Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Best Shod Horse at England's Burghley Horse Trials Wore Handmade Shoes by Steve Arnold

Four happy faces: Farrier Steve Arnold, event horse Let's Dance, rider Jeanette Brakewell, and owner Ruth Williams were celebrating in the mare's stall yesterday. Steve holds the rosette and plaque awarded by the Worshipful Company of Farriers for Let's Dance's selection as the Best Shod Horse at the 2013 Land Rover Burghley 4* Horse Trials in England. Many of the best event horses and riders in the world were competing, and farrier judge Andrew Casserly lifted all four feet of each of them to select Let's Dance as the winner. (Photo provided by Steve Arnold.)

This article is a product of serendipity.

For many years, the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials in England has awarded a "Best Shod" prize to one of the four-star horses entered in the event. The Worshipful Company of Farriers sends out a trained judge to the beautiful country house grounds, and the riders line up to have their horses' feet evaluated.

While the prize doesn't receive much publicity outside of this blog, there is prestige attached to winning the award, and winning it is always good for client-farrier relations, or to publicize a farrier's business.

But this year, the award was not listed on the event's website. It looked like it didn't even happen. 

I might not have known it even happened except for an email exchange with farrier Mark Watson, who was conducting an AWCF training seminar for the Worshipful Company of Farriers this weekend. Mark is also an approved judge and had been interviewed on the Hoof Blog in the past.

When asked if the Burghley best shod award had been scrapped, Mark was quick to set me straight. During his seminar, the winning rider had called her farrier (who was in Mark's course) three times. It's not unusual for farriers to receive multiple phone calls from clients, but on the third call, the farrier went outside and called her back.

That's how we found out that Steve Arnold was the winning farrier. 

Out of 75 horses presented at the trot-up, judge Andrew Casserly chose this one as the best shod of all. It is the right fore of Jeanette Brakewell's Let's Dance, who would go on to complete a double clear (cross-country and show jumping) at the famous event, wearing shoes made for her by Steve Arnold. (Photo courtesy of Steve Arnold.)
In the meantime, another bit of news revealed that Andrew Casserly, AWCF had been the judge of all these world-famous eventer hooves at Burghley, and his number was already programmed into my phone.

Andrew shared that he had been asked to judge at Burghley and arrived at the trot-up to find that he was faced with no fewer than 75 four-star eventers, each with four feet to be judged. That's a lot of bending and lifting, and super-fit high-level event horses aren't always willing to stand around while their feet are admired.

"Best Shod" judge for Burghley this year was Andrew Casserly (right), shown here practicing in his forge at home for the World Championship at Calgary with his son Ben. (Photo by Tony Lelliott.)
"I did not pick up anything but exceptional work, especially in the top half dozen," Andrew stated, still impressed with the work he'd seen. "I'd like to say that some of the foreign horses were impressive; those guys do good work, and all were neat and tidy. I thoroughly enjoyed judging it."

Andrew did not know the identity of the farrier who won. "He must be pleased, whoever he is," Andrew commented. "He certainly deserved to win. They were handmade shoes, really well-suited to the horse. I saw quite a few handmade jobs. The winner fit really well. This was concave all around, with the traditional toe clip on the fronts and side clips behind, with double stud work."

Finding Steve Arnold wasn't easy. He must think that some American is stalking him, and if he does think that, he'd be right.

Luckily for the judge, the horses are presented for hoof judging before they gallop cross-country at Burghley. (John Shortland photo)
Steve really is pleased to win, and pleased for his client, as well. While he has a mixed practice of sport and "happy hacker" horses in rural Staffordshire, England, he seems quite proud that he shoes for two of Great Britain's top international-level eventers, Jeanette Brakewell and Ruth Edge. He's been shoeing for Jeanette for eight years, and is still the farrier for her retired British Olympic and WEG team horse, Over to You, who is so beloved that he has his own fan club in England.

Steve's story matched Mark's: "I was doing the AWCF prep course and I had missed Jeanette's call twice; (when she called) the third time, I asked to be excused as I needed to answer it! I did not know what she wanted and thought there may be a problem; I was wrong! She was delighted to inform me we had won!"

Thousands of people spend the weekend walking around on the grounds of the stately Burghley House during the event. (John Shortland photo)
Steve, who no longer rides, was full of praise for his two famous clients. "They're the best riders I've ever seen on a horse," he said. "Totally amazing. Jeanette is, in my opinion, the best cross-country rider in the world. She took Bella (Let's Dance) around Burghley like it was their 10th time, not the first. Let's Dance is only 10 years old, but a super-star in the making. I am very fortunate to shoe for such professionals."

Was Steve conscious of the best-shod award when he was working on the horse? "Yes, I had it in mind, " he said. "I made the shoes out of the back of the van, specifically for Let's Dance. (She) stands like a statue to shoe so that helps. I knew at least four months before that she may run (at Burghley) so I worked her shoeing plan back from (that date). I put on concave fullered handmade shoes with eight stud holes and kept everything balanced to perfection. I measured nail hole placement and stud hole placement and shod her like I was competing."

In reality, Steve was competing, against many of the best sport horse farriers in the world, although they rarely see each other's work.

Let's Dance was Steve's only horse at Burghley this year, but it wasn't his first best-shod honors. "I came second at Badminton's Farrier Prize a few years back. (These competitions) are very worthwhile, as farriers work very hard to keep a horse sound. We keep a high standard on everything we shoe and it's nice to get recognition."

Winning the best-shod award wasn't the only good news for rider Jeanette Brakewell to share with her farrier. The 16.1 hand mare scored two double clear rounds (both the cross-country and show jumping) at the prestigious event, which was won by New Zealand's Jock Paget. Let's Dance finished 20th.

Remember that name, and if you see her, check our her shoes.

Thanks to Nina at British Eventing and Anne at Burghley Horse Trials for their assistance with this article, and to the Worshipful Company of Farriers for sponsoring these classes. 

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