A new team shoeing challenge has attracted an incredible 12 group entries at the Royal Bath & West Show this year, featuring some of the best farriers in the country.
“Team shoeing competitions are incredibly popular around the world and although this is the first year for us entries filled up instantly,” says Head of Shows Alan Lyons. Each of the four team members has to prepare a hoof, make a shoe and fit it, with points awarded for the best prepared hoof and shoe.
“It may sound relatively simple but it takes years of training and experience to become a top farrier,” says Mr Lyons. “There is an old country saying that still holds true today: No foot, no horse – and the key to a sound horse is still a good farrier.” Sponsored by Mustad and Silverback Chaps the prize fund is considerable, with the winning team sharing a £4000 first prize.
As well as the team challenge the show is holding a range of other shoeing classes, including shoemaking competitions for various levels of experience. “Many people will start practising in January for competitions over the summer,” says Mr Lyons. “They will be given a pattern for the required shoe and will practice for hours to make sure they get it right on the day.”
One farrier who has plenty of experience in competitions around the globe is Sussex-based Andrew Casserly, who will be competing alongside his sons Ben (29) and Jack (26) and friend Grant Watt, who works for the family partnership one day a week. “We are quite an experienced team, but there is a hard core of farriers who compete all round the world and there are some very strong teams entered at the Bath & West Show,” he says. “You do it for the prestige and the friendship, but I would be a very proud father if we could win as a team.”
At home the family work with a broad spectrum of horses, and do a lot of remedial shoeing to correct hoof problems. “We do a lot of hot shoeing, which is how the competition is run too,” says Mr Casserly. “The public love to come and watch it – it’s nice to have a traditional skill that’s still thriving.”
Traditional it may be, but technological advancements mean top farriers are always learning on the job. “There are new glues and plastics, research and technology, so it is a changing industry,” he explains. “It’s good to go to competitive shows and meet with like-minded farriers who are wanting to move the industry forward. There’s lots of friendly banter and rivalry, but it’s got to be good for the horse at the end of the day.”
The Royal Bath and West Show takes place from 1-4 June, 2016, at the Bath and West Showground, Shepton Mallet, Somerset. Advance saver tickets are available until 31 May 2016 at £19 for an adult including two children admitted free, £5 for additional child. Gate prices are £22 adult, £7 child and £49 family. Visit www.bathandwest.com to order.