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Monday, April 21, 2008

The Serbs Are Coming! Will British Farriery Standards Be Threatened by "Guest" Farriers from Continent?

"The Serbs are coming! The Serbs are coming!"

Today is Patriot's Day here in my state of Massachusetts. I think that the Boston Marathon has a lot to do with why everyone gets the day off (it would be physically impossible to drive from point a to point b because of road closures and chaotic traffic, not to mention runners) but the true meaning of the holiday harkens back to 1775.

On that first Patriot's Day, Paul Revere galloped out of the city (not following the marathon route) to the villages, shouting as he went, "The British are coming! the British are coming!" True to form, the British were marching out of the Boston barracks to destroy a munitions garrison in the little farming village of Concord.

The American colonists stopped the Brits at a tiny bridge over the Concord River and thus was fired "The Shot Heard Round the World" and the American Revolution began. The Redcoats had to high-tail it back to Boston, and the rag-tag colonists chased them.

How appropriate that the headline story in today's Horse and Hound newsmagazine from London should be the gloom and doom of the world's last great traditional system of farrier education and licensing, a.k.a. "British Farriery".

First we saw holes poked in the British farrier system, as documented on this blog, as the British animal welfare authorities recognized barefoot hoof trimmers as a legitimate caregiver, as long as they did not attempt to nail on shoes. According to the new directive it will be ok to give them rasps, give them nippers, give them hoof knives...just don't give them a hammer and tongs. Don't let them play in the fire, whatever you do.

And now today's news. For weeks we have been reading on farrier forums about the specter of Britain opening its doors in compliance with European Union regulations, which state (fairly or unfairly) that "guest" farriers from EU member nations must be allowed to shoe horses on British soil.

For years, the Farrier Registration Council (FRC) has used its regulatory powers to keep the local gypsies from shoeing other than their own horses. Even American farriers and veterinarians had to get a waiver from the FRC to shoe a horse in a competition, for instance. And now it will be open doors.

Will this be the end of Britain's revered system? Most definitely not, is my guess. If the system is all it is cracked up to be, "guest" farriers may come in with their polo ponies or their show jumpers, but they won't be sticking around unless they are prepared to shoe to a standard that owners and trainers expect and demand.

The feared invasion of eastern European farriers may be all an imaginary one.

Headlines like today's make me miss icons like the late Edgar Stern, head of the venerable Kent dynasty of farriers, who died a few years ago. In my vision, Edgar would have stood, feet firmly planted, atop the white cliffs of Dover. "Come on, then!" Edgar would have said. He'd soon be giving English lessons around the teapot in his forge...and signing up some Romanian first-year apprentices.

The challenge for the Brits is not to keep the Euros out, but to export their own knowledge and know-how, if not their regimental system, to the have-nots and the hungry of the farrier world. When that day comes, it will be a better place for horses and all.

Let the reverse migration begin...and someone can shout, "The British are coming!" in a Slavic dialect.

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