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Sunday, May 05, 2019

Best of both worlds for 2019 Badminton "best shod" eventer: Farrier's shoemaking skills and modern materials help mare succeed at grueling competition

Farrier judge Will Hampson, DipWCF inspected the hooves of 56 horses at 8 a.m. this morning as part of an annual tradition at England's Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials on behalf of the Worshipful Company of Farriers, Britain's 400-year old livery company charged with overseeing farriery in that country. (photo courtesy of Will Hampson; this is NOT the winning horse)


Sunday mornings at horse shows in the spring are pretty much the same for farriers everywhere. There are shoes to tack on, the odd horse to shoe, clinches to check, coffee to drink, stories to tell. A farrier might even have time to sharpen a knife, sweep the mats or glance at Facebook before a long drive home.

Badminton's Farrier Prize is
sponsored by the Worshipful
Company of Farriers.
But today at one horse show on one showground in the world, a farrier's only tools were a clipboard, a list and a pen. And he wasn’t wearing an apron; he donned a sports jacket and tie instead. Will Hampson, DipWCF had arrived at the FEI 5-star Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials in Gloucestershire, England prepared to inspect the world’s finest three-day eventers from the ground up.

Hampson has been recruited and trained through a Worshipful Company of Farriers program to evaluate shoes in “best shod” classes at county shows and large events and races held in the UK. The tradition goes back hundreds of years--all the way back to the 1700s legend of Lorna Doone, if you believe that tale of how highwayman Tom Faggus lost his love because of jealousy over a best-shod prize won by his strawberry mare.

The Port Phillip Farmers Society 
began a best-shod award for heavy 
horses in 1848; this silver medal was 
awarded in 1858.
In Australia, a best-shod medal was started in 1848 for heavy horses, and the United States, best-shod awards go back at least to 1878 when both best-shod country and city street horses were rewarded at the Virginia State Fair.

The certificates, plaques and rosettes awarded hang in places of honor in both ancient and modern farrier forges from Cornwall to the Scottish Highlands.

He was on a mission to determine which farrier in the world deserved the Worshipful Company of Farriers’ coveted Farriers Prize for 2019. He’d look at shoes, feet, balance, materials, support, fit, nailing and, above all else, the appropriateness and safety of the horse to do his job with the shoes on his feet selected by his farrier at home. The inspection took place on the final day of the event, after the final veterinary inspection of horses who had successfully made it through the dressage and cross-country phases, and who would go on to this afternoon’s show jumping.

Horse after horse, Will watched the hooves as the grooms or riders led through toward him. He walked around the horse, and picked up hooves on some, gave others a pass. He knew what he was looking for, and he found it.

The Farriers Prize this year was awarded to the Dutch Warmblood mare Call Me Maggy May, owned by Sara and Tom Strong, and ridden by Izzy Taylor. The mare was shod by Antony Marris, DipWCF. (photo used with permission)

In Bedfordshire, England, farrier Antony Marris received the phone call he wasn’t expecting, but was delighted to answer. A mare he has shod since he was an apprentice, the 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood Call Me Maggie May, had successfully completed her first Badminton for rider Izzy Taylor and owners Sara and Tom Strong of Oxfordshire. She finished 31st of 56 who completed; 82 horses started the event on Wednesday.

Former Master of the Worshipful Company of Farriers
Simon Fleet presented the Farriers Prize to British rider Izzy
Taylor during the awards ceremony. Her horse's farrier
Antony Marris 
was not present. (Kit Houghton photo courtesy
of Badminton 
Horse Trials)
This was Izzy Taylor's second win of the Farriers Prize in four years; she won in 2016 for her horse Allercombe Ellie, shod by Charlie Sands.

Antony was generous with his time on Sunday; his enthusiasm for his profession and his affection for the horse and his longtime clients was obvious. At 27, Antony has been running his own farrier business for about five years, since completing his apprenticeship and working for a few years more with well-known farrier and horseshoe designer/manufacturer Billy Crothers, AWCF, of Bedfordshire.

It is possible that this is the first time that both a former apprentice, Antony, and former master, Billy, are both represented on the list.

We haven't see this before. The Farriers Prize was awarded to a horse wearing Ibex plastic pads with a
textured frog zone.  The horse was shod all around with handmade concave shoes and Mustad's Endura-coated nails.

“It’s something I always wanted to achieve,” Antony said. He said he had shod the horse on Monday, right before it left for Badminton. The horse lives at home with its owner, in a traditional yard with old cobblestone paving. Sara Strong hacks and gallops the horse between training sessions at the rider’s facility.

Like most event horses, “Maggie May” has hooves that tell a story, even though the farrier says she is “straightforward” to shoe. In 2018, she sustained an over-reach injury on the lateral heel quarter of her off fore. She evented that season with bar shoes and side clips in front. The injury grew out.

