If the shoe fits: How Army Farriers keep Household Cavalry horses fit and healthy

Watch: Military and civilian farrier teams face off in horse shoeing competition.

Farriers from the British Army's Household Cavalry regiment and Royal Horse Artillery have been put through their paces during the annual Shoeing Competition.

Civilian and military teams competed at the two-day event for a chance to be crowned Best Military Pair, Best Individual, Best Dressed Foot and Overall Best Pair.

The competition was held at Hyde Park Barracks Forge in London for the 22nd annual farrier competition.

To become a farrier in the Army, soldiers must first join a mounted regiment such as The King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery, or The Household Cavalry regiment.

Then, after serving in the military for two years, soldiers can apply to train as a farrier, which takes three years to complete.

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A small team of Household Cavalry farriers shoe around 50 horses a week (Picture: MOD).

Household Cavalry farrier, Lance Corporal of Horse Matthew Coney sums up the job: "You're often working under big, heavy horses, so you have to concentrate.

"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."

During the three-year course, student farriers learn about horse anatomy and how to diagnose and treat common health problems.

They will also learn metalwork skills to create and fit horseshoes correctly and safely.

All those who successfully pass will be awarded the Worshipful Company of Farriers Diploma.

Watch: How does the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment prepare for a state visit?

This year's shoeing competition was open to soldier and civilian farriers, as well as apprentices, and the event often attracts international entrants.

Military, civilian and apprentice farriers competed in pairs to shoe either the left or right side of a Cavalry Black horse.

Shoes had to be made to the judges' specifications, and with only one hour allotted, the teams of two had to work at speed to get the correct size shoes fitted.  

Each competing pair only shoed two feet, one front, one rear, both on the same side, as part of the competition is to ensure both sides fit the horse perfectly even though they are shoed by different people.

A small team of Household Cavalry farriers is responsible for shoeing around 50 horses a week and is required to work in extreme heat from 7am to 4pm.

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Training to become a British Army farrier takes around three years (Picture: MOD).

LCoH Coney says the training and exams are tough to complete and says students must work very hard to achieve the level of skill required to do the job. He went on to say: "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.

"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 LCoH Coney.

"Work hard and you'll soon get promoted. And you'll have plenty of opportunities to get qualifications that are recognised by civilian employers."

Judging the competition this year, and awarding the winning prizes, were Paul Robinson and David Varini, both former world champion farriers who run Varini & Robinson farriers in Hurlford, in East Ayrshire.

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