Saturday, September 01, 2018

Burghley's best-shod horse 2018: Records broken and handicaps overcome with farrier's one-handed excellence

For the third time in five years, an Irish Sport horse named Coolys Luxury was won England's Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials' "Best Shod Horse" prize for rider Tom Crisp and his long-time farrier James Hayter.

And not just that: Ringwood Sky Boy, ridden by New Zealand's Tim Price had been judged best-shod back in 2015.

But the story doesn’t stop there. Have you ever heard farriers brag that they could shoe a horse with one armed tied behind their backs?

That’s pretty close to what happened when the day came to shoe this horse for Burghley 2018.

Story by Fran Jurga.
© 2018 Hoofcare Publishing
Jim Hayter, a farrier in East Sussex, England, is recovering from a serious hand injury suffered while competing in the English national farrier championship in June. “One of my stamps shattered and half of it went into the back of my left hand, severing my tendon,” Jim said on Thursday, adding “I haven’t been able to use it for three months.”

Luckily, Jim had some help. He concentrated on the fronts. “One of my old apprentices, Toby D’Abreo (T.W.D Farriery), shod the hinds,”  Jim said.

Each year, the Hoof Blog reports on the tradition of rewarding one horse with the “Best Shod” title at the prestigious Burghley Horse Trials, which attracts horses and riders from all over the world to compete at the highest (four-star) level of eventing.

“Burghley” attracts more than 160,000 spectators (and their dogs) each year. They watch more than 70 of the world’s top horses compete in three phases for prize money totaling more than £300,000. A trade show on the grounds of the grand Burghley House offers shopping at about 600 vendors selling horse and dog gear, as well as countrified clothing, food, and home decor. Most people have no idea that the best shod horse judging is even going on -- or why it is part of this well-known event.

Jim Hayter changed the heels and bar design on Coolys Luxury front shoes this summer. On the right is the right front, forged from 7/8 x 3/8" concave stock with a straight bar in May before the Badminton Horse Trials. On the left is the more heart-bar type shoeing with shaped heels for Burghley this week. The Burghley front shoes were also clipped; the Badminton version was not. Photos: Stephen Hill, FWCF and Sarah Hayter.

The Badminton Horse Trials, held in May each year, have an older award, “The Farrier’s Prize”, which has also been reported on here. The Worshipful Company of Farriers sponsors awards at many large equestrian competitions so that the horses’ hooves are evaluated and farriers are rewarded for their work.

Irish farrier Will O’Shaughnessy, AWCF, who now lives in England, is a trained “best shod horse” judge in the Worshipful Company of Farriers program. He checked the hooves of each of the horses entered in the CCI four-star international event after they were trotted out for the ground jury on Wednesday, and chose Coolys Luxury as the winner.

Farrier Stephen Hill, FWCF, who has won the Burghley Best Shod prize three times himself, was on hand to photograph the shoes.

Having photos of a single top-level event over the course of five years makes for interesting comparison. Jim Hayter added straight bar shoes on the fronts in 2016. Photos of the horse shod for the Badminton Horse Trials in May show a similar shoeing.

Best-shod horse awards have a way of motivating owners and riders to publicly thank or credit their farriers for work well done on their horses. Tom Crisp rides Coolys Luxury, winner of this year's Best Shod Horse prize at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials.

For Burghley, Jim Hayter changed the configuration of the front bars to more of a heart bar design, with only a small frog support at the base. The classic heart bar heels helped minimize the risk of shoe loss.  According to Jim, a “slightly closer fitting bar...has the benefits of a little more frog support which I was able to make look pretty with a careful bit of fullering.”

Last year, Hayter started using copper-coated nails, which can be seen in the Badminton hind shoe below. "I have found them to be very beneficial, especially in the fine-footed horses," he said. Coolys Luxury was nailed with copper-coated nails on all four feet for Burghley.

Coolys Luxury is a 16-year-old Irish Sport horse, out of an Irish Draft mare bred to a Dutch Warmblood stallion. (His name is sometimes misspelled "Cooleys".) He’s been eventing for nine years. Tom Crisp has had the ride since 2011.

 • • • • •

Writing these articles for the past ten years or so has added up to a lot of facts and figures; Badminton Horse Trials supplied me with data going back to the first recorded awarding of the Farriers Prize in 1993. Between Badminton and Burghley, 37 prizes have been awarded. (Badminton was cancelled twice, in 2007 and 2012.) Thanks to repeat winners like Coolys Luxury and Ireland’s Euro Prince, only 33 individual horses have been named “best shod” at the two international events.

But the dominance of a few farriers has meant that only 16 have ever won the award.

