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Thursday, August 02, 2012

London's Olympic Farriers: Brendan Murray, Team GB

British eventing team farrier Brendan Murray in his "team kit"

British eventing team farrier Brendan Murray was already on the job, even though the Olympics were still a few days away. But that's all part of his job.

It was the dawn of Brendan's sixth Olympic Games with the British team, and he knows enough of the ropes that he’s now an official part of the advance crew that sets up the stables and organizes the “kit”, as the vast trunks and trailers of equipment are called. Even though the Games are on British soil, the British team is required, as are all countries, to ship in their gear through a system that x-rays it all...and accounts for every shoe and nail. 

Even though the temporary stable area in London’s ancient Greenwich Park boasts a farrier’s forge, which will be manned by British farriers, team farriers Murray and Haydn Price of Wales have a complete farrier setup of their own, buried in one of the containers stacked behind the stables. Since forges aren’t allowed in the stables, they will rely on the Olympic forge for that.

Brendan said he planned to use the same hand tools he uses every day, although he wasn't expecting that he would be shoeing any of the horses.

Brendan with German team farrier Dieter
Krohnert at the European championships.
What is involved in being the team farrier for Great Britain--besides hanging around during the competitions, in case a horse loses a shoe or needs a farrier’s help? While some nations have their team farriers take over the shoeing of the team horses before the Games, quite the opposite is true for Great Britain.

“Part of my job,” Brendan shared, “is visiting the hroses during their training. I chat with their grooms, look at the horses’ feet, ahead of time."

But he doesn’t shoe them.

Instead, Brendan Murray considers himself to be in a stewardship role as an extension of the farriers who normally shoe the Team GB horses.

“The team horses are prepared by their home farriers,” he said. “And when they are at the event, I am their caretaker. Just as I have been for the past 22 years. My role is to represent the home farriers, and take care of the horses they’ve worked so very hard to prepare for these Games.

“I am extremely fortunate and very proud to represent my country in this role, by taking care of the horses,” he continued.

Brendan was scheduled to turn over the farrier operation for Great Britain when Haydn Price arrived this week.

Brendan played a big role on and
off the camera on the film
War Horse; you can see him in
the forge scene.
When he’s not shoeing, Brendan often works as a stunt rider or a double or shoes horses on movie sets for a client who provides horses for film production companies. His most recent film is Snow White and the Huntsman, where you can see Brendan riding a horse on a beach; he recently completed the production of Sleeping Beauty, and shod a horse for the star, Angelina Jolie.

Brendan shod the horses on the set for the film War Horse last year, and had a cameo role as one of the farriers, a role he discussed in an interview for The Hoof Blog.

Among his other career starring roles was as an escort, representing his former military unit, the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery, for the gun-wagon caisson carrying the casket of Princess Diana as it rolled through the streets of London to her funeral.

Here's hoping that Brendan Murray writes his memoirs some day. They'd be a fascinating read!

Stay tuned for a follow-up interview with Brendan after the Games!

To learn more:

British Farrier Brendan Murray Receives Medal for Service

War Horse Farrier: Lights, Camera, Hoofcare! Who Shod Joey?




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