Nigel Perrott on the thrill of championship shoeing, and the joy of hunting with his daughter
I don’t think I would have become a farrier if it weren’t for a wonderful man called Norman Crouch. He lived in Wiltshire near to where I grew up and he taught me to ride and then took me hunting with the South and West Wilts. As a child I would mess about on his farm at all waking hours.
He had broodmares, youngstock, stallions and point-to-pointers and he could do everything for those horses from repairing his own tack to shoeing his own horses. He had an in-depth knowledge of horses that is rarely seen today.
Under Mr Crouch’s tuition I rode in a few races. He had a little racing pony called Sherry who would refuse to start, but Mr Crouch had the knack of making her go. He would throw his trilby, with incredible accuracy, at the pony’s backside and then we’d be off. As long as I could sit tight we often won, much to Mr Crouch’s delight.
I did my apprenticeship with a farrier called Melvyn Baker in Essex and qualified in 1981. I have been shoeing horses now for more than 30 years and the biggest change I have seen is the internet. People will google something about their horse’s hoof and then guess at what is wrong. On the plus side, you can communicate easily with farriers all around the world.
I started working for the Irish eventing team when I was shoeing horses for David Green, the Australian event rider and gold medallist. Some of the Irish horses were kept there in the days when Ginny Elliot was chef d’equipe. The next Olympics will be my third, I’ve done four World Equestrian Games and loads of Europeans.
One of my most exciting days on the team was at one of those major events. We had a horse that was lame after the cross-country. The vet and I managed to make it sound and it jumped double clear and it came seventh in the individual competition.
My work and social life are all integrated and both are based around hunting. The majority of my work through the winter is hunters. I try not to get off if someone loses a shoe on a hunting day because there’s not a lot I can do when I’m not carrying any equipment. On the rare occasion when I’ve towed the trailer with the works van, we have popped back and put the odd shoe on.
I have hunted all over the country and Ireland, but most of my hunting latterly was with the Blackmore and Sparkford Vale. I have come back to the South and West Wilts more recently.
For the past 20 years my companion on a day’s hunting has been my daughter Charlie. There are loads of days I can think of where you can say you jumped some big hedges, but one of my most memorable days was when Charlie and I were hunting on the downs when she was only four.
I unclipped the leading rein and she cantered along beside me and she carried on doing that for the next 25 years.
Another day, Charlie and I went for out with the Beaufort. There was a big hedge that hardly anyone jumped and Charlie took it on in front of me on her 15.2hh. Afterwards a lady rode up to her and asked, “How did you get here?” and Harry Meade replied for her: “She jumped it beside me.”
The most rewarding part of my job is the people. I enjoy the social contact, the people I work with and the constant opportunities to learn.
The weather and my age are the most difficult aspects of the job, but the days are gone when farriers ended their lives bent double from a lifetime shoeing horses for five shillings apiece. Everyone earns a reasonable amount out of it now, without doing it until 10 o’clock at night.
A horse called Number Nine is my horse of a lifetime. He’s an 18.1hh dope on a rope but he’ll jump a big hedge.
● As told to Tessa Waugh
This feature is also available to read in this Thursday’s H&H magazine (22 April, 2021)
You may also be interested in…
Lee Humphreys on dealing with tough and wary jockeys and vaulting in a bowler hat on TV
Cooley Farm’s Richard Sheane on dealing 100 horses a year and why no one wanted a future world champion
Dr Dan Martin on switching from the rugby world to horses – and one jockey’s disgusting Christmas dinner
Kim Barzilay on swapping ballet for riding lessons, the VIP treatment and what it takes to produce Olympic contenders