Monday, July 01, 2013

Aachen's Walk of Fame: What Does the Plaza Paved with Horseshoes Tell Us About Famous International Sport Horses?

CHIO Aachen Show Director Frank Kemperman stood in the show's new starwalk in 2011. It has continued to grow, with three new shoes added recently.

In 2011, The Hoof Blog was delighted to introduce a terrific new "Walk of Fame" at the showgrounds of CHIO Aachen in Germany. The horse show that stands tall above all others wanted to honor some of the famous horses who have competed there. Their way of remembering was to ask for a shoe from each to sink into the pavement, surrounded by a star.

For 2013, more shoes were added. Hoofcare and Lameness can share a big part of the collection of shoes with you today, the closing day of the show. Two bar shoes in the collection visible in the top photo are not available.

It's just not possible to tell you much about these shoes, since there is no information about whether the shoes were actually worn in competition or not, what year they are from, or even whether they are fronts or hinds. What seems obviously a hind shoe can often turn out to be a front.

Needless to say, if you shod any of these horses and recognize a shoe that was once in your box, send an email and we will add your comments.

Many horses change hands in their careers and, when they do, they often change farriers, so even though we know who shod some of these horses at some point in their careers, it's risky to say who shod the horse with the shoe shown. 

Some day, we should all take a stroll down the walk of fame, make notes and give the show the information they are lacking about the shoes and the stories they tell. But even without official documentation, these shoes speak volumes.

Ahlerich was the great dressage partner of Dr. Reiner Klimke. He won the individual and team dressage gold medals for Germany in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and team gold in Seoul in 1988. Many people credit this Westphalian warmblood gelding with the explosion of interest in dressage in the United States--and perhaps the world. I saw him perform an exhibition musical freestyle in Madison Square Garden at the National Horse Show in 1987; it was an unforgettable change in the way I viewed dressage forevermore.

Jos Lansink's Cumano won the World Championship of Show Jumping for Belgium in 2006 at the World Equestrian Games in Aachen. The Holsteiner stallion represented Belgium in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics and earned his retirement ceremony in the big grassy ring at Aachen in 2011. He's standing at stud now.

Showjumper E.T. FRH lives on because the Hanoverian gelding has been cloned! He won the World Cup for Austria twice, in 1997 and 1998, with rider Hugo Simon and earned 3.2 million Euros in prize money.

Nadine Capellmann's Westphalian Farbenfroh had a big white face, four white socks and a bright chestnut coat that made him easy to spot in photos. In fact, his name translates to "Colorful" in English. Some might say he was too flashy looking for dressage, for his time; now we see horses with white markings as gifted for showing extravagance in their movements. He won team and individual gold medals in dressage for Germany in the 2002 World Equestrian Games in Spain and team gold at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, among many other championships. He died after breaking his leg in his paddock.

Germany's Isabel Werth rode Gigolo to the top of the world...and stayed there. For most Americans, their gold medal in dressage at the 1996 Olympics is what keeps this Hanoverian at the top of their list of memorable horses. Gigolo won two individual silver Olympic medals; how many horses competed at three Olympics? He was also world champion twice.

German showjumper Halla reached the top without the prerequisite warmblood pedigree. She was bred to trot, and trained to be a steeplechaser! Her sire was an American Standardbred, her dam a French trotter and she was born during World War II. But Halla was the only horse to ever win three Olympic gold medals. Ridden by Hans Günter Winklershe was also world champion twice. When her first foal was born, a British newsreel was filmed. Her name was retired in Germany, and no other horse can be registered with the name of Halla. What a story! Even her shoe is interesting; American readers may not realize that German horseshoe nails are shaped like squares, giving this plain-stamped shoe an unusual look to our eyes.

When the great Canadian showjumper Hickstead collapsed and died in Italy after a showjumping round, we immediately knew that some horses have celebrity status that knows no borders. The horse world simply and deeply mourned for the great horse, and marveled when longtime rider Eric Lamaze recounted in a press conference that the horse's last act was to fall in a way that allowed the rider to land clear of his great bulk. Hickstead won  Olympic gold in the 2008 Olympics in Hong Kong, along with team silver for Canada. He won the individual bronze medal  at the 2010 Alltech World Equestrian Games in Kentucky, along with the "Best Horse" award after the Final Four. At Aachen, he won the grand prix.

Canada's Gail Greenough rode Mr. T into the history books in 1986, when they won the world championship of show jumping in Aachen. She was the youngest rider ever to win, and she and the Hanoverian Mr. T were the first Canadians to hold the world title. She was also the first woman to make it to the Final Four, the grand finale of the jumping championship when the riders just execute the course riding each other's horses. Only one other rider, Conrad Holmfeld of the USA, was able to jump Mr. T around the course successfully that night.

