Sunday, October 08, 2006

Horseplay? No, hard work.

I met a real farrier this week. In the course of writing my book about luck, I needed to get myself a horseshoe. Traditionally, you should find a horseshoe that's been cast off by a horse. But that doesn't happen too often these days as the kinds of people who own horses tend to have the money to keep their horses' footwear in tip top condition.

His name is Andy Springham and we met at a farm near Tring in Hertfordshire where he was in the process of shoeing several very large horses. What appeared to be a pack of wolves were panting and sprawled on the stable floor and the place was filled with the not wholly unpleasant smell of burning hooves. Two of the dogs turned out to be long-haired German Shepherds that belong to the farm. The third, smaller animal was Andy's own dog which looked the wolfiest of all - perhaps because it actually is quarter wolf. Which is why, maybe, it kept looking at me with an unblinking 'you look like you've got some rich meat on you Fat Boy' kind of way.

To my delight, Andy had just removed several shoes and happily handed one to me, fresh from the hoof. At last I now had a real lucky horseshoe.

In respect of his chosen career, Andy is one of the happiest people I've ever met.
"I love being outside and travelling from farm to farm", he explained. "And I love being around animals. I always did. I grew up in West London but I always took jobs that kept me close to animals. I trained as an engineer after leaving school but I soon realised that it wasn't for me. So I retrained as a farrier and I've never looked back. Best job in the world."
I asked if there was enough work for him.
"I turn it away every day", he said. "There are more horses in this country now than at any time since The War."
So did he have any children to follow in the family footsteps?
"I have a daughter", he explained. "But she wants to be a nurse. I'd like an apprentice to pass the skills onto but they never last. This is hard work, see. And as soon as the young lads or lasses realise that, they're off. That, or when the cold weather sets in. It's sad. These skills will be lost."

Chalk another one up for the lazy generation.

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