A Borders farrier who swept the boards at last month’s Royal Highland Show is now aiming to become the best blacksmith in the world.
Ian Gajczak is already a world champion in his trade. He was crowned individual champion in the world team shoeing championships at Stoneleigh Park in Warwickshire two years ago.
That was one ambition ticked off. The next is to win the world championships blacksmiths competition at the Calgary Stampede in Canada. He was fourth in 2008.
“That’s the only thing left on my personal list,” he said. “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.”
Ian won all six classes and took bonus prizes too at the Royal Highland Show.
The 32-year-old dad, who paired up with paired up with brother Jason Gajczak in the two-man class, said: “It is a massive achievement, and I will remember it for a long time to come!”
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, who is originally from Kelso but now lives at Wanton Walls near Lauder.
There is no farrier tradition in his family, he explained. “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.”
Ian did an apprenticeship lasting over four years with Ruaraidh Robb in Edinburgh “I was very lucky. I was very keen,” he said.
He worked in East Lothian, moving to Wanton Walls in Lauder a year ago to be nearer grandparents. He and his eventer wife, Hannah, have a two-year-old daughter.
Ian added: “Being a farrier is great in the respect that we travel around different places every day, talking with different people 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, 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.”
Entering competitions helps him maintain high standards.
Ian added: “I see competitions as a great way of catching up with colleagues. I see it also very much as training. You are pushing your own standards up which is generally pushing the standards of the trade up. That 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!”