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Monday, July 30, 2012

London 2012 Farriers: Tending the Other Olympic Flame

Once there was a peaceful park on the edge of London...
The Opening Ceremonies of the London 2012 Olympic Games were pretty spectacular. I’m sure that the highlight for many was when the Queen parachuted out of a helicopter and into the stadium with James Bond at her side and her handbag in place.

But for me, the highlight came before that.

Director Danny Boyle’s timeline portrayal began with a bucolic rural England, complete with (real) giant Shire horses. It got even better when smokestacks rose among the meadows and the Industrial Revolution reshaped the land into mills, waterwheels and massive gears. Smoke filled the air. The pastoral farmers turned into millworkers with soot on their faces.

And then it happened.

London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony
The smiths leaned on their hammers and watched the rings they'd forged rise in the sky over the stadium

The center of the stadium glowed with fire and a single giant Olympic ring formed in the earth. And it kept forming because 100 or so hammer-wielding smith-types pounded it into shape. Ok, so their sledges were undoubtedly made of foam. But it was pretty realistic, an Olympic-sized exercise of traditional iron wheel-making in a forge.

The ring rose in the night sky and four others joined it, forming the iconic Olympic rings.

The peaceful park was transformed into an equestrian village, with a smithy, of course.

Across the river in London’s Greenwich Park, the equestrian events were set to begin 12 hours later and the Olympic forge was open for business. The flame burning there is encased in a gas forge, but it is being tended by a group of British farriers who are also sharing it with team farriers from around the world.

If there is a place at the Olympic equestrian venue where the world meets, it will be here. The Olympic forge amidst the sprawling stable area should be a re-creation of the village smithy on a town green.

During the Games, the Hoof Blog will do its best to connect you with the people who are sharing the Olympic Forge’s Flame.

You won’t hear gossip about horses or riders, but you might learn something about how the FEI and individual nations approach farriery and veterinary care as essential parts of equine welfare, how the forge came to be, who the farriers are, and which nations sent a farrier along with the horses to keep things straight.

We’ll end the beginning by saying thank you to all the farriers who have already generously provided interviews and sent over photos of their time in Greenwich Park. Keep it coming...and keep the Olympic forge flame burning for us all.

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© 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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