A Hanoverian gelding, Salinero was either the last of his generation or the first of the new generation. Under Anky Van Grunsven of The Netherlands, he finessed the artistic factor in freestyle dressage. A daring, scintillating and risk-takingly expressive ride by the Dutch duo could often trump the technically-perfected performance of Germany's Isabell Werth and Gigolo, although they often traded places on the podium for years. They won individual gold in Athens in 2004 and Hong Kong in 2008, but their most amazing statistic might be winning the World Cup nine times. Dutch farrier Rob Renirie was Salinero's longtime farrier; the gelding retired this spring.

Satchmo was Isabell Werth's "rebound horse" and the record he compiled for Germany was stellar, including dressage team gold and individual silver at Beijing Olympics in 2008 and team and grand prix special gold at the World Equestrian Games at Aachen in 2006. Near the end of his show career, Satchmo wore Franz Helmke's heart-bar shoes.

It was like the horse was on springs. That's the only way I can describe Shutterfly. Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum's Hanoverian gelding was a joy to watch. He seemed to have an extra kick, like a swimmer's, that could propel him over a water jump when you were sure he wouldn't clear it. But he did. They won three World Cup finals; Shutterfly and Michaels-Beerbaum were two of the most consistent combinations ever to represent Germany in international competition. When Shutterfly retired at Aachen in 2011, Germans lost a horse that had traveled the world for them, and never disappointed.

Totilas needs no introduction to Hoofcare and Lameness readers. Nor do his shoes. Just look in the sidebar at the right of the blog and you will see that articles about Totilas and his shoes are among the most popular articles published on this blog since we started tabulating statistics a few years ago. But all that shoe news was after the great world champion at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky was sold to Germany. At his peak, he wore plain shoes when he won his championships under the Dutch flag, and was shod by Rob Renirie. Totilas has been plagued with minor injuries and setbacks since moving to Germany and his competition career has been erratic, but anyone who saw him perform with Edward Gal was lucky, indeed. He took dressage to the "next level", as they say, and it looks like he did it in plain flat shoes. Good for him.

Added in 2013:

There have been so many bright days for Germany in eventing, and some are thanks to a horse named Air Jordan, ridden by Frank Ostholt. Their record includes two victories at Aachen and the team gold medal in the 2006 World Equestrian Games, which were held at Aachen. They won the Luhmühlen CCI4* in Germany the same year.

Not to mention any names, but there are people (you know who you are) whose eyes get all soft and dreamy whenever you mention this Westphalian's name. He deserved to be named after a great and beloved artist because he had an artistic flare to his movements that made people love to watch him. He was really the first dressage horse who seemed to know how to dance. calls Nicole Uphoff's Rembrandt "the dressage horse of the 20th century". Rembrandt rocked the Seoul Olympics in 1988 with his young, inexperienced rider. In all, he won four Olympic gold medals over the years. But he had his share of bad luck, too, including being kicked during his victory lap at the German championships in 1993, requiring surgery to his knee.

Sam is the only horse in the Walk of Fame who is actively competing now, and he hopefully will be for a long time to come. In fact, he competed at CHIO Aachen this week. Rider Michael Jung and the Württemberg gelding are the current reigning Olympic, World and European champions. And look what's on his feet: Farrier Elias Pfrommer donated what appears to be one of Sam's Natural Balance/Fitzwygram shoes. His wide-open heels and straight branches are in stark contrast to so many others in the Walk of Fame, whether front or hind. When it comes to Sam, there's no question that whatever he's been wearing, they work for him!


So now you've been down Aachen's Walk of Fame, and you can see almost a history of machinemade shoes pass before your eyes. You can see nailing patterns, stud hole placement, toe bend radii, square toes, straight branches and rolled toes. With the exception of Mr. T, it is less easy to see side or quarter clip details, if they are there. Some are symmetrical, some are not. Some show interesting wear patterns, others show no wear at all and look like they just came off the rack.

Of course, all pads and support materials are removed, so it's tough to tell which horses wore packages on their hooves, and which were simply equipped with plain shoes. It's also hard to see the nail holes clearly; perhaps some show no wear in the crease because they were glued on.

Do top competition sport horses tend to have narrow contracted feet? Does the heavy competition scene make them that way or are the best horses simply unstoppable and able to win in spite of a shopping list of problems for a farrier to try to support or relieve?

Looking at these shoes makes you wonder: what will the next generation of shoes look like when they are sunk into the Walk of Fame? Could they sink a plastic Polyflex shoe into concrete? What about a hoof boot tread? Could they take a mold of a barefoot horse's foot and place that in concrete? Or will the steel shoes that carried these champions to victory continue to be the footwear of choice for the next champions too?

It's a big showground, with plenty of room for more squares.

Thanks for everything that Hoof Blog readers did and will do to help horses like these get to the top of equestrian sports, and thanks to Aachen for pioneering this great idea.

Don't throw those old shoes just yet; you never know when Aachen might call.

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