Anvil chorus strikes right (foot)note

farrier Myerscough College students - now qualfied farrier James Woodhouse of Winmarleigh is in the centre
farrier Myerscough College students - now qualfied farrier James Woodhouse of Winmarleigh is in the centre
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The clue is in Barry Morton’s personalised vehicle registration plate. SHO5 NED.

Barry’s a farrier. They shoe horses, don’t they?

Farriery is an ancient craft calling for patience, strength and sound knowledge of both theory and practice. Particularly around skittish horses.

A farrier has to shoe all types and temperaments of horses, with normal or defective feet, and for all terrains and conditions. They receive training in blacksmithing to make shoes properly but only a farrier is permitted to shoe horses.

Barry, of Poulton, can turn out a horse shoe with the best of them. On Sunday, he and fellow local farrier James Woodhouse, of Garstang, take on 20 others in the first competition of its kind organised at Penny Farm, Peel Corner, Westby, as part of the medieval fair there.

It’s a quest for the fastest horse-shoemaker in the North West. The Fylde has a high rate of horse ownership and riding facilities. Myerscough College also offers a recognised farriery apprenticeship, through the National Farrier Training Agency. The apprenticeship last four years and includes block release training, assessment and work based training, in order to acquire the Worshipful Company of Farriers’ Diploma in Farriery.

We catch up with Barry at the sharp end of the well shod business. The potentially biting or kicking end...

While some ride out to his forge at Stalmine, Barry also has a mobile gas forge – like a tyre fitting service.

“I’m on call and also have regulars.” One such is the equestrian centre at Ribby Hall village at Wrea Green – where horses, big and small, await at the stables, which offers riding to all, including specialist charity Riding for the Disabled.

Two of the horses, Zeus and Badger, are on permanent loan from Penny Farm. Zeus is queuing for new shoes. There’s no sign of the neglect which brought them to the attention of World Horse Welfare which rescues, rehabilitates and rehomes horses, thanks to four specialist centres across the UK, including Penny Farm, on the A583 Preston New Road.

They make for perfect riding horses for young and old alike under stable manager Vicky Manlobe’s lead. “You can certainly see a difference when they have been reshod,” she adds.

Horses, particularly those regularly ridden or exercised, get through shoes every six or eight weeks, although Barry’s come across some, elsewhere, who haven’t been reshod for a year.

“It’s a nasty job then,” he admits. “It’s neglect really.

“You need to look after a horse’s feet. They get overgrown. It can be hard to get the old shoe off.”

Barry starts by watching the horse walk – to check the gait. The making, shaping and placing of the shoe can compensate for such problems.

Horses can get hoof diseases, cracked hooves, and develop problems such as laminitis and navicular syndrome.

Ribby’s horses mostly require precast shoes, off the shelf as it were, but Barry makes shoes too, for shires, for horses with specific needs. He uses heavy duty plastic shoes glued in place for horses with medical problems.

It all starts with trimming the hoof, scraping out debris, overgrowth, making sure the frog (part of the hoof located underside) will touch the ground if the horse is stood on soft ground. It extends from heel to midway towards the toe, and works like a shock absorber. He then measures the hoof for a new shoe, placed in the forge to hammer into shape at the anvil.

The horse is in no discomfort even when the smoke and the smell of singed hair fills the air as the shoe is nailed into place.

Indeed the only concern is shown by a skittish two-month-old foal faced with his first pedicure. Too young for shoes but in need of a trim the foal leads Barry a merry dance around the stable yard but it’s nothing to what he’s endured at the feet and teeth of others in the past. “Oh yes, I’ve been nipped and kicked a few times.”

Barry’s been mad about horses since he was “forced” at seven to join his sister riding.

“We got our own horses, the whole family, for showjumping. Now I like hunting too.”

He hated sixth form – “I lasted a year of being stuck in the classroom” – and became an apprentice to a Preston farrier.

Now a newly-married man he admits: “I couldn’t be happier, it’s a lifestyle choice, not just a job.”

Penny Farm’s medieval fair starts at 10am on Sunday, with attractions including jousting team, birds of prey, archery, stocks, games, agility, county food and crafts, classic cars and tractors, fairground – and the farriers competition. Admission is £3 adults/£1 child – all proceeds to support work there.