A BWFA flashback reminds us why we chose the BWFA.

Article from Anvil Magazine dated July, 1991. 

Thoughts While Thinking by Jeff Rodriguez

    During a recent Rocky Mountain Farrier Association meeting the topic of the Brotherhood of Working Farriers Association and "their" activities in "our" area was brought to the floor. While most of us had little factual information, we readily engaged in a little BWFA bashing. After a few negative, uniformed comments, one of our members, Tony Hughes, stood up and said something that bears repeating. Paraphrasing, Tony said that it seemed to him that any group of farriers that were trying to organize to improve themselves and their craft were people we should be helping not ridiculing. With that statement, Tony earned my respect and caused me to reconsider my attitude and the issues. 

    Before I arrive at answers, I like to be sure I'm asking the right questions. My first question was what does the BWFA offer prospective members that the American Farriers Association does not? Why would farriers choose the BWFA instead of the AFA? Is there room for two nationally based farrier organizations? Will the overall interest of farriery, and the horse industry, be better served by two organizations? 

    Whew! These are some large questions, with enormous long term implications. Although Henry Ford said, "History is mostly bunk," I find looking back a useful way to anticipate the future. For instance…
    Did you ever consider that every year the marketplace at the AFA convention has more high quality tools available? Ever realize that each year a company or two is absent…defunct…el-foldo? That's because farriers are fully capable of recognizing something new that will better serve their needs, and are not afraid to make the change. 

    In the early seventies some Southern nut named Turner announced he was going to transform a local cable television station (Cable?) into a "Superstation". Just to prove he'd swallowed too many peach pits he said that if the Superstation worked he was going to create a 24 hour news station, which would also be available on the cable. (cable? This is obviously the kind of guy who thinks he can have a relationship with Jane Fonda.) Well, good 'ol Ted went to the network T.V. powers and offered them a chance for a joint venture, but of course these fat cats knew he was crazy,  so they had a meeting and amongst themselves they laughed at him. Now they buy their news from him. 

    When I was in high school you could buy a new Volkswagen bug for $1240.00 (When Rusty Brown was in high school, they had wooden wheels). Sure, they were as ugly and comfortable as a boil (and only slightly faster), but they found a niche in the market and were an enormous success. By the early seventies Datsuns and Toyotas began to arrive in the parking lots. Oh yes, they were better looking and more comfortable. Volkswagens response was to leave the Bugs unchanged so commanding their market share (while the Nixon administration surcharged them out of their low price advantage). What happened, you ask? Well, suffice it to say that you can no longer purchase a Bug. 

    So…before we guffaw ourselves into oblivion, I say we sober up and not underestimate the BWFA. Since I'm an AFA guy my primary concern is over our certification program, which I feel is the cornerstone of our existence. I'm concerned the public will be confused over two certifying bodies and be unable to discern the differences between the two programs. I fear this confusion will nullify the positive strides the AFA has made and diminish the value of our certification. 

    I'm also very concerned that if we allow ourselves to form enemy camps we'll only hurt ourselves in the long term. The damage will come from the public watching us spat, reinforcing all the negative perceptions we've worked so hard to overcome. I'm a pretty active volunteer supporter of the AFA, and I know full well that there is a limited amount of volunteer energy at our disposal. It seems to me negativity is like driving a speeding car, not only is it unwise, but it consumes more energy and increases the chance of a breakdown. 

    So…what I think I need is factual, verifiable information to help me make more informed decisions and better conduct myself. I ashamedly admit that I have both listened to and made anti-BWFA remarks, but I'm gonna stop. The absolute last thing practicing farriers (both AFA and BWFA members) need to do is run each other down. It's contrary to our mission, which is to help and support each other. 

    Here's a suggested plan; let's use the ANVIL Magazine as a forum to air our views and concerns, as well as respond to questions about our organizations. Our rules will be to be polite and limit our statements to documented, verifiable information. Heck, I'm in so deep now I might as well start the ball rolling…

    Question #1 -What are the origins of the BWFA? Who are the officers and what are their backgrounds? Are they elected?
    Question #2 -How does the BWFA govern and manage itself? How do they raise operating capitals? Who decides how it's spent? Who accounts for it? 
    Question #3 -What are the differences in our respective certification programs? How does the BWFA conduct its testing? How do they choose their examiners?
    Remember, if you choose to participate we don't want to hear "stories" submitted evidence. Let's keep to facts, not innuendo (which Myron McLane insists is an Italian suppository). 

    Don't let the mirth fool you, these are important issues. A mature organization like the AFA needs to question itself, and a new organization like the BWFA should be able to respond to these questions. 

    O.K. folks, let her rip. 


On Behalf of the BWFA:

    This letter, in whole, is a response to the article, previously printed in the July issue of the Anvil Magazine, by Jeff Rodriguez, entitled, "Thoughts while Thinking." The topic was the Brotherhood of Working Farriers Association. I would like to thank Jeff and also Rob Edwards for the opportunity to respond. I realize my response is very lengthy; however, as stated in Jeff's article, and I quote, "These are some large questions with enormous long-term implications."

    Let me say before I answer Mr. Rodriguez' questions that I praise some of your statements made in your article. I praise the fact that you had made anti-BWFA remarks, ashamedly and are "Going to stop". I think this takes a big man to make such a statement. I salute you, but Jeff, we have to both take a closer look. If it weren't for men like Tony Hughes to remind us of what our missions are, we might all be in trouble. 

    I have never been anti-AFA but I do disagree with some of the AFA policies. In your letter you said you were an "AFA Guy". Well, I publicly state that I am not just a "BWFA Guy". It plainly states in the BWFA pledge; I will support the BWFA and farriery industry by barring discrimination and criticism in any way towards any individual, educator, school, organization, fellow member of working farrier. I will support those who are attempting to make the farriery trade his or her professional business. This is a pledge that must be signed by any individual before becoming a member of the BWFA. There are no stipulations in the BWFA guidelines that prevent a member to associate with any other farrier association.

