Sunday, 19 October 2008

Farrier fest!

I spent most of Saturday afternoon at a farrier training day down near Teignmouth - and as you can see, it was a proper truckfest, with more vans and pickups than you could shake a stick at!

The main speaker was Alan Bailey, a well known lecturer and remedial farrier, and I was the speaker with the graveyard slot at the end of the afternoon (!).

To liven things up, I took Felix and Hector along with me, and Kelly and Yvonne heroically agreed to bring Dexter as well, so that we had examples of horses with feet at different stages.

I have to say that the horses' behaviour was absolutely faultless - after having to spend a considerable amount of time standing in their trailers, and after long journeys for all 3 of them, they were led into a big, dark barn with picnic tables, farm machinery, forges and about 80 farriers - who all crowded round them and were chatting merrily away :-) They all behaved as if this happened to them every day - Hector in particular was angelic, as I am sure he had never done anything of the kind before. Felix and Dex are old pros at having their feet inspected, of course, but still they deserve gold stars for their flawless manners.

Several of the farriers were totally unimpressed, mostly the younger ones, interestingly enough, and one guy who thought that it wasn't enough that Felix could trot over a track which consisted of large scalpings on a rock hard track (!). He told me that when he was trotting downhill he shouldn't shorten his stride at all, but should just trot with the same stride length as when he was going up hill...

Presumably he has lots of shod horses who trot up and downhill with exactly the same stride length, and he obviously thought this was a good thing...Sadly, his horses will be doing this because they have absolutely no proprioception or awareness of the surface they are travelling over. As a result, these horses won't get the feedback from their hooves that they are travelling on a jarring surface, and so won't shorten up when they trot downhill. Research has shown that this puts enormous strain on their joints from the increased concussion, whereas if they shorten slightly, the joints are protected from impact forces.

Fortunately, as well as the defensive farriers, like that one, there were a number of friendly faces, and I had some outright supporters there as well :-)

One sceptic said, during my presentation (which obviously focussed on performance and had a shot of Andy and Charlie going over stones out hunting) that he didn't believe we hunted on stony ground at all. At this point, luckily for me, there was a farrier who came from up here, and who shoes for one of my nighbours, and he told the sceptic quite categorically that the stones and flints up here were a severe test, and furthermore he knew from his own client that whereever the shod horses went, mine went as well - all day ;-) God bless him - and I definitely owe him a pint for that :-)

As well as unknown friends like that, I was very grateful particularly to Robbie Richardson and Tim Neale who were both very supportive, and of course to the organiser, John Mann, who asked me in the first place!

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