Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Golden Horseshoes: Holland's Farrier in Hong Kong

He's going for the gold. Lift up one of Salinero's shoes and the entire country of The Netherlands would believe that they are made of gold.

In the next few hours, Anky Van Grunsven of Holland and Isabell Werth of Germany go for the gold medal for individual dressage at the Hong Kong Equestrian Games of the Beijing Olympics. The two women are separated by a few one-hundredths of a point...and years of tooth-and-nail competition and micro-point finishes. Or will a dark horse come up from the ranks to take first place?

Each of the top two horses is shod by one of the world's leading sport horse farriers, Rob Renirie for Holland and Dieter Krohnert for Germany.

Anky takes her own farrier to the Olympics with her, and he is also the official farrier for his country. Rob Renirie is a cool study in composure and has an analytical eye for the horse he loves, Salinero.

In Sydney in 2000, Rob ran out into the arena to grab the bridle of Bonfire, Anky's first gold-medal winner, when he exploded from all the controlled energy after his test. Rob studies the horse and knows the rider well.

Holland had to settle for second to Germany in the team medals, and missed the use of a top horse, Sunrise, who went lame. It is all coming down to this one ride, since Anky has announced that she may retire.

If you have a chance to go to a seminar with Rob Renirie about shoeing, go. The former jumper rider turned farrier has also studied equine biomechanics at the University of Utrecht and he has created a place for himself at the pinnacle of sport horse farriery by combining the expertise of a rider, a trainer, a scientist and a skilled farrier into one person.

If you missed his four-hour master class on sport horse shoeing at the Palm Beach laminitis conference last November, you really missed something.

Someone showed me a picture of Rob taken in Hong Kong last week. It was late at night. Pouring rain. Rob with his white head was unmistakably, crouched under an umbrella with Anky's groom, Willeke. They were watching Anky school in the middle of the night, when it might be a little bit cooler. The rain didn't matter. Rob's eyes were locked on the horse's hooves. He was willing them to turn gold.

Post script: Anky Van Grunsven of Holland won her third consecutive individual Olympic gold medal in dressage in Hong Kong.