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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Euro Farrier Champions: Top Ten Finalists and Meet Dutch Champion Gert-Jan Salm

The European Farriery Championship is in full swing this week in England; here's a list of the farriers and nations who made it through to the "Top Ten", and are competing today, Sunday.

european farriery championships hoof blog

That's a broad cross-section of Europe represented in those top finishers: United Kingdom, France, Ireland, The Netherlands, Switzerland, and Norway, as well as three world champions.

In preparation for this event, the Hoof Blog had a chance to share with you an interview with Dutch competitor Gert-Jan Salm. Interviews like this translated to English are rare, and we are indebted to the Dutch magazine   and translator Matilda van Rijnberk, as well as friends at Horses International.

Meet seven-time Dutch champion Gert, in his own words:

I still shoe Haflinger and Shetland ponies, because I feel that every horse deserves a good job from the farrier, not just a competition horse or a top horse. Of course you can make top horses your specialization, but that wouldn’t give you enough work. I think it is important for the normal work to continue as well.

In addition to this I can’t actually say that there’s a lot of top riders contacting me to do their horses. If there would be a larger demand from other parts of the country, I might consider traveling further, but now most of the work is still in Zeeland. It doesn’t matter to me whether I do top horses all day or just do the normal work.

You just have to always do your best, that has more or less become my goal. I don’t stop working on a horse until I’m satisfied with the work. You mustn’t forget the work you grew up with. I have built things up from the bottom and tackled the work that needed to be done. I’m still glad I can do these jobs, I don’t have a problem with that.

Gert-Jan Salm Dutch farrier
Gert-Jan Salm is a multiple-times national champion farrier in The Netherlands with a down-to-earth philosophy about working with horses and competing as his sport. (photo via De Paardenkrant)

Most of the work is in my neighborhood. Nine times out of ten I go to the people. I travel a lot and go from one client to another, which gets me everywhere and I meet all kinds of different people.


From the age of fourteen I helped Leunus van Lieren, first in the weekends and sometimes during the week. Then I left school and went every day. Leunus allowed me more and more freedom to shoe horses.

An internship was not so easy to find, especially in our area, so it was nice that I was able to get into the trade this way. I have always had the freedom to do the things that I wanted to do. Leunus has guided me well in that respect too and I’m very grateful for that.

It’s actually a coincidence that I ended up being a farrier, because I met Leunus. My father used to fish for a living, he had his own fishing vessel. He always told me I could go out fishing with him from my tenth birthday. But by that time he had sold his boat and bought a horse, so it never happened. So when the horse arrived my father got Leunus to come shoe it. The rest is history…

Leunus always told me that you always have to put yourself into things completely if you want to achieve something. I was still in school when I competed for the first time at the Dutch championship for farriers in 2000 and came third. So then I decided to do everything possible to win the next time.

Through competing I met Joop Wijnen, a farrier from Maarn. He said that if I found competing enough fun and wanted to learn more, I could come do an apprenticeship with him. So then Leunus gave me the freedom to go work with Joop one day a week.


The competitions keep me motivated because I want to win and stay at the same level. It is not good to always just stay in your own small circle with your work. In a competition you also have to do other work, and you get to see how other colleagues work. You learn from basically everyone and everywhere. And obviously my own work gets assessed, which keeps me sharp.

If you like doing something and have a lot of interest for it, you will always get better at it. Of course there are sometimes days that you don’t really feel like training for a contest, but that never lasts longer than fifteen minutes or so. Once I have started, I’m back to forging all night again.

It remains a challenge to win, despite the fact that I won seven times already. At the contests people always ask if I have practiced a lot. I always say that I have practiced in the time that I could practice. So that is as much as possible. It’s not like I think I will win anyway. Or just wait and see what happens. I do not leave it to chance.

If you want to win and be better than others, you will have to do a lot to achieve this.

Amsterdam farriers historic Hoof Blog
From the Hoofcare Publishing archives: farriers from long ago in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, live forever in this photo. (Thanks to Jan Willemsen for this image.)


Before a championship starts, you get two shoes sent home to practice. These are specialty shoes with a thick toe or a wide or narrow quarters. You can not imagine the craziest things, or you will find it under those shoes! In the first round you have to replicate that shoe in a very short time.

Then you get a model show to shoe a front foot with, and next you do a rear foot in another class. The night before the competition you get to see a surprise shoe that you don’t get to practice for. In the competition you will have the opportunity to make the surprise shoes. Experience and training play an important role in this.

In the ‘eagle eye’ class you get to look at a dead hoof for ten seconds and from two metres distance. Then you get about twenty minutes to determine for which foot, size and shape you must make a shoe.

The top ten finalists go to the finals after five classes and then you have to shoe a horse with shoes you made from scratch. Really in the old way, no power tools. Speed and neatness play an important role. One farrier may have a bit more talent for it than another, which is just the same as with horseback riding.

In July, four Dutch farriers go to the European Championships in England, and I’m one of them. I have just started exercising again, and once I have started I work diligently towards the competition.

I think I have a great job because it is varied and I’m my own boss. No fuss, and delivering good work is my passion. Good for the horse is good for the customer, and that gives me a feeling of satisfaction.

© Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing; Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is the news service for Hoofcare and Lameness Publishing. Please, no use without permission. You only need to ask. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a headlines-link email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page). Questions or problems with this blog? Send email to  
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