Tuesday, August 03, 2021

The Olympic Hoof: FEI salutes farriers as crucial to equine performance in Tokyo

Note: This story was provided to Hoofcare Publishing by the media relations service of the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), the international governing body of equestrian sports, and was not written by Hoofcare Publishing. Some statements from the original article have been omitted.

The Olympic Games are all about the coming together of the best of the best. The human and equine athletes have been meticulously prepared for the occasion. An essential part of that preparation is shoeing. Just as with human athletes, a horse can only perform at its best if the shoes fit perfectly.

This is where Olympic lead farrier from London 2012 and Rio 2016, Ben Benson (GBR) comes into play at Tokyo's Baji Koen Equestrian Park. Benson is working together with a hand-picked international team and 18 Japanese farriers to provide an all-round shoeing service to the onsite horses.

While many teams bring their own horseshoes, the forge is stocked with 10 to 12 different styles of shoes in eight different sizes. Ben Benson and his team can copy any type of shoe, the goal being to change as little as possible.

As well as being able to analyze the biomechanics and balance of a horse, it is equally important for the farriers to know exactly what type of shoe is needed for each of the three Olympic Equestrian disciplines here in Tokyo – Dressage, Eventing and Show Jumping. 

“It’s all about traction and support,” Benson explains, “but a set of shoes is only as good as the person who puts them on.”

In an ideal world, horses arrive at the Olympics having been shod just before leaving for the Games, and head back home in time for their next shoeing. But the quarantine period horses had to undergo before arrival in Tokyo meant many horses have reached their shoeing deadline onsite, so Benson and his team have been kept busy.

To be selected to be part of an Olympic farriery team is a career highlight, and Benson is always eager to share his depth of knowledge. He has provided invaluable know-how to numerous farriers over the years.

Being lead farrier at multiple Olympic Games comes with a lot of responsibility. It requires building a relationship of trust with the athletes and their support personnel, as well as excellent communication within the farrier team.

“It’s not always easy when the stakes are this high,” Ben Benson says, “but it is clear that everyone at the Olympic Games is an expert in their field. Despite the immense pressure, athletes need to trust that the team is made up of the best farriers in the world and that their horses are in the best possible hands.” 

And they are!

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