Jim Blurton and Bernie Tidmarsh have been dominant at Badminton, with three wins each; Jim Hayter, Sam Head and Neil Dickson have won at Badminton twice.

Coolys Luxury's hind shoes haven't changed much over the years. They are made from 7/8 x 3/8" concave stock. Both of these hind shoes are from 2018, with Burghley on the left and Badminton on the right, photographed immediately after shoeing. Jim uses a "flat bottom fuller" on the outside branch of the hinds to widen the outside fullering of the concave. Skilled use of the tool increases the width of the outside branch without adding any extra weight. The horse has copper-coated nails all around, as shown at right; the coating wears off on the ground surface. (Photos by Stephen Hill and Sarah Hayter)

At Burghley, Jim Hayter and Stephen Hill have both won the award three times.

When the two events are combined, Jim Hayter and Jim Blurton share the honors of winning five prizes each between the two events. Andrew Nickalls, who shoes for the New Zealand team, is the only other farrier to have won the prize at both Badminton and Burghley. 

One of the points of the best shod awards is that farriers don’t actually “compete”; no one is on site, and a farrier could win (and has) who doesn’t participate in the very active farrier competition circuits in the UK. Farriers do the work at home, or at the client's stable, and there's no time limit. With a simple over-reach or scramble in the mud, an event horse can sabotage the most perfect shoeing job between the time the farrier finishes and the day the judge picks up a foot.

Once at the event, the work of a farrier who has never competed is technically on equal footing with that of former world champion competition farriers like Jim Blurton and Billy Crothers, who both have won the Farriers Prize at Badminton.

These articles pay a lot of attention to the farriers, and deservedly so, but looking down the list of horses can raise some theoretical questions about what being the best-shod horse means to a horse’s success and longevity.

Another farrier pursuing a prize at the Burghley Horse Trials this week is Alex Bragg, DipWCF, seen here riding Zagreb in dressage. He's surely the only rider who shoes his own horse. Alex is currently in 14th place and was long listed for the British WEG team. (Peter Nixon/Burghley Horse Trials photo)

In this age where evidence is everything, a study of the career success of event horses with the inclusion of best-shod awards as a factor would certainly be interesting. 

Consider this: When the British team comes to the World Equestrian Games in Tryon, North Carolina next month, Arctic Soul, winner of Badminton’s Farrier Prize in 2017, will be on the plane. On Great Britain's long list team qualification was last year’s Burghley best shod horse, Ivar Gooden. And of the riders named, six have won best shod prizes in the past for their horses.

At Burghley this weekend, best-shod Coolys Luxury was competing against the 2015 Burghley Best Shod Ringwood Sky Boy of New Zealand, who is also an alternate for Team New Zealand at WEG. And Ivar Gooden may not be headed to Tryon, but he back at Burghley again this year. Unfortunately, Ireland's Euro Prince, the two-time winner of the Farriers Prize at Badminton, had to withdraw from Burghley last week.

With Coolys Luxury’s three-peat in 2018, It means that all winners of Burghley’s best-shod prize in the last five years are competing against each other this weekend. At the end of the competition, almost half the horses entered had been retired or eliminated, but all three of the best-shod prize winners (past and present) were not only still in the mix, they are at the top of the scoreboard, led by New Zealand's Ringwood Sky Boy in first place overall. Ivar Gooden was 19th, and 2018 winner Coolys Luxury was 21st.

The new cross-country obstacle is fence 10, the gurkha kukri, a replica of a Nepalese knife designed by Captain Mark Phillips. (Photo courtesy of Peter Nixon and the Burghley Horse Trials)

Best-shod prize winners don’t often win at these events, so this is quite newsworthy. Consider this: At Badminton in 2018, horses who had won either the Best Shod (Burghley) or Farriers Prize (Badminton) finished fourth (Arctic Soul), 11th (Ivar Gooden), 12th (Ringwood Sky Boy), 17th (Smart Time) and 19th (Coolys Luxury). That’s five horses out of the top 20.

You could predict the Best-Shod/Farriers Prize winners to do two things: finish in the top 20, and be back not only the next year, but to often complete both events in the same year, as Coolys Luxury, Ringwood Sky Boy and Ivar Gooden are all doing this year.

I know all the best-shod prize judges have different personal preferences, but they always tell me that what they are looking for is a horse that is safe to go cross-country in the shoes, and they want a horse shod with an eye for the conformation and support of any shortcomings. Maybe that eye for prevention and support serves the horse well in terms of longevity.

Looking at these facts seems like something the farrier profession should promote; some riders might be motivated to stay on top of their horses' hoof needs, and hire the best farriers to do the work if they could see the evidence.

The message of the best-shod horse should be loud and clear, and everyone associated with it -- especially the farrier -- deserves credit for the quality of the care they give these horses.

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