Saturday, July 09, 2011

Shoes of the Stars: CHIO Aachen Creates a Walk Paved with History and Hoofwear

CHIO Aachen Show Director Frank Kemperman stands in the show's new starwalk
CHIO Aachen now has its own “Walk of Fame”. And just as the stars put their hand prints in the concrete on Hollywood Boulevard, it would have to be the horses who leave an imprint at CHIO Aachen, site of the World Equestrian Festival and what is widely regarded as the largest--and grandest--horse event in the world.

The squares contain the names of legendary horses who have shone underneath the stars of July nights in Aachen. And you can walk over it right now, because the show has just opened for 2011.

But not a hoofprint adorns the star. Instead, an actual horseshoe belonging to the respective four-legged superstar is embedded in the center of the star. There are names you might know: “Gigolo”, “E.T.”, “Ratina Z”, “Totilas” and “Hickstead”, to name just a few. There are 17 shoes, 17 stars, and 17 names of jumping and dressage horses, all of whom have either won the Deutsche Bank Prize, the Dressage Grand Prix of Aachen or the Rolex Grand Prix, the Grand Prix of Aachen.

And is there a correlation between champions and special shoes? There seem to be bar shoes of every type. It looks like a stroll down Aachen's Walk of Fame will be an education in orthopedic horseshoes. A little autograph by the farrier would be a nice touch--perhaps I will have to write a guidebook.

Embedding horseshoes in a plaque and then embedding the plaque in a walkway is much easier than trying to get real horses to cast their hoofprints in wet cement, as illustrated here by Dale Evans and Roy Rogers as they try to get Trigger to step lightly but not too lightly on his paver for Hollywood Boulevard's Walk of Fame in 1949. The tourist guides tell us that three horses are immortalized on the famous stretch of sidewalk outside Grauman's Chinese Theater: Tom Mix's Tony (1927), Gene Autry's Champion (1949) and Trigger. Wait, what about Mr. Ed? There's no star for Mr. Ed? 

The Show Director of the CHIO Aachen, Frank Kemperman, came up with the idea of this special “Walk of Fame”. It took a year to make it happen: “We tried out a lot of things before finding a way of embedding the horseshoes into the plaques,” commented Kemperman.
The plaques were being set into place just before the show was set to open. The “Walk of Fame” can be found right next to the entrance of the CHIO Aachen offices.

Whenever I feel like everything in the world has been done: every creative idea, every perfect photo, every stunning magazine cover, every clever title or slogan has been used up by other people and there's nothing original left, I never panic for very long.

I know I need look no further than the website or magazine of CHIO Aachen. They're always up to something. More than a horse show, horse event, or horse festival, it is more like a state-of-mind...if you happen to have horses on your mind

If you're a rider, driver or vaulter, Aachen is where you want to compete someday. For the rest of us, Aachen is a giddy celebration of not just the horse, but the best that horses bring out in us.

Aachen's message is to love not just the horse, but the way horses can and should make us feel. We're pulled to Aachen because we know it is a world stage where great things will happen to horses and to ourselves. We can be innocent and awed, all over again, by what goes on there--no matter how hardened and grizzled we've become by our years in the saddle or in the barn aisle.

For some reason, Aachen always seems to send me a subliminal message or two each year. There will be photos in the magazine or news items or events that use images or concepts of the hoof that leave me smiling and saying, "Why didn't I think of that?" and I know that I can and will think of something for my seemingly impossible challenge at hand. Like the one that has me stumped right now.

I need to just let myself remember that Aachen is out there, constantly re-inventing itself with an ongoing stream of creative interpretations of everything Horse (and sometimes Hoof). And remember that so am I, and so are you. There's no end to what we haven't imagined yet.

Walk on, Aachen!

 © Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing; Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. Please, no use without permission. You only need to ask. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page). To subscribe to Hoofcare and Lameness (the journal), please visit the main site,, where many educational products and media related to equine lameness and hoof science can be found. Questions or problems with this blog? Send email to  
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