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Sunday, October 03, 2010

Hoofcare@WEG: Rob Renirie's Dutch Gold Shoeing Keeps It Simple

The Dutch have dominated the dressage at the World Equestrian Games with a sweep of all three gold medals. In this photo you see Exquis Nadine, ridden by Hans Peter Minderhoud, giving an uncharacteristic bolt which showed off her front shoes. All the Dutch horses were shod with straightforward quite uncomplicated shoes applied by a highly skilled farrier. (Dirk Caremans photo courtesy of Alltech)
The star of the World Equestrian Games, so far, has been the spectacular black Dutch Warmblood stallion Moorlands Totilas. He won two individual Gold Medals and led the Dutch to a team Gold Medal. The Dutch have a good sense of humor so he trotted into the arena for the medal ceremony in "solid gold" bell boots. His shoeing is very straightforward. (Detail of a Dirk Caremans photo courtesy of Alltech)
The man behind the Dutch team horses' hooves is farrier Rob Renirie. He has been the team farrier for The Netherlands for many years. He's caring for the hooves of all the Dutch horses at WEG; this photo was taken at the endurance race. (Fran Jurga photo)

It was really quiet in the office last night. I was uploading photos from the camera and a farrier came in. He'd just arrived from out west and we chatted about what he'd missed. He said something that really surprised me; it stopped me in my tracks. He said he wanted to see the feet on the gold-medal-winning Dutch dressage horses, especially Moorlands Totilas, because he figured that they must have some special gaited-horse type shoeing to get them to move like that. (Totilas has a lot of expression and almost impossible joint extension.)

I had to tell him that the shoeing doesn't have anything to do with that horse's animation, unless it is that the shoeing stays out of the horse's way. I hope that people watching the Games on video don't think that the horse is manipulated by shoes or pads or weights. The shoeing is surprisingly simple on these horses, although every aspect of the balancing and trimming of the feet is no doubt very, very carefully managed. The shoe is just the icing on the cake.

The man managing that hoof balance is longtime Dutch team farrier Rob Renirie. Having him in the United States for ten days is quite a treat. On Wednesday, he left the gold medal celebration in the Dutch camp (perhaps figuring there would be more champagne in the days to come--and if so, he was right!) to go to dinner with 16 American farriers, many of whom were from the local Lexington area. He was very friendly and generous with his information and encouragement for everyone. He hadn't met about half the farriers before, and met some of their spouses for the first time.

He also met Doug Watkins from Breeders Supply, the farrier supply store in Lexington, which he said he wanted to visit before he headed home, Mitch Taylor from Kentucky Horseshoeing School, and a delegation from Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital's Podiatry Clinic, plus many others.

An article about Rob's presentation at the Global Dressage Forum in Holland last year, describes his basic shoeing philosophy as this: 
"The coronary band usually makes the shape of the foot and thus the shoe. For front shoes, he prefers a slightly rolling toe which covers one third of the hoof wall. He doesn’t use concave steel on dressage horses, preferring to use quite light flat steel (but not aluminum as it’s very slippery) front and back so that the shoe stays on top of the surface and allows the horse to turn easily. He thins the toe until it’s wider by about 3mm and then he lifts it a little bit, with no clips where possible, and small nails. He files as little as possible of the wall, wanting it to stay nice and straight and strong. For hind shoes, again, he hammers the toe of the shoe to create a rounded toe that so it rolls easily; he doesn’t take the toe too far back and leaves only 4.5mm over the shoe at the back. "
One of Rob's popular sayings is that "You can't make a Ferrari out of a Fiat" and that the horse needs to land on its entire foot. He believes in preserving the horse's toe and frog to absorb shock and create energy for the next stride.

He told me that he worries that single points from articles are often taken out of context and championed by horse owners who disagree with their farriers or veterinarians. He receives many emails and phone calls from U.S. warmblood owners asking for advice on horses he can't see and said he would prefer to hear from the farriers if they feel they need help.

Rob presented a masterclass in sport horse farriery at the Fourth International Equine Conference on Laminitis and Diseases of the Foot in West Palm Beach, Florida in 2007.

Past Hoof Blog articles featuring Rob Renirie:
2009 Global Dressage Forum courtesy of EuroDressage
Rob Renirie at 2008 Olympics in Hong Kong

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