Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Farriers at the Herning 2022 FEI World Championships: Who was minding the forge?

Last week's ECCO FEI World Championships in Herning, Denmark, made farrier history when the event entered into an agreement with Mustad Hoofcare Group, who became the FEI's first  "Official Farrier Service Partner" by providing a crew of its own farriers for Herning2022. With more than 1,000 horses on the grounds, farriers were a priority service.

While some countries were able to send team farriers to tend to their horses, others were seeking the service of farriers who neither they nor their horses had never met. But what they found was a cadre of happy-to-help international farriers with backgrounds ranging from high performance specialties to equine hospital services. The purple FEI jackets made them (and all the show staff team members) easy to spot around the edge of the arenas and in the stable.

The farrier service focused on the important task of making sure the horses received proper and timely treatment if they lost a shoe during training or in competition. Hoof service stations were set up near the major arenas, and were continually staffed by a Mustad-affiliated farrier during all competitions, and fully equipped with a forge and top products from Mustad’s extensive product range.

In collaboration with Mustad Hoofcare Group, the community of on-site staff and visiting team farriers had a home away from home with a fully-equipped workshop, two treatment box stalls, and a lounge area called the Mustad Farrier Corner. It was all conveniently located in the first stable building on the showgrounds. Horseshoes could be forged on-site and adapted for the individual horses.

“(Danish farrier) Mark Christiansen, affiliated with Højgaard Hestehospital (a well-known Danish equine hospital), together with Mustad, is responsible for managing the farrier’s service during Herning2022,” Herning CEO of Operations Casper Cassøe said.

Mustad farrier Aksel Vibe, AWCF explained how Mustad was involved: "We sponsored all materials used by the farriers during the World Championships, and made sure our skilled farriers were available for the duration of the Championships.”

In addition to Aksel Vibe and Mark Christensen, the international farrier crew consisted  of (top row) Jack Neilsen of Denmark and Danny Elliott of Yorkshire, England, who represents Mustad in the UK and Ireland; and (bottom row) Jeff Neilsen of Denmark and Fabrice Cave, former farrier instructor and now Mustad's representative for France. (photos courtesy of Herning2022 and Aksel Vibe)

Usually, Mustad is involved in supporting education and competition events for farriers, but with a World Championship in Denmark, the company chose to get involved. Ten years ago, Mustad also supported the farrier services at the London 2012 Olympics, but Aksel said that this will be the first time that Mustad has had a presence in the form of farriers themselves.

Denmark's Mark Christiansen was lead farrier at Herning2022. He works at Højgaard Hestehospital, a well-known Danish equine hospital that also had several veterinarians working at the event.

Mustad has its roots in Scandinavia, so the company’s involvement was a natural connection. The company began in nearby Norway in 1832.

"The reason why it was interesting for us to be part of Herning2022 is that we are all interested in horses, and everyone wants to be part of the World Championships," Aksel continued. "It was also fantastic from a personal interest point of view." 

Mustad created a social media "short" video to voice their enthusiasm for the event:


Aksel and the Mustad farriers were doing more than shoeing at Herning, however. Aksel said their goal was to inform horse owners about the importance of having a well-educated farrier. "We want to be spokespersons for the farrier,” he said.

“It is important to know the extent of the farrier’s contribution to the preventive work, but also by entering a collaboration with the veterinarian. In combination with modern diagnostics, special orthopaedic horseshoes can be manufactured that purposefully alleviate problems. Professional hoof care is the key to the horse’s health, performance, and general well-being," Aksel stressed.

Professor Lars Roepstorff (center, with tablet) was in charge of the engineering of the arena footing at Herning. He is shown here in April with a crew doing a test of the footing after installation. (Herning2022 photo)

As spokesperson for Mustad, Aksel Vibe had the opportunity to spread that important message on Herning's Zibrasport Equest Stage in EquiPark with a lecture on hoof care on Sunday, August 14. 

There was more behind the scenes for the horses at the EquiPark than just the farriers, of course, and the treating veterinarians who were there to serve in the event of injury or illness. A 600 square meter "wellness" zone offered a spa, water treadmills, vibration flooring, and room for hand-walking and grazing.  Riders could work out in their very own fitness center on the show grounds.

Aksel Vibe, AWCF, is a farrier from Lillehammer, Norway who advanced his farrier education by studying in Great Britain. Today he represents Mustad and serves clients across Scandinavia, including Olympic Gold Medalist Peder Fredricson. The Hoof Blog will have more about a project Aksel and Peder have been working on later this week.

As far back as April, crews of engineering consultants were at Herning. Led by Professor Lars Roepstorff of Sweden's  University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU, Uppsala), they used the Orono Biomechanical Surface Tester--basically a pneumatic hammer equipped with a fac simile hoof and shoe, of course--to test the footing's functions under impact. The device was used at the World Equestrian Games in Tryon, North Carolina and at the Olympics in London, Rio, and Tokyo.

One of the best stories about the farriers at Herning is the Danish brothers Jeff Paw Nielsen and Jack Ray Nielsen. While they were a part of the farrier team provided by Mustad, these versatile farriers also brought their own horses, to compete in the 2- and 3-star international show jumping competitions that were held on the grounds during the World Championships. 

One of the farrier stations set up early in the event outside the arena. (Herning2022 photo)

Both Jeff and Jack were farriers at the 2013 FEI European Championships, also held in Herning. Together the brothers run the RayPawers farrier company in Denmark. “We have ridden at international shows many times before, but this is something special.” Jack Nielsen said. “The world’s best riders often ride at the international shows, but it is only here that all the best riders are gathered at the same time.

“It is a little fun, that you can shoe horses for so many different nationalities and in that way meet people from all around the world. Some of the nations bring their own farriers, but there are also a lot who depended on our help inside all the four disciplines represented here,” Jack said.  


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