Knowledge, skill and experience are all hallmarks of the best farriers and passed down the generations from father to son to grandson, produce a passionate commitment to excellence that is well known to customers of Doug, Neal and now Tom Bradbury, who shoe horses across much of Derbyshire and have shod Blue Chip founder Clare Blaskey’s horses for over 40 years.
‘Grandfather’ Doug Bradbury began his career shoeing pit ponies working in the coal mines of Derbyshire, opening his own forge at Clay Cross 43 years ago. Now 72, Doug is officially retired, but says Neal’s wife Karen, who works in the family business arranging client appointments, “still comes out of retirement occasionally.” A Fellow of the Worshipful Company of Farriers (FWCF), Doug is also a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Farriers, an honour which bestows the Freedom of the City of London, but his passion now is the museum at his Clay Cross forge, located near Chesterfield. Fequent groups of visitors arrive to see his unique collection that includes a still growing display of memorabilia from his early years in the mines, the historical shoes used on the pit ponies and may other items donated by others whose lives have been closely associated with farriery.
As a training farrier, Doug taught son Neal, formally starting his apprenticeship when Neal left school in 1981 aged 16. Now 45, Neal is an Associate of the Worshipful Company of Farriers (AWCF), trained to carry out veterinary and therapeutic shoeing. Like his father, he is a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Farriers and a training farrier – in fact the only training farrier in Derbyshire. Hence it was with great pride that Neal began to train his most recent apprentice, son Tom, to follow in the family footsteps and become a ‘third-generation’ farrier. Tom will take his Diploma examination in 2-3 years from now and like his father and grandfather before him, will hot shoe all the horses and ponies in his care. Karen reveals, “Neal enjoys competitions and I think it was our family trips to the Calgary Stampede that definitely played a part in Tom’s career choice.”
The Bradbury’s work six days a week, shoeing everything from hunters to the smallest of ponies, from driving horses, including those at Redhouse Carriage Museum to bloodstock and show horses, including those belonging to Blue Chip.
Always with horses in the family – Tom’s sisters still both ride – the Bradbury’s are now building a new forge at Neal and Karen’s Ashover home that will be open in 2010. When Doug retired, Karen took over from his wife on the end of the telephone, further maintaining the truly genuine family business for the next generation.
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