The hands that shape the shoes

Ir­ish far­ri­ers eye Euro suc­cess, writes

Irish Independent - Farming - - HORSES -

IRE­LAND’S top far­ri­ers are pre­par­ing to pit their skills against the best of their trade across main­land Europe. A team of four mas­ter far­ri­ers from across the coun­try are in strict train­ing for the Euro­pean Far­rier Cham­pi­onships to be held in Aar­berg in Switzer­land on June 22 and 23.

The team is man­aged by mas­ter far­rier John McLough­lin from Nur­ney, Co Kil­dare and mem­bers were cho­sen ear­lier this year af­ter a well-con­tested com­pe­ti­tion.

The team mem­bers are Ed­die Chan­non from Newbridge, Kil­dare; James Woods, Shanagolden, Lim­er­ick; Paul Duddy, Stra­bane, Ty­rone; and Sam Brennan, Askeaton, Lim­er­ick.

They gather reg­u­larly at the Far­rier School in Kil­dare Town, to hone their skills and prac­tice car­ry­ing out tasks against the clock as the com­pe­ti­tion de­mands. The team is op­er­at­ing un­der the aegis of the Ir­ish Mas­ter Far­ri­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion which has 140 mem­bers in­clud­ing ap­pren­tices.

As team man­ager, John McLough­lin is con­fi­dent they will be in the shake­down for prizes — and with a bit of luck can bring off a big win. He ex­plains that the com­pe­ti­tion com­prises five sep­a­rate classes, with phases one to four directed at horse­shoe-mak­ing from scratch through the var­i­ous phases.


The fi­nal test in­volves shoe­ing a horse within strict time lim­its. “The con­test de­mands mak­ing two shoes and putting one of these on a horse within 60 min­utes. You have to com­bine top class work with ef­fi­ciency and speed,” John McLough­lin ex­plains.

The Ir­ish Mas­ter Far­ri­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion (IMFA) is keen to main­tain as many of the old skills as pos­si­ble in an era of mech­a­ni­sa­tion and fac­to­ry­made shoes. Mem­bers say that many mas­ter far­ri­ers reg­u­larly make shoes from scratch to meet spe­cific cus­tomer de­mands and this skill is much prized.

John McLough­lin says mem­bers are con­fi­dent that the trade gen­er­ally is in good shape with mem­bers present in most parts of the coun­try.

Eight ap­pren­tices be­gin a four-year train­ing scheme each year at the Kil­dare-based school and the train­ing com­bines the prac­ti­cal work with a mas­ter far­rier with pe­ri­ods of study and train­ing in the school.

As com­pe­ti­tion time ap­proaches the team will step up train­ing with more ses­sions in Kil­dare. A to­tal of 16 teams from across Europe are com­pet­ing in the com­pe­ti­tion hosted by the Swiss far­ri­ers and two judges, one from USA and an­other from Canada, will ad­ju­di­cate.

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