All in a day’s work: The Team GBR farrier *H&H Plus*

  • Andrew Bowyer on transporting his pony in the Landy, and a life of medals, gaffer tape and chocolate sandwiches, as told to Eleanor Jones

    I have a wonderful career and being part of Team GBR is the icing on the cake; the morale and sense of everyone working together to achieve a goal is very fulfilling. Every time you come back from a trip, you realise how many people it takes to keep things going, and every championships is an amazing opportunity. There are highs and lows in every competition and you share them all; everyone wins together or loses together.

    I started with the Pony Club. When I was six, we didn’t have much money; for my first rally, we didn’t have a horsebox so Mum put the Shetland in the back of the Land Rover and I was in there with him. His name was Silver and he lived until he was 42. I used to ride to school, so it was all a bit hillbilly.

    I learnt a lot from the Pony Club and didn’t leave until I was 18. I did A-levels, and some forge work as part of art and design, and went on to combine them.

    I did my apprenticeship with my predecessor Haydn Price and then shod overseas for three years. On my return, I started my business in Devon and worked for podium potential para dressage for 10 years, then after the Rio Olympics, was asked if I wanted to transfer to podium dressage and showjumping.

    The team horses’ home farriers do a world-class job keeping our horses on the road and they deserve the credit; when we go away, my role is really being a caretaker. So if something happens, I can step in, keep that horse going, and help win medals.

    Farriery is my primary role but I go as part of the advance party, set up the stables, make sure it’s all ready for when the grooms and horses arrive. Whether it’s supporting the grooms, fixing water or electricity, looking after feed and forage or picking people up from the airport, I’m very busy.

    When it comes to competition, I’ve taken my big flight case of farriery kit, and I have a backpack with all my tools on me, then I shadow the horses, so if anything happens, I can fix it on the spot. We do lots of yard visits beforehand, so I know the horses and what types of shoes they have, and I make sure I have any individual requirements with me, as well as sets of spare shoes.

    Championships are amazing but they’re really hard work; you don’t have time to absorb anything and it’s afterwards you realise how amazing it was.

    Standout moments were winning team and individual dressage bronze at the World Equestrian Games (WEG) in 2018; and the Europeans last year, when our showjumpers took bronze and qualified for Tokyo, and Ben Maher took individual silver. It was such a lift and brilliant for the sport, with such a great team.

    If I could look back and give myself some advice, it would always be to take more gaffer tape and cable ties as you can never have too many. You can fix most problems with gaffer tape.

    You can also never have too much food; the team vet, Andre Buthe, and I love it, especially chocolate sprinkle sandwiches in the mornings. Keeping the tack room stocked with unicorn sweets for Charlotte Dujardin and Alan Davies is another challenge.

    Most of the time we have a laugh. At WEG 2018, we had golf carts and the jumping grooms had, unknown to me, improved the cart’s performance by opening the throttle with a cable-tie so it went super fast! I had to take some owners back to the shuttle bus in it and we went at lightning speed, back-firing all the way. I think the owners thought I was mad and they opted to walk back the following day.

    I don’t ride much now as I’m so busy but I’m sure once my daughter is old enough to be led off another horse, I’ll be back on and riding with her. She’s in the Pony Club now too – but I won’t have her pony in the back of a Land Rover.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 11 June 2020

    You may also be interested in…