Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Badminton Horse Trials' Farrier Prize to the Best Shod Horse 2013 Won by David Smith

There might not be much left of a pair of shoes by the time the horse has made the circuit of the world's most challenging cross-country course, which is just one phase of the Badminton Horse Trials. Video of horses in this year's event courtesy of Centaur Biomechanics.

Each year, the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials presents a "Farriers Prize" for the best shod horse at the world's most prestigious three-day event. To most, it is an after-the-fact announcement on a loudspeaker as they make their way back to the parking lots.

But to others it is a big deal.

The farrier world hardly loses any sleep over this award, but there is a system in place that could easily be shadowed by any sort of horse event, should a sponsor want to initiate it.

At Badminton, the Farriers Prize is sponsored and administered by the Worshipful Company of Farriers, in conjunction with the event itself.

To explain a bit of the workings: The prize recognizes the "Owner and Farrier of (the) Best Shod Horse". Notice there is no mention of the rider in there; indeed, the rider of this year's winning horse had no idea she had won, other than the buzz on Twitter.

The judge for this year's event was appointed by the Worshipful Company of Farriers, as it is every year. The Company appointed someone who knows the ropes; farrier Jim Blurton has won the award three times himself and is tied with Badminton House's own farrier, Bernie Tidmarsh, for the record number of prizes won.

The Hoof Blog interviewed Jim today and learned that he had inspected the horses that had survived dressage and cross-country phases of the event, before the show-jumping phase on Monday. By event records, that means he would have inspected the hooves of 65 horses.

While Jim was judging the feet, he was shadowed by farrier Nigel Brown, an apprentice judge in the WCF system. In order to qualify as a judge in the UK, a farrier has to learn to judge both shoeing/forging competitions and the best-shod competitions, which are important to keeping the importance of good farriery in front of the public and the horse industry.

As Jim judged, the scores were recorded by a representative of the Badminton Horse Trials.

Jim admitted that not all the horses are prepared for judging, since some of the horses from abroad were unaware that their horses' hooves would be judged.

If a farrier in England knows that a client's horse is Badminton-bound, however, s/he knows that the hooves will be picked up and judged on the final day of the event.

Farrier David Smith decorated Super Steve's toe clips with four-leaf clovers for good luck at Badminton. They must have worked because the horse made it through all the phases to score a completion.

Jim Blurton's comment on the winning job: "The horse was shod with the intention of winning!" He was referring to the hooves of Noble Bestman, barn name "Super Steve", a 13-year-old gelding by Belgian Warmblood sire Ramiro B. He was ridden by Laura Collett of Wiltshire, England. According to British Eventing, it was the horse's third 4* event, but his first time around Badminton.

He noted that the horse was shod all around with handmade shoes. "It was a very nice job, well shod," Jim commented.

He recalled the similar extra effort that farrier Jim Hayter had taken a few years ago, when his client's horse won after going around Badminton's grueling cross-country course on Jim's handmade hind bar shoes. "He could have easily put machine-mades on that horse that time," Jim recalled. "But he didn't."

Farriers can't have just a picture-perfect shoeing job in mind when they work on a horse before an event with a "best shod" class. Although an impressive handmade shoe can score points with the judge, it means nothing if the horse didn't make it through the two vet inspections, the dressage, and the cross-country with those shoes on. The function of the shoe, the effect on gait and stride, and the safety of the ride must remain paramount, or the horse will not make it to the last day and the hoof judging.

Sometimes, in these best shod classes, the judge is not as impressed by handmade shoes as by how the farrier worked with the horse's conformation. A horse with mismatched feet that is shod thoughtfully and effectively might be favored.

Noble Bestman might be the first horse whose candidacy for the "Best Shod" award was launched, unknowingly, via social media when his rider posted images of his engraved toe clips. Laura tweeted images of her horse's clips a week before the event, as did her horse--@SuperSteve is one of those talking horses who is fun to follow on Twitter.

David Smith is a noted farrier in the competition scene in Britain. A multiple-times English National Champion and Team England member, David has competed all over Europe and North America, including the Calgary Stampede's World Championship.

He's not one for publicity, however, and could not be tracked down for an interview.

Elsewhere on the showgrounds, South Gloucestershire's Richard Taylor was hard at work as event farrier for the British Eventing Grassroots Championship; for the 4* Nick Deacon was farrier at the start of the cross-country course, according to Richard, and Bernie Tidmarsh was in the forge at the stables, of course.

Photos of David's shoeing job are in the works in England and will be posted when they arrive. In the meantime, congratulations to all--and long live the Farriers Prize!

To learn more:
Badminton Best Shod Horse 2011
Kiwis Trot Off with Best Shod Horse Award at Badminton 2009
Photos In: Best Shod Horse at Britain's Badminton Horse Trials 2009
Martin Deacon Wins 2007 Best-Shod Horse Trophy at Badminton Horse Trials

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