Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Ian Hughes of Wales Will Head Farrier Services at Hong Kong Olympics

Welsh farrier Ian Hughes DipWCF will be head of services in the farrier clinic at the 2008 Beijing Olympic and Paralympic equestrian events, to be held in Hong Kong in August.

It's a long way from Mold, Wales to Hong Kong, but Ian Hughes DipWCF already knows the way. After heading up farrier services at the Olympic test event there in 2007, Ian has been named head of farrier services for both the 2008 Olympics and the Paralympics.

In an interview yesterday with Hoofcare and Lameness Journal, Ian shared some of the details of his upcoming assignment, which may be of interest to readers who are connected to horses that will be traveling to Hong Kong without a dedicated Team farrier, or who may aspire to this type of work.

Ian will be assisted by Greg Murray, head farrier for the Hong Kong Jockey Club, and fellow British farrier Kelvin Lymer DipWCF of Worcestershire.

Ian spent 3 1/2 weeks in Hong Kong last year for the test event, trying out the new purpose-built forge area in the new veterinary center at Sha Tin racecourse. Only about 36 horses competed then, but the event put the footing, stables, humid climate, and facilities to a good test.

An estimated 240 horses are expected to arrive in Hong Kong; many will arrive in advance so that the horses can adjust to the climate and fulfill quarantine requirements. Only a few countries will send their own farriers, but many horses will arrive with spare sets of shoes all made up, and, hopefully, will have been shod before leaving home.

Ian said that he did not have much input on the design and layout of the forge and shoeing floor, and was glad to have had the test event to try it out in advance. The forge area was served by lots of fans but not air-conditioned, he said, "But it will be when we are there!" he remarked. He said that the workings of two double-burner gas forges cancel out the effects of an air-conditioner, so the shoeing floor would be separated from the forge area, so the horses (and the farriers) will be cool except when forges needs to be fired up.

Ian said that he would have to arrive before the horses to set up the service area, and that he would stay until September and serve the same role for the Para-Games. He'll need to be gone from his home in Wales for a total of eight weeks; he'll leave his busy practice in the hands of his two apprentices and his "qualified man" (a graduate farrier working as his employee).

Ian runs a general practice in Wales, and also serves as farrier consultant at Ashbrook Equine Hospital in Cheshire, England, one of Britain's leading clinics. He lectures on lameness one day a week at the veterinary college at the University of Liverpool.

One country whose horses Ian probably won't be shoeing will be those of his own Team GBR. Ian said that the British horses would probably be served by fellow Welshman Haydn Price and eventing specialist Brendan Murray. (You may remember my story about Brendan, who was one of the four escorts in the horse-drawn funeral procession of Princess Diana. According to tradition, the farrier must be present, in the event of a shoeing mishap on one of the horses pulling the gun carriage and casket.)

One note about "Olympic farriers" (and their tools, supplies, and equipment): Ian said that all gear will be shipped out several weeks in advance. Olympic protocol does not allow companies to make advertising claims that their products were used in the forge at Hong Kong. However, the policy is to allow nonreturnable donations of certain supplies, tools, and equipment that do not have strings attached.

Ian's announcement is great news, but I realize it should come as no surprise. Wales is a tiny country that has a penchant for producing farriers who excel on the international level. Calgary Stampede World Champion farriers Grant Moon, Billy Crothers, Richard Ellis, and James Blurton all are from Wales and come to mind, along with Haydn and Ian, and I remember from an earlier generation Glyn David and the late Tommy Williams excelling in the profession, too. I'm sure there are many, many more. John McEwen, chair of the FEI's veterinary committee and head vet for Team Great Britain, also lives in Wales.

Best of luck to Ian and all the farriers who head to Hong Kong this summer. It's great to see the role of farriers be recognized for the important part it plays in the safety and ultimate performance of the horses. The same is true if the farrier is working at a local horse show or the Olympics.

Read an interview with Ian Hughes for potential farrier apprentices.