008, is accustomed to competition success.

He is a world champion in his trade, crowned the individual champion in the world team shoeing championships at Stoneleigh Park in Warwickshire run two years ago.

That was one ambition ticked off. The other is to win the World Championship Blacksmiths competition at the Calgary Stampede in Canada. He was fourth in 2008.

“That’s the only thing left on my personal list. The two main ones to win are at Stoneleigh and at Calgary. To have that belt buckle with ‘world champion’ on it is my next aim.”

There is no farrier tradition in his family, he was the first.

He told us: “I was into horses when I was a young boy. I always used to watch my own farrier shoe the horses and thought it was something I could be interested in.”

He did an apprenticeship lasting four years with Ruaraidh Robb in Edinburgh.

“I was very lucky. I was very keen,” said Ian.

He worked in East Lothian, moving to Wanton Walls a year ago to be nearer grandparents, for he and his eventer wife, Hannah, have a two-year-old daughter.

Ian said of his work: “Being a farrier is great in the respect that we travel around different places every day, talking with different people (especially when most of them provide me with tea and biscuits) and dealing with different horses so we are not stuck in an office or somewhere doing the same thing day in, day out.

“The down sides are it’s extremely physical as well as mental, so the body takes a lot of punishment. Also, these days you have to work even harder to earn good money, as the price of steel, gas, tools and fuel are ridiculously high so profit margins are low.”

And of his competing he said: “I see competitions as a great way of catching up with colleagues. I see it also very much as a training and CPD (Continuing Professional Development). You are pushing your own standards up which is generally pushing the standards of the trade up, which can only benefit yourself, horses and horse owners.

“You have got to be on the top of your game and do a lot of practice and preparation at home. There’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears!”