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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Best Shod Suffolk Horse in UK Has an All-Star Vet and Farrier Pedigree

NEWS FROM ENGLAND: The Suffolk "Punch" breed is unique in having competitive classes at shows for the horse with the best feet, with cups being presented to the winners of these classes. These classes were introduced at the beginning of the last century when the breed had been criticized for having poor feet which were not able to withstand work on city streets and these competitions rapidly improved foot quality so that today Suffolks have very good feet.

At this year’s Suffolk Show the Supreme Champion in the "Best Feet" classes and the winner of the G Philip Woodward Perpetual Memorial Trophy was the five-year-old gelding Novello, the property of veterinary surgeon Phillip Ryder-Davies, Chairman of the Examination Board of the Worshipful Company of Farriers and shown by veterinary surgeon Ben Ryder-Davies. The judge was farrier Dennis Hayter.

The horse also won the best shod Suffolk Horse competition, judged by Yorkshire heavy horse farrier Danny Mallender AWCF.

The gelding was shod by Roger Clark FWCF (Hons), a member of the Company’s Examination Executive Group, and received a special plaque presented by the company to celebrate its 650th anniversary.

(That is not a typo: the Company has been around for 650 years.)

Translation: the horse was judged to have the best feet and best shoeing of all horses in the show in the eyes of two different judges in two different competitions, with slightly different criteria (best feet vs best shod).

I don't think that Roger has ever heard of Equilox. You are looking at the horse's real feet.

If the names of Ryder-Davies and Clark sound familiar to the Hoofcare and Lameness community, it is because they journeyed to America to speak at our conference on heavy horse hoofcare held at Tufts University's Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in 2003. They were (and obviously still are) superb experts on the foot of the heavy horse. I would recommend them most highly to anyone interested in continuing education on the foot of the heavy horse.

Have things changed? This is the Suffolk breed's photo image of the ideal feet, circa 1930, which accompanies an article by Roger Clark soon to be published in Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. It looks like Roger is sticking to tradition.

The Suffolk Punch is officially a "rare" breed and considered "category 1" on the endangered list; there are only 300 Suffolks in all of Britain. In 2005 the Suffolk Horse Society registered 37 pure bred Suffolk foals. Luckily, the breed is considered a regional treasure of the East Anglian county of Suffolk, northeast of London and some breeders and farmers tirelessly promote the breed and keep foals coming each year. Below is the scene at a Suffolk show; I think if you own a Suffolk in England, you are obliged to show!

If you're in the mood to hunt down a wonderful book that is out of print, look for "Pulling Punches" by Paul Heiney. It is the story of a year on Roger Clark's farm and in his forge; or, order the new video/dvd about him called "A Man for All Seasons"; get an idea of what being a horseman is all about.
Thanks to the Worshipful Company of Farriers' terrific new web site and Suffolk Horse Society's wonderfully educational site for their help with this post.

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