Handmade Shoes (UK) Ltd Spring Clinic
Over the sunny Spring weekend of 26th & 27th March 2011, Handmade Shoes (UK) Ltd welcomed in excess of 200 farriers and apprentices to their Unit in Pitstone Green Business Park for the first of this year’s clinics. Following a welcome by Billy Crothers we were introduced to our guest clinician for the day, Rob Renirie.
Responsible for shoeing some of the most famous, and valuable, competition horses across Europe, Rob has become established, and is very well respected, as a leading authority on shoeing the competition horse. Farrier to the Dutch Olympic team for the past 5 Olympics, Rob has a clear understanding of his role in the performance of these horses and the care of their feet and limbs.
The preliminary examination, trim, choice of material, well shod foot and the frequency of shoeing define ‘good shoeing’. Rob indicated a preference for shoeing every 6 to 7 weeks throughout the winter and every 5 to 6 weeks in the summer – dependant on hoof growth. There are less changes in the feet and legs in regular shoeing intervals, decreasing the risk of injuries and maintaining the quality of the foot.
The role of the farrier is one of protection; to make the horse most confortable in the role that he or she is being asked to do. This is particularly relevant in horses with limb deformities - as a horse ages it is not possible to change the direction of the limb and therefore the horse needs to be shod to give support and maximise comfort. Foals need to be taken care of before 5 months to protect the hoof and limb for longevity of their career, notably the horn tubules need to be straight in order to carry weight. Sole depth is also important and excess sole should not be taken away, similarly the hose needs a toe in order for the foot to function properly.
Shoeing should follow the coronary band; too much exposed steel, whilst fine for horses with a specific problem, is unnecessary as part of normal shoeing. Consider walking yourself with too much shoe stuck out to one side… The foot should be shod and supported in balance. A healthy foot is sound and comfortable. Rob cites excess rasping as “Belotta Disease”(!) and that it creates weak hoof walls – consider nailing into wood too close to the edge of the wood – it will split and crack.
The adaptation of shoes for specific purposes was highlighted and examples shown. Rob made reference to many horses he has seen as not having bad feet but simply that they have not been taken care of.
A dislike for short toes was expressed – Rob believes this makes it more difficult to load energy. Various breakover/roll over theories currently circulated, he believes, take away the function of the joints. Shoeing mainly for dressage and showjumping, Rob would like to see concave shoes more coarse. A preference for toe clips or no clips was also indicated (the easiest shoe to fit being the one without clips!); side clipped shoes have their use but Rob believes they are used inappropriately.
As a farrier, Rob believes your role is to judge yourself and be sharp – the horse will tell you what he wants. Be critical of your own work – don’t be afraid to ask, it helps your business. One shoeing doesn’t change the situation immediately, it takes time, patience is key. Keeping your job simple and not overdoing things by employing the use of too many plastics and glues to do a daily job will help yourself in the future.
In the Hot Seat
A chance for the audience to fire questions, Billy to interrogate and for us to get to know Rob a little better….!
Rob has a passion for horses - farriery features throughout his family tree but Rob’s equine career began when he undertook training to become a ‘bereiter’ (licensed riding instructor) following 3 years of training and examination in all disciplines but specialising in dressage and showjumping. Throughout this time Rob noted equestrian sport has undergone significant changes – a flying change years ago was ‘wonderful’ although now it is common for there to be 120 starters in the Grand Prix. It is not easy for horses to do all of the competitions; there is a lot of work and stress associated with it. His understanding of the equine is unquestionable and frequently suggests that we need to “get into the horse”, “the horse will tell you if it is not comfortable”. Horses feel atmosphere. If the situation allows in your working day, go home when you are tired or stressed.
Twenty years ago, at the age of 39, (his daughter was 1 and his son 4) Rob was diagnosed with a cancer and initially given 3 months to live. At this time he stopped shoeing, relocated and concentrated on his treatment. Remarkably, he defied all odds, and will this year celebrate his 60th Birthday! This was, understandably, a life changing experience. Persuaded back into farriery by his clients, he now shoes 5 or 6 horses a day – it is his belief that this is necessary in order to care for them, and himself, properly. Over time his clientele changed to elite performance horses although he still has some clients he has being shoeing for years – including a gentleman farmer with a Haflinger who treats him to eggs and apples and a drink in the kitchen afterwards!
The London 2012 Olympics will be Rob’s 6th as team farrier to the Dutch Team. His clientele include an elite band of horses and riders which many would consider enviable. However, being Team Farrier does not come without its stress and responsibility. Lame a horse at this level and everyone will know about it! Horses present to be shod at a competition are not necessarily part of Rob’s every day shoeing round. Therefore, prior to competition Rob visits the horse, with his current farrier, to discuss how the horse is shod and why and to ensure Rob understands his history. The horse is shod at the competition with his or her normal shoes and nails and in the style he or she would be shod by his usual farrier at home. The competition is not the time to change things and, the farrier that has been shoeing the horse throughout his career, has successfully looked after his or her feet during this time. Rob does not believe it is fair that a horse is taken away from a farrier who has shod him for a long time as it is him that has got him there in the first place.
“Starting as a farrier today is not easy” and Rob believes there is too much information offered at once. Farriers need time to think for themselves. Farriery is a good profession and a great skill to have but farriers should be well paid for the job they do.
Happily Rob’s health is in great shape today and he is still incredibly fit. Running used to be a favoured pastime, as well as martial arts, although his knees are now not up to the impact so enjoys cycling on the roads. Anything he does he wants to do properly or not at all – a value instilled in him by his Father.
The afternoon followed with a practical shoeing demonstration, first of the front feet and then the hind – putting the theory into practise! Ideally, Rob stated, the preliminary examination would include seeing the horse move – at walk and trot and under the saddle – “maybe it is already lame”!
The front feet were shod with a “fat shoe, quite coarse” in 25mm x 8 mm three quarter fullered with toe clips. The hind feet were shod with three quarter fullered side clipped shoes. Rob began by cutting out the toe clip on the front feet – common practise in mainland Europe. He doesn’t want to burn the toe into the hoof wall. The shoe itself was ‘personalised’ to create a smooth rolling toe, the nail holes slightly to the inside to ensure you are in the white line and not place too much pressure on the nails. Sole pressure was reduced by hammering the inside edge.
For dressage Rob prefers to use a shoe to enhance movement – the surfaces horses perform on now differ much from those in years gone by – the dressage horse is a gait horse whilst the showjumper he is inclined to shoe a little more upright, just slightly. Dressage horses perform on the top of the surface and therefore a slightly wider webbed shoe is considered to be more acceptable. The shoe is nailed on with the tie nails in half way initially and then hammered home. A little black putty in the old nail holes ensures that the finished job is aesthetically pleasing in addition to ensuring dirt does not enter the old nail holes.
A warm and appreciative round of applause for Rob at the conclusion of the day. The manner in which he worked was highly professional, admirable and incredibly empathetic to the needs of the horse. The day was particularly informative and enjoyable and executed in a humble manner by a gentleman who works with some of the most prestigious horses in the world.