    I will try to answer your questions as openly and honestly as I possibly can, trying very hard not to offend anyone. 

    You asked, "Why should a farrier choose the BWFA instead of the AFA?" I will answer this question in part with a question. "Why should an individual in the United States choose to be a Democrat or Republican?" It is just difference in opinions. Fortunately, farriers now have a choice to make, which I don't think is a bad idea, but actually a good idea. You asked "Is there room for two nationally based farrier organizations?" Jeff, if there is room for Democrats and Republicans, there is room for two farrier associations. I think it has already done some good. Democrats and Republicans are working for the betterment of our country, I feel, though, the AFA and BWFA are different in some opinions; however, we are working for some of the same goals.  

    You also said that your certification program was the cornerstone of the AFA's existence. I do not feel that our certification is the cornerstone of our existence. I feel that 'education' is our foundation. If we get the farriers educated, they won't have any problems taking high-level tests. 

    You also stated that you were concerned that if we were to allow ourselves to form enemy camps, we would only hurt ourselves in the long term. I fully agree with this statement and I feel this article that you have written has opened the doors for some good sound thinking.

    You asked about the origin of the BWFA, this information is included in our printed literature as follows: The BFA, or Brotherhood of Farriers Association, was originally formed on December 10, 1901 by the late Talmadge Young, Bob L. Casey, and Elliot Sams. It was formed for the sole purpose of having an organization where a person would not be discriminated upon learning the horseshoeing trade sue to his former public education. In July of 1989, the work 'working' was added to be known today as the Brotherhood of Working Farriers Association. The BWFA Master Educators was formed by a group of concerned horseshoeing school owners, along with the members of the BWFA. The purpose of forming the BWFA Master Educators is to allow the owner a more powerful voice in the direction of the horseshoeing industry. 

    A Constitution and Bylaws govern these activities of this Association. These provide for a president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer, and a board of directors. The background of the officers are career farriers, some having degrees in business, engineering, Ph.D. and Financial Management. All officers are elected into office except when appointed to fill a vacancy until the next election. Elections take place every four and five years. 

    The financial affairs are controlled by the Board of Directors who are: Jack Hysinger, as Chairman; Tony Phillips, Cyle Hames, Thomas Whaley, Tom Kennedy, Marcus Pierce, Bill Burgee, Steve Standidge, Russell Isaacs, and Herb Schneider. The members of the board are elected into office for four-year terms, having no fewer than two and always an even number of members. The Board members execute the Bylaws and Financial affairs of this Association. All officers and board of directors' members serve without compensation except for the full-time working Director who received a sum decided upon by the Board of Directors. The financial records are the responsibility of the secretary and treasurer, with service provided by a certified public accounting firm. Operating capital is obtained by way of continued annual dues from members, educational clinic proceeds, donations, gifts, fund-raising programs and grants. 

    The Master Educators are owners of horseshoeing schools or persons who have had at least one year of teaching experience in farriery. This division allows for a President, Mr. Bucky Hatfield; and Vice-President, Jack Roth. Master Educator members are listed in our literature. These members are responsible for designing the farrier certification testing procedures of the BWFA. 

    To continue answering your questions, you asked me "What does the BWFA have to offer that the AFA does not?"
    1. The BWFA has a full-time paid director.
    2. We have an 'Honorary Gold Card' membership requiring no dues for farriers 55 years of age and older. 
    3. We have a -National Farrier Referral Program.
    4. We also have a two-party governing system. 
    5. We have a 'Love Offering' fund for Injured Farriers.
    6. We also have at this time, eleven levels of certification and a higher certification for the full-time working farrier. We feel that if we can get the farrier in at some level without offending him that he will want to attend educational clinics to further his education and skills. Like it or not, we have to look at the truth. 
               Many farriers are insulted when they fail a test. The truth of the matter is that some of them will not return to re-test, but will simply go on and continue to shoe horses, possibly incorrectly. There is an old saying Jeff-  "You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar." Here again, these are just opinions. However, opinions won't pay the bills. By taking people in at lower certification levels, this will generate revenue for the overall educational programs. 
    7. We also have more testers, making it more accessible for farriers all over the country to be tested in their own home states, which brings me to another one of your questions
        -"How do we choose our testers?" (as you refer to examiners). We choose them as carefully as we can. We examine their backgrounds; each tester must be a full-time farrier and have been working full-time for five years prior to membership. The attitude, ability sensitivity and their simple common sense play an important role in finding qualified testers. However, this is not enough and we continue to make changes to better the organization as a whole. Farrier certification testings are held individually with a tester or in groups at clinics. 
    8. We have an open membership, allowing horseowners to join in our 'Horseowner Division' as voting members. 
        A 'Horseowner Director' is assigned to each state to help promote the BWFA and the educational clinics to fellow horseowners in their state, allowing for a 'center of information'. 
    9. We also have an educational plan for the horseshoeing school owners, wherein if they belong to the BWFA as Master Educators, they are required to participate in a three-day school, once a year, working together to improve the overall teaching programs offered by the horseshoeing schools. 
    10. Most important, we offer the farrier with little or no formal public education, a chance to improve his knowledge and skills as a craftsman. We encourage that all BWFA testers, master educators, and members open their doors to help each other in a "Brotherly" manner. 
    We continue to adopt new programs and to make changes that are needed for a rapidly growing association and for continuing education in the farrier industry. I have tried to answer your questions as openly and honestly as I possibly can. I welcome the opportunity to speak to any farrier groups to answer questions or to elaborate further. 

Brotherhood of Working
Farriers Association