Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Isabell Werth's Satchmo Follows in Totilas' Heart-Bar Hoofprints at FEI World Cup Finals

Satchmo's left front shoe worn at the 2008 Olympics when he and Isabell Werth helped win the team gold medal in dressage for Germany. (provided by Satchmo's farrier, Franz Helmke)
As the Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage Finals begin in Leipzig, Germany today, the smooth surface of the arena has a special imprint. It's a heart.

Perhaps many horses at the Finals today are shod with heart bar shoes, but this set of hoofprints is especially newsworthy. One of the world's leading champions and one of the favorites to win the World Cup title will be wearing heart-bar shoes on his hind feet as he goes for the title.

A hand-forged heart bar / egg bar shoe with a leather rim pad, also called a "full support" shoe. Photo from the Michael Wildenstein library of images.

In the dressage world, when a horse changes his shoes, people like me pay attention. Earlier this spring it was WEG triple gold medalist Totilas. Now he is joined by another German horse, the 17-year-old Hanoverian gelding Satchmo, ridden by the legendary world champion and Olympic gold medalist Isabell Werth.

Satchmo and Isabell won the World Cup in 2008.

Whoever said that the world wouldn't be interested in the minutiae of equestrian appointments didn't count on the public interest in this age of micro-analyzing sport horses and their every move.

Isabell Werth and Satchmo in World Cup competition earlier this year. Kit Houghton photo for FEI.
News of Satchmo's shoe switch came from Franz Helmke, farrier to both Totilas and Satchmo. Mr. Helmke is an advocate of using the shoes and didn't hesitate to send Satchmo to Leipzig with bar shoes on.

Will heart-bar shoes make a difference to the mighty Satchmo? The horse won two gold medals at the 2006 World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany. Werth shocked many people in 2010 when she loaded her #2 ride, Warum Nicht FRH, on the plane for America at the last minute, instead of Satchmo, to compete in the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. Now she prefers Satchmo again. Werth finished the World Cup 2010-2011 qualifiers in third place and will surely be a favorite with Germans in the audience.

On the opening page of her web site, Isabell Werth greeted her fans with this message: "I was spoilt for choice which horse I should ride in the Final. In the end I decided to compete Satchie. He is in a great shape and so he will be my partner in the arena. Cross your fingers!!"

And your heart bars.

Mr. Helmke's spotless anvil looks immaculate. When I commented on how spotless and unscarred it was, he joked that it was 20 years old.  "All of my implements are in excellent shape," he said. (Franz Helmke photo)
The original reason to contact the obliging Mr. Helmke was to discuss Totilas, who was suffering from a hoof abscess at the time. He now assures me that the abscess is resolved.

"Totilas is in absolute best shape," he wrote in an email this week.

For an extensive explanation of how and why a sport horse might be sent into competition wearing heart bar shoes, please read the Hoof Blog's article about Totilas and his heart bar shoes  published in April 2011.

Totilas had been scheduled to debut in competition next weekend with his new rider, Matthias Rath, but the abscess medication withdrawal time and days missed from trained worked against the pair.

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