Monday, May 23, 2011

The Royal Thoroughbred Tour: Irish Farriers Greet Britain's Queen Elizabeth at National Stud

When Great Britain's Queen Elizabeth set her royal foot on Irish soil last week, it was the first of her family's to do so since the Republic of Ireland gained complete independence from British rule.

But she didn't waste much time getting to the bits of Ireland that she'd probably been dying to see, like the Irish National Stud, the Aga Khan's Gilltown Stud, and the legendary Coolmore Stud. All are leading Thoroughbred breeding establishments where forebears of the Queen's horses may have begun their lives or where she may have sent her mares to be bred, or where the horses originated who beat her own at Epsom or Newmarket or Ascot.

And at her first stop, the legendary Irish National Stud in County Kildare on the edge of the sweeping Curragh plains gallops, the Queen was appropriately greeted by a group of farriers.

Stud director Chryss O'Reilly escorted the Queen around the National Stud. I'm sorry I don't know who the gentleman in black is. Notice the shoe boards and signage about Irish farriery in the background. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Dylan Martinez/Fotoglif
When I saw this press photo with the shoe specimen boards in the background, I was soon on Skype to Martin Leahy, farrier at the Stud. It's hard to imagine, but even Martin seemed a little excited by what had transpired that afternoon. "She's actually a very nice lady," Martin reported, "and I'd say she'd be quite spry for her age, now." (The Queen is 85 years old.)
In other words, yes, he had met her and Prince Philip and he was quite pleased about it.

Also meeting the Queen were Irish Farrier Authority directors John Brennan, John O'Connell, and Jeremy Stanley, and Irish Farrier School coordinator Sue Lilley, who was widely interviewed in the press, as well as a crew of apprentices who were set up and working to impress the Queen. You can hear their anvils in the background of the video when the Queen is watching the jockey student on the simulator horse.

I think the Queen enjoyed herself at the Irish National Stud. Pool/Reuters/John Stillwell photo
This looks like the smile of someone who is really enjoying herself. I imagine it was snapped when she saw the farriers up ahead and she knew she could relax a bit. Somehow I think relaxing was probably the farthest thing from their minds but I'm sure she left with a good impression of Irish farriery and farriers, and with an anvil ringing in her royal ears.

Congratulations to Martin and all our friends in the Irish Master Farriers Association and at the Irish Farrier School and the Stud for what Sue Lilley described as "the biggest day of our lives."

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