The heat was on and mettle tested on Friday and Saturday (24 and 25 February) when the Household Cavalry Forge hosted their 22nd Household Cavalry Pairs Shoeing Competition 2023 for army and civilian farriers.
The Heat Is On
Sparks flew at Hyde Park Barracks Forge as military, civilian farriers competed in pairs to shoe either the left or right side of a Cavalry Black.
The horseshoes had to be made to the judge's specification and both shoes had to be toe clipped.
The teams of two had only an hour, so they had to work fast and in concert.
Each pair shoed two hooves, one front, one rear, both on the same side, since part of the competition is to ensure both sides fit the horse perfectly even though shoed by different people.
It's physically demanding work, requiring stamina, focus and teamwork.
Showing Their Mettle
All in a day’s work for an army farrier, with the Household Cavalry team of farriers shoeing around fifty horses a week, working from 7am to 4pm.
They start by shoeing the horses in the King's Life Guard, because they're in the public eye representing the nation week in week out.
After breakfast, other horses are checked that have just come back off exercise - in welfare terms, farriers have been described as acting as “the eyes and ears of the vet.”
Household Cavalry Farrier, Lance Corporal of Horse Matthew Coney summed it up:“You're often working under big, heavy horses, so you have to concentrate.
The trade training and exams are tough, too.
To achieve the level of skill you need, you have to work very hard, studying intensively at evenings and weekends for several years.
We have an assessment week when we select people to train as farriers, and the first thing we look for is horse sense.
It's being patient and calm, able to read a situation and read a horse, and know if the horse is in a bad mood.
It means you're safe when you work around horses. They need careful managing and understanding.
Trimming the feet is a skill you learn through on-the-job training.
Each foot grows differently and they've all got different problems. Shoemaking requires hand and eye dexterity - some people have it naturally, others don't.
It's an art and a science. Being a good Army Farrier is like being a foot doctor for horses – because you know the horses so well you can correct and prevent health problems by tailoring the shoes to fit their needs and help keep those horses fit and healthy.
Army horses have specialist requirements. Horses in the ceremonial parades need heavy shoes to walk on hard tarmac carrying a soldier in heavy ceremonial state uniform, while horses doing competitions need lighter shoes.
We can even solve tendon issues and arthritis in sick or lame horses, with specialist remedial shoes.”
Becoming An Army Farrier
To become a farrier in the army, you need to join a mounted regiment like The King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery, or The Household Cavalry.
After two years as a soldier, you can then apply to train as a farrier.
The three-year Army Farriers’ course teaches you about horses’ anatomy and to diagnose and treat common health problems.
You also learn the metalwork skills you need to make and adapt each shoe to the shape of the horse’s hooves and to fit shoes safely.
All qualified Farriers are awarded the Worshipful Company of Farriers Diploma.
In the Army from the moment you begin your training you'll get all the support and encouragement you need to make a success of your career, HOUSEHOLD CAVALRY FARRIER,
LANCE CORPORAL OF HORSE MATTHEW CONEY
“In the Army from the moment you begin your training you'll get all the support and encouragement you need to make a success of your career,” explained Matthew.
“Work hard and you'll soon get promoted. And you'll have plenty of opportunities to get qualifications that are recognised by civilian employers.”
Apprentice farriers also competed.
Whilst they did not have to shoe a horse in an hour, instead they compete to make a pair of horseshoes to the judges specification.
The competition ran from Friday afternoon to Saturday evening.
Farriers from the Household Cavalry and from the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery competed under the watchful eyes of judges Paul Robinson and David Varini, both former World Champion farriers of Varini & Robinson farriers in Hurlford.