With the bar shoes, Maggie May and Izzy Taylor was first at the The Irish Field CCI3* at the Tattersalls International Horse Trials and Country Fair in Ireland.

Antony Marris took these photos of Maggy May's new concave handmade hind shoes on Monday. Badminton began on Wednesday. The shoes are made from 13.5" of  ⅞ x 3/8” concave stock and are drilled and tapped for studs and equipped with road pins in the heels. The nails are Endura-coated Mustad e-heads.


Antony knew he was taking a chance when he set up Maggie May for Badminton with a set of Ibex plastic pads and hoof packing. As far as anyone contacted knows, no horse has won the Farriers Prize at Badminton when shod with pads. The Ibex pad has a chevron-like raised pattern on the frog zone, which he described as different from a solid frog support pad. She’s been wearing the pads since the bar shoes came off for “concussion issues” and protection.

“She gets a lot more grip from the pattern,” Antony said. “They’re great for dressage, to prevent slipping on the grass, and they help on cross-country and with concussion.”

The horse suffered an overreach injury early last year and was shod with side-clipped front bar shoes while it grew out. In this photo, the defect is almost grown out. The side-clipped bar shoes were replaced by toe-clipped open shoes with plastic pads and support material.

Judge Will Hampson wasn’t put off by the plastic. While he describes himself as a traditionalist who prefers handmade shoes, he said he has respect for modern materials, and was pleased to see the modern and the traditional come together on Maggie May’s front feet.

All four of the mare’s shoes are handmade from ⅞ x 3/8” concave stock. Both the fronts and hinds called for 13.5" of stock, although the outside heels of the hinds are bumped 1/4" or so. The hind have road pins in the heels; the fronts do not. If you look at the front shoe carefully, you can see the selective rolling of the edge on outside.

One of the side-clipped front bar
shoes the mare wore last year.
Antony said he sprinkled copper sulfate crystals directly onto the hoof around the frog before adding the packing under the pad.

For nails, he used the new Endura-coated Mustad e-heads. According to the Mustad website, the nails are coated for strength, which allows farriers to use a slimmer but stronger nail to reduce hoof wall damage and improve driving, while also eliminating oxidation marks under the shoe.

Antony recognized his suppliers: Handmade Horseshoes and Stromsholm Farrier Supplies for pads and tools, and Mustad for nails.

Traditionally, British event horses are shod with concave stock, with toe clips in front and side clips behind. Antony said he doesn't make all his shoe, "For some horses, I don't like machine-mades, I can't do the horse justice," he said.

Antony Marris and the five-star "best shod" eventing mare Call Me Maggie May. This photo was taken last year at the owner's yard with her trophy after she placed first at the Tattersalls 3* event in Ireland wearing front bar shoes.

He gave credit to the owners for the diligent care given to the mare, and to their veterinarian, Sarah Randalls, BVetMed, CertEP, MRCVS of Chiltern Equine Clinic, a leading British multi-site practice.

Will Hampson described his judging experience like a treasure hunt. He knew what he was looking for, and he found it in three horses, who were separated by as little as half a point. He said he was not very impressed with the foreign horses, who were mostly shod with manufactured shoes, including some aluminum. Although these shoes are designed for performance under the horses, Hampson quoted, "You shoe the horse behind the anvil," he said. "The horse is weaker if you use machinemade shoes. You want the horse to be comfortable."


When the judge picks up a horse's foot he might be surprised what he sees. Scottish farrier Will Forbes stamped a message to his client and horse in this non-concave shoe with copper nails. Wills Oakden was riding his first Badminton on Cooley Ramiro ("Ernie"). They completed all three phases and finished 25th of 80 starters. Will posted this photo on Twitter before the event to wish them good luck.

Hampson described the Ibex pad and hoof packing as "sympathetic to the horse." He said he saw horses with "quite a few issues", including wedges and a horse that was shod with four different shoes. He commented that, in general, the foreign horses wore shoes that looked too big.

Will works out of a forge he inherited from his father in Hampshire, where he shoes hunters and Shire horses, and a mixed list of pleasure and show horses. His original forge was part of the estate of the Duke of Wellington in a hamlet that was built to accommodate horses visiting the estate and a nearby hotel in the coaching days. "My father used to have three forges going," he recalled. "I was brought up very 'old-school'."

In addition to running his shoeing practice, Antony is an avid downhill mountain biker and owns a company, "Out Skill the Risk", which makes and sells sustainable, organic-fabric technical clothes for cyclists.

The Hoof Blog continues our tradition of recording the winners of the Farriers Prize at the Badminton Horse Trials with the addition of Antony Marris's name:


Another farrier deserving recognition is Steven Derek Green, DipWCF, who shod 2019 Badminton winner Vanir Kamira, ridden by Great Britain's Piggy French. Congratulations also to Piggy's veterinarian, Alex Knott, MA, VetMB, MRCVS of Oakham Veterinary Hospital in Leicestershire, England.

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