Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Whose Horseshoes Did CHIO Aachen Add to the Walk of Fame?

If you were a horseshoe, where would you like to spend eternity?

If you'd been on a sport horse, the answer is the hallowed Walk of Fame, a plaza at the showgrounds of CHIO Aachen, the national horse sport championships of Germany and international showcase of the competition horse.

In 2011, Aachen paved the plaza with insets featuring the names and actual worn horseshoes of hero horses who achieved greatness on the grounds. Since the show started back in 1898, they had quite a job tracking down the shoes of the historic heroes, but they were able to round up a representative collection of contemporary superstars.

More than 20 horseshoes from top sporthorses are now embedded in the pavement at Aachen. A few more are added each year.

Every year, more horses and more shoes are added. No two shoes are the same. There are side clips and toe clips. Big rocker toes and subtle rolls. Drilled and tapped, finished heels, trailers, bar shoes--they're all there, even a diagonal bar shoe and a modern Natural Balance Shoe.

This year, CHIO Aachen added Damon Hill NRW, Big Star, and Dux. Notice that these plaques don’t mention riders or owners or what they won. They are just tributes to the horses, whose names mean so much to longtime fans of the show and sports.

Of course, it would be great to know more about the shoes and how or why the horses wore what they did. We can only wonder what will happen when the day comes that they request a shoe from a star horse, only to find out it was shod with a synthetic shoe.

But, knowing the engineering acumen of the Germans, they’ll find a way to include everyone. A barefoot horse might require a symbolic hoofprint casting!

German superstar dressage stallion Damon Hill NRW gave up one of his Mustad Libero shoes so it could be embedded in a pavement plaque in the "Walk of Fame" at the Aachen showgrounds.

Damon Hill NRW won the Deutsche Bank Prize in Dressage in 2012 and 2013, guaranteeing that the horse show would soon be making a grab for one of the Olympic Silver Medalist's shoes. Here you see one of the Westphalian stallion’s Mustad Libero shoes; he is shod by Warendorf-area farrier Uwe Lukas.

Uwe offered some extra information by email during the show. Thinking like a farrier, he said that Damon Hill wears a Libero #3 in front and #2 behind; in the plaque is the right front shoe.

“Fortunately, he doesn't need (any) special shoeing because he is healthy,” Uwe wrote. “It's a great success and honor to shoe this wonderful horse; he is really always friendly and happy.”

Uwe had plenty to smile about at Aachen, as many of his clients were competing. Damon Hill ended up second this year in the Deutsche Bank Prize, edged out by his old Olympic rival from Great Britain, Valegro.

(Note: In the photo, it looks like the adhesive to set the shoe in the pavement is still in place.)

Sandra Auffarth, another of Uwe’s clients, won the DHL-Prize on her 12-year-old chestnut gelding Opgun Louvo. They led from start to finish, winning the individual prize and were part of the victorious German Nation’s Cup team.

Uwe also shoes Escada FRH, second in the eventing, ridden by Ingrid Klimke and also shod in Mustad Libero shoes.

All three of the horses shod by Uwe will likely represent Germany at the World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France next month.

When Big Star won in the huge arena at Aachen last year, he was shod with Kerckhaert DF shoes by England’s Spud Allison. This should be one of them!

One of the most popular show jumpers in the world hasn’t been seen much since he won the Rolex Grand Prix at Aachen in 2013 and the Prize of Europe jumping there in 2012 with rider Nick Skelton of Great Britain. Big Star returned to the show ring recently after a nine-month layoff for a splint problem.

British farrier supply company Stromsholm was on hand to sponsor a bottle of Moet et Chandon champagne for farrier Ian "Spud" Allison, DWCF, left, delivered by British Olympic team rider Nick Skelton, right, after one of Big Star's international wins. Big Star wears Kerckhaert DF (22x10) shoes, distributed in the UK by Stromsholm. (Photo courtesy of Carl Bettison)
Will he make the British team for WEG? Big Star was part of the Olympic Gold Medal team at London in 2012.

