It's a long, long way from Mold, Wales to Hong Kong, China. But Welsh farrier Ian Hughes already knows the way. (University of Liverpool Equine Hospital photo)
Lameness specialist Ian Hughes of Wales is farrier at the Ashbrook Equine Hospital in Cheshire, England, as well as the farrier and lecturer on farriery at the University of Liverpool's equine hospital. It wasn't easy for him to take nine weeks out of his life and head to Hong Kong...but he's now on his way!
Ian left on a long, long flight today and by tomorrow will be setting up the forge and shoeing clinic where he will be working as official farrier for both the Olympics and Paralympics. British farrier Kelvin Lymer and the Hong Kong Jockey Club's Greg Murray will join Ian during the Games, but Ian will also be staying on to be the farrier for the Paralympics in September.
The horses start arriving in Hong Kong later this week, and Ian wants to make sure that he has the forge up and operating in case he is needed. While some countries send a farrier, many do not, so Ian should have plenty to do, with 240 horses expected for the Games and 78 for the Paralympics.
Hong Kong has been getting ready for Ian, whose vast orders for supplies were shipped months ago from Europe. Ian was the farrier for the "Test Event" in Hong Kong last summer, so he has worked in the new forge. He has done some work on redesigning things, and expects that the forge will have air-conditioning on the shoeing floor this year, although not in the forge itself.
Getting on the plane for Hong Kong means a huge logistics task for Ian--not in relation to the Games, but in relation to his business at home. In addition to serving the vet hospital in Cheshire and the University's hospital, Ian has a regular client list based all over the countryside.
"Trying to organise your business and livelihood to withstand the main person to go away for nine weeks with no input at all has proven as difficult as organising the Farriery Department (for the Olympics)," Ian said yesterday in an email.
"At least with Hong Kong you are only dealing with half a dozen people and their ideas and thoughts," he went on. "With my business, we literally have hundreds of clients all concerned that their horse or pony will continue to get the best attention."
Security is very high in Hong Kong and Ian must be careful what he says by email and telephone, but you should be hearing from him and the other farriers from time to time over the next few months via the Hoof Blog.
Ian is a specialist in lameness and does a lot of research, as well. He was a co-author of a paper published recently in the Equine Veterinary Journal on (hoof) wall strip surgery.
Congratulations to Ian and all the farriers who are making the trip to Hong Kong. Watch for more news from them as it comes in! Please understand that professional standards prevent them for discussing the horses they work on while the Games are on. Likewise, Ian is not open about the brand names of products that he ordered to be shipped over.