Growing up on a farm in Louisa County, Carl Via liked to observe the work of farriers who would come to shoe the horses.
“It was a very interesting thing to watch as a kid,” he recalled. “With being around the farrier, you can’t help but watch and ask questions on what he’s doing, like, ‘Does that hurt the horse?’ or ‘Have you ever been burnt?’”
After he graduated from high school in 2003, Via started a four-year apprenticeship with a farrier. That led him to start his own business caring for horses, which he has maintained for the past 15 years.
Via also continues his family’s tradition as the seventh generation on the farm, where he lives with wife Colleen and son Chase.
“I enjoy the heritage of the family farm,” he said. “I kind of looked at being a farrier as perfect for my lifestyle.”
It’s not just a job for Via, who has become a serious competitor in horseshoeing contests over the years. In 2019 he was named national champion at the World Championship Blacksmiths event in Fort Worth, Texas. He competed there again in 2020, placing sixth.
“You run into guys who compete,” Via said. “Their work was the most outstanding to see, and I wanted to be like them, so I started to compete. Ever since, my work has improved tremendously. Competing is addicting – the better you do, the more you want to do it.”
It’s taken him to events in England, Canada and Australia, where he represents the state of Virginia. Via has also had the opportunity to serve as a judge at some competitions.
“It’s been a great learning experience, and being in this position has opened so many other opportunities,” he said.
In Fort Worth, the top 40 contestants are chosen to battle it out after two days of forging classes. In each class they make either shoes or a tool used in the trade. The 40 finalists then have an hour to produce a shoe. Videos of the intense hour at the forge and anvil are available on the World Championship Blacksmiths Facebook page.
Now 35, the former Jouett Elementary School student can’t think of anything he dislikes about living in Louisa County.
“I just like the whole small town atmosphere,” Via said.