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Saturday, October 09, 2010

Hoofcare@WEG: What's Inside the French Farrier's Tool Bag?

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It all started early in the evening. I guess it was meant to be French night. I strolled through the Normandy pavilion here at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. Inside was a poster showing a shoe being forged on the face of an anvil. It was promoting the 2014 World Equestrian Games, which will be held in Normandy. It was just a nice photo until I looked closely at the shoe in the picture and saw how the toe had been creased.

It seems like a good omen that the 2014 Games would include a horseshoe image in their promotion. I was happy as I headed to the show jumping arena. And then I saw him.

He slipped through the barrier without making a disturbance but something made me look over at him. Hundreds of people were walking by. But only one carried a beautiful leather bag over this shoulder. The very same type of leather bag I'd seen used by farriers in France. Made of saddle leather with a long shoulder strap, these bags bounce on French farriers' hips as they walk. You wouldn't fill one with sandwiches or Lego pieces: this is a special bag, a part of a farrier's life.

 I set off after him. 

I had heard that France had sent a farrier, but he had been eluding me for two weeks. I couldn't let him get away.

I felt like a wide receiver on a football team. I zigged and zagged through the warmup arena. Took a left at Sapphire, circled the $8 million Saudi horse, zipped behind a couple of Brazilians. I could still see him up ahead. He was headed to the top warmup ring, tool bag bouncing along through the crowd.

When I caught up with him, I was out breath. And that's when I learned that he spoke no English so I had to interview him in French, which means that none of the information in this article may be what he meant to say. But he was very nice about everything.

David Le Corre lives near Toulouse in France and is his country's sole farrier at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. He has been busy these weeks in America, and tomorrow will be hard at work with all the farriers out on the marathon course. He dutifully posed with one of the French team horses and showed me its left front foot, which was shod with a plastic plad and a frog cutout, for what little frog the horse had.

And that is when things started to fall apart. I asked David about his tool bag, could I take a photo of it?

He obviously thought that I was asking if I could see what was in it, which I would never ask. I realize that the contents of a tool bag like that are personal, like the contents of a woman's purse. But in a split second, the beautiful leather flap was thrown open and shoes were spilling out onto the ground.

Shoes were taped together and clearly marked "droit" and "gauche" (left and right). Nearly every shoe in the bag had a pad attached to it. There were Luwex plastic mesh pads, full leather pads, leather rim pads, and impression material.

David obviously likes two things: leather pads and aluminum shoes. He even likes the two together. In the photo of the single rolled wide-web aluminum shoe, you can see what the studs will go. He has it set up with a leather pad, and if you look closely you can see where it has been scored for the frog to be cut out. The circles marked on the pad on either side of the frog will be punched out so that silicon or some other  support material can be injected under the pad, while the frog stays open to the air and able to touch the ground and be functional, with luck.

I sheepishly helped David put all the shoes back in the bag and thanked him. He settled down to check rider Penelope LePrevost's horse's feet and adjusted the big black band over the heel bulbs.

Like all the farriers here, he had a lot of work to do. The groom chatted happily to him in French. I imagined she was saying, "David, that woman chased you across three warmup arenas, who IS that?" and David answered, "I have no idea."

Note: Be sure to read the comment about David, which is a blog story in itself, in which David's effort to glue a shoe on one of the French team horses is aided and abetted by Alan Orville Dryg, one of the AFA farriers! Just click on the comment link. Alan had a French farrier tool bag experience too!

© Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing 
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Alan Orville Dryg said...

I had the pleasure of meeting David near the Altech arena where I was an farrier on duty for the AFA at the reining event. I had no idea he was the sole farrier for the entire French competitors!
The breadth of farrier representation was inspiring. Many teams in our barn had their own farriers, some of whom were from the states. I had the fortune of having dinner one night with the Team Australia and Irish team farrier for the eventing teams. The Irish team farrier was actually English and had been there the week before working for the English endurance team.
My experience with David was much like yours. We communicated with hand signals and other alternative means of communication. He had to glue a shoe on for the Vaulting team. All I knew at first was he needed my drill presses. We had no Idea at first why he wanted to drill 6- 1/2 inch holes in the size 5 hind shoe. But we hustled to help him sharpening the bit and providing lots of cutting oil. He kept riding back and forth from his barn on his bicycle bringing down various supplies in his leather bag you spoke of.
I loaned him my cordless drill with a wire wheel on it to clean and prep the foot. His european heat gun would not plug into his converter and we opted for a plumbers' propane torch I had to dry the foot after he cleaned it with some sort of aerosol solvent. The glue was a Kerkhart glue housed in the same large tube like many american glues come in. I had no idea Kerkhart even made a glue.
After 3 bike trips someone showed up with the massive French warmblood. He wielded two puddy knives like an expert drywall taper. He wore no gloves or used no plastic wrap. He just worked quickly and proficiently with lots of quiet patience for the restless warmblood. I cringed at his lightweight euro gym shoes he wore, as I have had many a toe sloughed by big horses. His stance was dissimilar to our traditional stance under a horse. It was a kind of one foot back one forward spread- eagle like that of an MMA fighter pressed against the cage trying to defend the takedown.
He came back once done with a Team France ball cap for our efforts. Always a pleasure to see how the things we do are performed differently around the world.

Alan Orville Dryg said...

Sorry posted twice cause wasn't sure if it took it the first time.