A competitor finds a calling 

The path to farriery is varied. For Gavine Cooper, it was bronc riding. 

After seeing a rodeo at a county fair when he was 14, Gavine was soon competing seriously as a bronc rider himself. He chose Walla Walla Community College for its rodeo team, intending to major in Diesel Mechanics. But when he realized he needed to show up at class with $5,800 in tools, he scrambled to find another major.

Fortunately, his best friend was already in the horseshoeing program and thought Gavine might also like the program. Jeff Engler, the instructor, started Gavine out in a blacksmithing class but suspected he’d want to do more. The instructor was right. After an injury took him out of rodeo season, Gavine turned all his attention to horseshoeing.  His drive to learn something—and then learn how to do it better—kicked in. 

Horseshoeing school felt pretty demanding at the time, but now he looks back at it wryly.  

“We used to do like one foot a day, you know; that's just kind of what we were physically able to do. And there's that sense of accomplishment. In the first month, you're like, ‘Yeah, I did my one foot today.’ And then you do a pair of feet, and you get that sense of accomplishment, and you just keep progressing onward.”

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Horseshoeing school was some of the best years of my life.

Three practices, one serious education 

Like many farriers, his apprenticeship years served as a vital bridge between the tentative student and an accomplished solo practitioner. 

Gavine’s start had him stretched thin. He was working with three different farriers, in three different cities, up to 150 miles apart, which was utterly exhausting. Yet the challenges and the experience gained were invaluable.

And even after a grueling few months, Gavine felt overdue on his next big leap: getting his Journeyman certification. He found himself searching for inspiration and soon found it.

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It was a great experience learning, ‘this is how three different guys run their business.'

“The journey to Journeyman—and beyond”  

When a respected Texas farrier, Derrick Cooke, was offering an apprenticeship, Gavine jumped on it and made the move, spending eight months learning and working alongside the skilled farrier. The experience with Derrick provided precisely the kind of shake-up Gavine needed to boost his skills and earn his certification.  

“We would eat, sleep, and breathe horseshoeing. He had a system where I was able to do a lot of handmade work and work on different shoes. That varied work with Derrick helped Gavine earn his journeyman certification.

When the apprenticeship ended, Gavine started building his own practice while continuing to work with other farriers in the area. With the Journeyman certification gained and the business started, that familiar nudge to level up his skills was soothed by World Champion Blacksmiths (WCB) competitions. Practicing relentlessly five nights a week, Gavine won the right to join the WCB apprentice team in 2015. However, considerable changes to Gavine’s business would soon present all new opportunities and all new obstacles.

Gavin Cooper

A blessing in disguise 

Never very good at staying in one place for long, Gavine moved again. This time, back to his home state. He was asked to join a multi-farrier practice in Washington. Even better, it was in western Washington, the area where Gavine wanted to set up long-term. Not long after joining the practice, Gavine’s partner told him he wanted to retire, offering Gavine the opportunity to buy the business—a blessing in disguise. He was able to refine the operation—raising his prices and weeding out difficult horses. The business refinements lifted his spirits and gave him more time to practice. Gavine rediscovered his focus and goal of becoming a serious blacksmithing competitor. 

“In 2018 and 2019, that’s what I did—eat, sleep and practice. All that practicing gives you that motivation to want to go to work the next day.”  By the end of 2019, Gavine made the top 10 in the WCB, still striving for a top 5 placement and spot on the WCB international team. 

Then COVID hit. Competitions weren’t happening anymore. Gavine found himself with a lot more free time—which he promptly filled with yet another new challenge: dirt bike racing. Much like his rodeo days, his passion for dirt bikes would end with an injury when an accident resulted in shattered bones, surgery, and several screws in his hand.

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And that's the thing, for me, I'm always competitive. So, I was like, awesome, I'll do some races.

In 2022, tragedy struck again when a horse he worked with for over five years spooked, tossing the farrier onto his back and resulting in another long and painful recovery. Despite the setback, Gavine continued to grow the business with the help of farriers he’d connected with during WCB competitions and beyond. 

His current book is largely dressage horses, three-day eventers, and jumpers. “The horses that I work on now, and the people that I work with now are people that I like to work for. And the horses are horses that are good to shoe.”

From physical to digital

On top of running a successful business and jumping into the competition circuit, Gavine added another skillset to his tool belt. He started sharing the hard-earned wisdom and skills of fellow farriers through social media. As a digital creator and podcaster, Gavine has over 140 videos on his YouTube channel alone.

For a man who just can’t help but find a challenge, this new one is considerably safer and beneficial to farriers well beyond himself.  

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Q&A with Gavine Cooper, CFJ

In addition to a thriving practice in Washington State, Gavine regularly enters competitions. His horseshoeing videos on YouTube have had over 800,000 views, and he isn’t stopping anytime soon. Read Gavine’s thoughts on anything from social media to competitions.   

You discovered that competing has a value beyond trophies. Talk about that.  

By going to horseshoe competitions and clinics and just being involved, I made a lot of friendships with other farriers. When I broke my hand in a dirt bike accident, I had tons of people who were excited to come help me. People flew in from Texas to shoe my horses. I had friends from up here who would come shoe for me. And I don't think those are things you gain if you're just in your own little bubble.  

Be honest… do you still ride the dirt bike?  

Yes, but more sensibly.  

Many farriers are wary of social media. Why did you get into it?  

I started a YouTube Vlog and, with my friend Riley Kirkpatrick, the Forging Brains Podcast. I started them because I think people misconstrue what farriers do and what goes on at competitions. People think it’s just a cowboy thing or just whack and tack. But there’s a lot more to it than nailing on shoes.  Riley and I learned farriers are more willing to share their knowledge and help people more than we actually think. People are there to help you, and they are more than willing to. You just have to reach out, you know, and ask for it.

What’s the reception been like? 

It’s been great. People come up to me at competitions and say “Thanks for posting the things you do. It has helped me out so much.” And I’ve been pleased with how many young people see a benefit in it and how many top-level farriers want to share what they know.  I never try to portray myself as the best guy out there. I’m just trying to get information across. 

Gavine Cooper Products

What are your favorite Mustad products? 

I love the St. Croix Forge Eventer Plus and use them every day. I like the three-eighths thickness;  it’s great for the horses I shoe. The steel is harder, so I get a lot of resets out of it. I like the nail placement. It’s got some traction.  

I was introduced to the Mustad Endura Nails at a time when I had some other nails shearing off. I switched to the Enduras, and I didn’t have that problem anymore.  And the gold coating looks pretty sick.  

I use the green tang, the Heller eXceL Legend. It’s got a nice, smooth finish. 

What dealers are you frequenting? 

I use Farrier Express and Northwest Horseshoe Supply. They’ve both been really good partners.    


You can find Gavine’s popular YouTube channel or check out his Forging Brains Podcast. He’s also on Facebook and Instagram

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