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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Lost Hoof History Holidays: November 23 is Saint Clement's Twanky Dillo Day

Imagine a holiday when tradition dictated that farriers and blacksmiths fire their anvils with gunpowder, then roam the streets and knock on doors, demanding liquor or cash as they sang songs with lyrics only they understood. It only happened on St Clem's Day, a festive day that has slipped off British calendars and from people's memories...unless you know where to look.  Public domain image, Chatterbox magazine, 1896.

It's Thanksgiving Day in America, but in the British Isles, it is a forgotten holiday that you probably won't find on any calendar.

For hundreds of years, people celebrated St Clement's Day on November 23.  But not anymore: both the holiday and the saint are now lost in history. Hard as it is to find out what went on, much less why it went on, this day is worth remembering for its colorful couplets and enchanting songs.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Veterans Day for a Forgotten Hero: The Farrier at Compiègne



The memory of war is harsh, but the memory of a hero's deeds often improve with age. An anonymous World War I hero is still in the books but you have to dig to find him.

World War I began on August 1, 1914 when Germany declared war on Russia. Three days later, Great Britain declared war on Germany. And three days after that, the first British troops arrived in France. They would soon become mired in one of the longest, bloodiest wars in history.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Breeders Cup: Innovative Copper-Shield Racehorse Shoes Debut Under British Turf Runner Decorated Knight


Kerckhaert horseshoes treated with a copper "shielding" process, along with copper-coated Liberty CU Carrera nails, give British runner Decorated Knight a unique flash as he trains at Del Mar in California for this weekend's Breeders Cup. The process, called Cu Shield Technology, transforms the normal plates. (Ashley Berry photo)

It’s that time of year. The best racehorses in the world have been winging their way to the USA to line up against the best of the home team. The Breeders Cup races, to be held Friday and Saturday at California’s Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, will be the Super Bowl of horseracing.

Once the horses are out on the track, they all look pretty much alike, no matter what countries they call home. Maybe you’ll see a few minor differences in tack, or the way the jockey rides. And as you watch the horses trot by in the post parade, you catch the flash in the sunlight as horse after horse shows you a glimpse of the four silver-y aluminum plates adorning their feet.

Wait a minute. What was that? As one horse trots past, the California sun catches a flash of red copper, instead of silvery aluminum. That was different...what's going on?

Friday, October 27, 2017

Underfoot with Winx: Meet Australia’s champion and her farrier, John Bunting

John Bunting farrier for Winx racehorse
This man has a lot to smile about: Meet Mr. John Bunting of Melbourne, Australia. He's the farrier and she's the world's favorite racehorse--and with good reason. Today she won her third consecutive Cox Plate, and her 22nd stakes win in a row without defeat. John reports that she is so good-tempered, he "could shoe her without a head collar (halter)." He hasn't tried that yet, though. (Photo courtesy of John Bunting)

If you could pick up the near fore of any horse in the world today, and have a look, whose would it be?

Frankel’s? American Pharoah’s? Valegro’s? Zenyatta’s?

Most people would probably choose the same horse: Winx. She's the horse of the hour. And the year. Maybe of the decade.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Doomed Glory on the Hoof: What's Left of the Charge of the Light Brigade?

The preserved bronzed trophy hoof of Ronald, the British cavalry horse that led the Charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimean War on October 25, 1854. The hoof sits on a bronze pillow and is the property of the The Royal King's Hussar Museum in Winchester, England.


Today is the anniversary of the ill-fated but gallant charge of the Light Brigade of British cavalry during the Crimean War back in 1854. More than half the British cavalry horses and a third of the men who galloped "into the valley of Death" behind the controversial Earl of Cardigan would never gallop back out. But what about the ones who did?

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Reg Pascoe, Australia's Legendary Equine Veterinarian, Has Died



In Australia, and almost any part of the world where horses are raised or raced or bred, you could be forgiven for thinking that there's a secret word that seasoned horsemen and veterinarians all seem to know. "Pascoe" certainly must be synonymous with "horse vet".