The role of the farrier at the National Stud

  • Anne-Lise Riis Jensen was the assistant manager at The National Stud, racing’s headquarters in Newmarket. She has since left the stud to do an MBA in Equine Business Management. This is an extract from her diaryAt last the stud season is winding down! However, we still have 143 animals on the stud, plus 76 foals – enough to keep the farrier busy on his routine Friday afternoon visit.

    Every horse on the stud sees the farrier once a month, more often if there is a problem. As the old saying goes, “no foot, no horse”.

    Most people are well aware of the need to keep the feet in top condition while a horse is in work, they may not appreciate that foot care is equally important when it comes to broodmares and youngstock.

    Mares in foal must carry a lot of extra weight late in pregnancy, and they have to have feet in good condition to cope with the additional load of their foal.

    Generally broodmaresare not shod unless they have bad feet or feet that are prone to cracks.

    Mares which have had laminitis in the past may also be shod with heart-bar shoes that have a T-bar running down the middle of the shoe designed to give the frog support and limit sole contact with the ground.

    Foals are growing very quickly in the first months of life, if there is a problem with the feet or legs it is important that it is spotted and treated as quickly as possible to correct the situation or stop it getting worse.

    Along with the yard foremen I monitor the foals constantly. We check conformation and see how the foals walk and stand, it is important to take time over this, viewing from the front and side to get a true picture.

    It is also worthwhile keeping a record of what you see – it can be difficult to remember individuals when there is a large floating population of animals to look after.

    Our farriers, O & A Curtis, have a large team but allocate one farrier to visit the foals over the whole season.

    This season the foals are seen by Sergio, a farrier from Spain who is spending a year with the company. The dedicated attention of a specialist is valuable where foals are concerned so that any change in the foot or leg can be monitored. I believe this is a great asset to stud management.

    Our stallions are shod throughout the season as they are kept in work, mainly on the lunge, so shoes prevent wear to their feet.

    Once covering is over the shoes are removed and the stallions enjoy several months “holiday” in their paddocks before they are brought in and reshod when we start to get them ready for the Fair and Stallion Parade in December.

    On a stud the size of this one, it is to be expected that each season we will have a foal that needs some remedial farriery work.

    Generally this is to correct a deviation of the leg, usually treated by adjusting the foals weight bearing with extensions fixed onto the foot of thefoal.

    This is very skilled work and carried out only by the most senior farriers, but the results can be rapid and very effective.

    The change in the ground from very wet to very dry this year has resulted in the odd foot abscess. This is not an unusual problem and is not serious, if lameness is picked up on and treated quickly.

    Again, our yard foremen are always on the lookout for anything that is “not quite right”.

    Vigilance is needed, as late identification of an abscess can result in an under run sole and damage to the pedal bone, ending a racing or breeding career before it gets started.

    This aside, we have had a particularly good season from the point of view of feet and legs.

    Today, the stud is thevenue for a seminar hosted by The Worshipful Company of Farriers.

    This is the third year that the day has been run at The National Stud. Twenty-three delegates are attending, with a waiting list for places to hear talks on limb development, mediolateral deformities in foals, limb correction, treatment of flexural deformities in foals plus live assessment of foals and yearlings.

    While farriery may be an old art it is one which continues to develop to benefit the horse and the horseman.

    Next time there’ll be news on weaning next time!


    P.S. As well as stud work O A Curtis work for many leading trainers fitting around 30,000 sets of shoes each year – about 14 sets per racehorse!

    For more information see www.nationalstud.co.uk

    Update: Anne Lise has since left the stud to do an MBA in Equine Business Management

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