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Sunday, January 05, 2014

Royal Recognition: British Farrier Thomas Burch Honored with MBE by Queen

Glimpses into the life of a farrier who might be found on the streets of London or in the rainforests of Central America or helping a horse in Capetown in South Africa: Royal honors have been announced for British farrier Tom Burch for his service to the welfare of horses in the United Kingdom and overseas.

A farrier in England woke up on New Year’s Day to find out that his named was "on the list", a compilation of British subjects named annually for special honors by The Queen. Thomas Burch, RSS will soon be headed to Buckingham Palace, where the Queen will officially make him a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).
According to the "Honours List" issued on New Year's Day, Tom was recognized with the distinguished medal and title for "services to horse welfare in the UK and overseas".
It’s not something that happens every day to a farrier, or to most British subjects in their lifetimes.

Tom is a farrier with a finger in several pies. After serving an apprenticeship in Kent, England, he was farrier to the Metropolitan Police in London for 30 years, and retired from that position in 2009. As part of his job, he attended to the needs of horses at state occasions, including the ceremonial “Trooping of the Colour” on the Queen’s Birthday as Duty Farrier.
Tom also became active in governance of the profession by holding a seat on the Farrier Registration Council, which oversees how the Farriers Registration Act is enforced in Britain. He later also became a field officer for The National Farrier Training Agency, which has now been re-organized. Tom worked with young people who wished to obtain apprenticeships and has been working since October with the training colleges to help aspiring farrier candidates to the next stage of apprenticeship.
In 1998, Tom became interested in helping train farriers in developing countries. Through the international charity World Horse Welfare (WHW), Tom has worked with farriers in Kenya, South Africa, Romania, Mexico, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Poland, Cambodia and Honduras. He also visited Egypt and Pakistan to assess the skills of the farriers who work for The Brooke charity in those nations.

The London Metropolitan Police horses were the first I ever saw in riot tack. Some of the horses that Tom Burch shod during his 30 years with the force were probably deserving of medals for bravery. 
Tom was instrumental in setting up World Horse Welfare’s overseas farriery training programs, which offer the most promising students extra training so they can teach other farriers in the country, so helping to spread these skills more widely.

Tom said: “I do it because I want to put something back. When I finished my apprenticeship, I promised myself that if the opportunity arose I would do whatever I could to help apprentices and promote good farriery. I am especially grateful to the Metropolitan Police for allowing me the time to work internationally with World Horse Welfare, which has made me a better teacher and hopefully improved the welfare of those horses, and the people who rely on them for their livelihoods. From a personal perspective, it’s interesting to see how people do things in other countries and there is a lot of job satisfaction. The students really appreciate the skills you are sharing with them.”

Tom is also a liveryman with the Worshipful Company of Farriers.

How rare is it for a farrier to be royally recognized? Tom is in good company: he joins the late Edward Martin, FWCF and the late Ivon Bell, FWCF who were honored by the Queen with the MBE before their deaths. Edgar Stern FWCF was honored with the British Empire Medal for his service to Thoroughbred horses through farriery. Howard Cooper FWCF (Hons) was honored with the Order of the British Empire (OBE).

Captain Charles Budd, left, was head instructor for the Britain Army farrier school during World War I. Horses were needed at the front, so he invented a dummy horse with removable cadaver hooves for farrier students to learn on. It earned him one of the first MBEs, awarded by King George V. (Europeana photo)
Research shows that another farrier received the MBE back in the days of World War I. He was Captain Charles Budd, a British military farrier in the Second Boer War and World War I. King George V launched the MBE honors in 1917, and no doubt Captain Budd was one of the first to receive it.

The MBE was the first British award to honor women as well as men. In its early years, it had divisions for both military and civilian honors.

Captain Budd is featured in the Europeana exhibit commemorating the beginning of World War I by Oxford University. According to the exhibit, the Irish-trained farrier was chief instructor of farriery at British army headquarters at Aldershot, where he invented a dummy horse leg for the classroom.
“Budd’s Farriery Training Apparatus” was a detailed wooden reproduction of a horse's leg, showing each joint and terminating with an actual hoof (from a dead horse) which could be easily detached and replaced. “The trainee farrier was thus able to learn shoeing in a much more convenient manner without a horse,” the exhibit explains. According to his granddaughter, the invention “revolutionized the teaching of farriery and was used all over the world.”

And it was significant enough for King George to honor the farrier who invented it.

It’s on display to this day in the museum of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps at Aldershot. A similar device, the “Blacksmith Buddy” was introduced to farrier education last year by American farrier Wes Champagne, who certainly had never heard of Captain Budd, and who constructed his model leg out of high-tech injection-molded plastics. But, like Captain Budd’s, it has a removable foot.
Last year, the British team showjumping and dressage riders were honored by the Queen with the MBE for their gold medals won at the 2012 Olympics. Someone else with a toe in the farrier world, Muriel Coquohon of Scotland, also has the MBE letters after her name. She invented the ShoeSecure heel protector for horses, although the Queen honored her for her services to equestrian sport before ShoeSecure came along.

An example of an MBE medal awarded by the Queen.

Tom’s investiture, as the actual award ceremony is called, will take place later in 2014. He’ll be summoned to the palace and he’ll step forward, just as he always has stepped forward to serve his profession. He’ll be face to face with royalty, without an apron on, without a horse, without a hammer in hand.

While Tom has met Princess Anne and the late Princess Diana, he has never met the Queen, and he said that he is looking forward to the ceremony.

Here’s betting the Queen will know how special this particular medal is, and what it means to have farriery recognized by someone like her.

Perhaps it’s a coincidence that a farrier has been honored for his charity work by a Queen who is known for her love of horses. Or perhaps someone at the top knew exactly what she was doing.

Congratulations, Tom.
To learn more:
World Horse Welfare Launches Inaugural Farriery Education Program in Saudi Arabia

FEI Grant Funds World Horse Welfare's Cambodian Farrier Education

Video: Farrier and Saddlery Skills in Cambodia Shared by FEI and World Horse Welfare Partnership Professionals

More about Captain Charles Budd MBE and his "dummy leg" for teaching fast-track military horseshoeing during World War I

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