Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games

Farriery at WEG

October 10, 2010

The American Farrier’s Association provides education and much-needed services at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.

By Holly Clanahan of America’s Horse

In the team show-jumping competition at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, U.S. rider Mario Deslauriers was going around the warm-up pen – preparing to enter the main coliseum in a matter of minutes – when his horse pulled a shoe.

Enter the American Farrier’s Association, which had a farrier stationed in the competition area for just such cases. AFA is an AQHA educational alliance partner and also provided the official farriers to the Games.

Danvers Child, a certified journeyman farrier and editor of Professional Farrier magazine for AFA, helped coordinate the farriery efforts at WEG, and he explains why AFA farriers were perfect for the jobs at hand.

About 100 volunteer farriers rotated in and out of the Games, in addition to the AFA-certified farriers already on hand as official team farriers. The farriers stepped in to help in cases such as Mario’s, or when some of the international horses – who had been in quarantine long enough to merit a reset of their shoes – needed work. There were roughly 1,000 competition horses and 600 in the Equine Village that were being used for clinics and demonstrations.

In resetting the shoe on Mario’s horse, the farrier had an FEI-imposed limit of two and a half minutes, Danvers says. And that’s where the AFA training is helpful. In order to become a certified farrier or certified journeyman farrier (the highest level of certification), farriers must pass a very stringent timed forging and shoeing test.

“Some people question why our certifications are timed and why we’re on the clock,” Danvers says. But in this situation, “You were under the gun. It’s good to be comfortable working under pressure and at speed.”

Mario, too, was under the gun. “Right when the farrier put the foot down, I jumped on, jumped a few other jumps, and we went in,” he said.

Clinician John Lyons was another notable who called on the AFA farriers.

Danvers explained that John had been on the road, and his horses, Preacher and Charlie, were overdue for their pedicures. So the AFA farriers went to work on them in the Equine Village, attracting quite a crowd.

That and other demos in the Equine Village gave the farriers a great chance to interact with the public and promote the AFA’s new horse-owner membership program, which aims to educate horse owners.

“We’ve been focused so long on continuing education for farriers, and that’s still our primary purpose,” Danvers says. “But the horse owners are looking for information, and it’s not necessarily easy to get good information. So we committed to giving a consistent message about hoof care.”

That’s exactly why AQHA and AFA make great alliance partners – education is a primary focus of both organizations. Look for some of the AFA’s educational material in upcoming issues of America’s Horse magazine.

AFA also won good will among the international farrier community. Danvers explains that most of the larger nations or larger teams bring their own farriers with them. And historically, these farriers have to pack their forges, anvils – everything down to the horseshoes and nails – onto pallets to have them shipped to their destination.

In this case, however, AFA’s sponsors provided a warehouse of supplies, and the AFA farriers set up workstations with anvils and forges, so all the international farriers had to supply were their own hand tools.

“The international farriers have been absolutely ecstatic because of what we’ve done,” Danvers says. “Sandy from Australia, Dieter from Germany, Rob from the Netherlands, they’ve just fallen all over themselves thanking us, because it’s not what they’re accustomed to. And we’re just ecstatic that we can provide that for the community, because we are serving as ambassadors for United States farriery and North American farriery.”

It’s been fun for the U.S. farriers, too, although none perhaps have gotten the full flavor of WEG like Sara Ferguson of Scottsdale, Arizona.

She was one of the farriers assigned to reining at WEG, and back home, she shoes a lot of reiners and the bulk of her practice is American Quarter Horses, Danvers says. But after she finished her reining rotation, she then moved to combined driving, where she competed for the United States as a navigator.

“She got the full experience,” Danvers says. But all of the farriers who gave up their time to be here got, for sure, their money’s worth.

“Robbie Hunziker from Florida, a wonderful farrier, he was in the first rotation. He said this is the opportunity of a lifetime. I think pretty much everyone that followed him has agreed,” Danvers says. “It’s just such a wonderful opportunity to be a part of history here and to see all there is to see. It’s just amazing.”