Olympic Gold Medalist Big Star won the Rolex Grand Prix on the grass at Aachen in 2013 and was on the road to the Rolex Grand Slam when he injured a splint. 

Dux is not a name that we hear much today, but in 1967 he won the European championship in dressage at Aachen with his rider, Dr Reiner Klimke. It was the first time that Germany won the title, which had been dominated by the Swiss; the Russians were stiff competition for the Germans in the 1960s, as well.

In both 1966 and 1967, Dux and Klimke won Aachen's Deutsche Bank Prize. They also won Olympic Team Gold for Germany in 1964 and 1968.

Who shod Dux for Dr Klimke and what manufacturer's shoe is this? It only took a few hours from the time this story was published for the answer to that question to come.

Dux was shod by the late Bernard Niemerg, and this is most likely a Werkman shoe from The Netherlands, according to Uwe Lukas; Niemerg was his master in the 1970s and taught him the trade. Niemerg's relationship with Reiner Klimke, the six-time Olympic Gold Medalist and most influential dressage rider of the late 20th century, had a big impact on Uwe's career direction, he said.

He continued: "When I was an apprentice, I got the chance to shoe Ahlerich. It was a great experience for me to work at the most popular horse in the world at that time. This...gave me the inspiration to work with dressage horses."

The Niemerg family is long established in farrier education and training apprentices in Munster, Germany for the North Rhineland-Westphalia region. They began Germany's first federally-approved training program in 1906, and the first requirement for admission was (roughly translated) "Before the application of the (man) to attend the course it must be determined whether he is able to write correctly and to express his thoughts in clear words".

The Niemerg family forge continues today with Bernhard Niehoff in the leadership role.

Flashback: When Aachen 2014 dressage Grand Prix and Grand Prix Special winner Totilas broke all the records and won all three dressage World Championships at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky in 2010, he carried the Dutch flag on his saddlecloth. He also came into the arena for the final prize-giving wearing solid-gold bellboots. His triumphant return to Aachen this year, where he won in 2010, made naysayers of those who said he'd never be back at the top.
One other horse deserves a mention. Aachen was, in a way, the Olympics for dressage that we didn’t quite see in London. The best horses in the world were there, including three-time 2010 World Champion Totilas, who is now part of the German national team.

Aachen was his comeback from almost four years of adjusting to his new nationality, you might say. One of his shoes is already in the the Walk of Fame and this year he came back to win the Grand Prix and Grand Prix Special, although his decision-makers decided to withdraw him from the freestyle, opening the door for Valegro to win with less competition.

It was great to see Totilas scoring so well again. He is also back with his old Dutch farrier, Rob Renirie, according to Kerckhaert, who report that the Dutch Warmblood stallion competed at Aachen wearing SN Coarse - DF shoes. He's also back with his Dutch coach, Sjef Janssen.

Perhaps next year one of Valegro's shoes will be set in stone. Valegro is shod by Haydn Price of Wales, the farrier with the solid gold resume after the London 2012 Olympics, as he was team farrier for two gold medal winning British teams (jumping and dressage) and Valegro's individual gold.

The farriers who shoe these international competition horses receive very little recognition, although most don't seek it. But they are under a lot of pressure and things like Aachen's Walk of Fame are few and far between.

Aachen is a big, big horse show, with over 300,000 visitors and 2.68 million Euros in prize money. Horses represented 30 nations. There’s a vet center on the grounds with radiography, a pharmacy and a laboratory, employing 29 people. The show has two official farriers who have a designated shoeing shop.

Next year, the show moves to August, so it can host the FEI European Championships.
Whose shoes do you predict will sink into the marble next?

Thanks to the always helpful team at CHIO Aachen for their assistance with this article and photos and for their perseverance in hunting down the champions' shoes. 

Click to read more:
Shoes of the Stars: CHIO Aachen Creates a Walk Paved with History and Hoofwear (2011)

Aachen's Walk of Fame: What Does the Plaza Paved with Horseshoes Tell Us About Famous International Sport Horses? (2013)

Jean-Marie Denoix Biomechanics and Physical Training of the Horse
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