Bernie Tidmarsh is the man responsible for overseeing farrier services provided to competitors at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials.
Based locally in Crudwell, Bernie is one of the country’s most well-known farriers, having shod for members of the Royal Family as well as The Duke of Beaufort, over whose land the world’s most famous 3 day event is run. Bernie has spent more than 50 years as a farrier, having been apprenticed to his father in the family business after leaving school.
Eventing Worldwide caught up with Bernie to find out what it’s like behind the scenes of the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials from a farriers perspective.
“I got involved in the event in 1956 – my dad was the farrier in the 10 minute box before the start of the cross country. When I became qualified I carrier on working with him, and took over as the official farrier in 1980 – I’ve have been responsible for the whole week since then.
“During the event I have two other farriers working with me. But quite a number of the riders will have their own farrier come especially on cross country day. Some riders come with horses which have difficult feet, specialist fillers or silicone which makes it a bit exciting to work on the horse. Having their own farrier means they are familiar with the problem and can deal with it quickly and efficiently.
“Most of the time, the stable area is quite quiet. It gets more fraught on cross country day and again before the trot up if somebody has had an issue the previous day. The riders worry about having spare shoes and stud holes need to be done which can mean a very late night. But shoes can come off at any time during the event – we’ve had horses come back from a leisurely walk around the park without a shoe!
“About a third of the horses who go out on cross country come back at the end of the day with at least one shoe missing. When this happens there is a real urgency to get horses re-shod as the grooms and riders want to work on the horse so it recovers and is prepared for the trot up the following morning.
“The event has changed from a farrier’s point of view in as much as there isn’t as much urgency as there once was. In the days of the long format event, if a horse came back from the roads and tracks or steeplechase without a shoe, you had to get it back on in 10 minutes. Now it can be put back on in less of a hurry.
“Most of the horses which come to Badminton are well shod. Competitors are more professional in their approach to the preparation required for the test ahead. The judge of the Best Shod horse, from the Worshipful Company of Farriers, is looking for a well shod horse – is the shoe a good fit for the horse, is it nailed on well and has it been done in a sensible practical way (Bernie has won this award on numerous occasions!)
“Another thing which has changed is the quality of the horse. Now the event is run across a short format they don’t always have the strength that they used to have when the event included roads and tracks and steeplechase. You didn’t get as many shoeing problems years ago as the horses weren’t as finely bred as they are now. But any shoeing issues can be dealt with on-site and in most cases that’s why riders have their own farriers on standby.”