5 minutes with: eventing team travelling farrier Brendan Murray

We caught up with farrier Brendan Murray at a recent eventing squad session to find out more about the role of a travelling farrier and how he supports eventing athletes throughout the season. When he’s not shoeing horses, Brendan is also a resident stunt man, and can be seen in the likes of Downton Abbey and the blockbuster War Horse.

Can you tell us more about your role with the team?

I provide support to the senior eventing team throughout the season, which means I travel to events – both in this country and abroad – and will also head out to support the guys at a major Championships. If there are any issues then I also do head out to the athletes yards to support them and their home team, and obviously make sure I see all of them on days like today [team training].

As a travelling farrier, when I’m travelling abroad I take everything I need to be able to shoe a horse from scratch – so I take my fire, my floor tools and the anvil tools, because there’s no point in going somewhere and be the man to do the job without the tools to do the job. Some places do provide a certain provision for shoeing, but you never know what’s going to be there until you get there.

So you don’t take the horses shoes out then?

No, the riders would normally carry spare shoes with them when they head to competitions, but having said that I do take some shoes with me just in case. Horses are shod individually, and during training [squad training] I speak to all the grooms and get them to bring a spare set with them, and some – especially the longer serving grooms know this anyway and they bring more than one set.

Generally, if we’re going abroad, the grooms would bring a brand new fitted set with them, so should a problem occur, then we’ve got the specific shoe for that horse there.

Can you draw any similarities between an equine and human shoe?

Shoes that we wear are designed for comfort, stability and to ensure balance whilst we’re working, this is very similar for equines.

You have variations in working shoes [for horses] – in working shoes I include sports shoes in that. For a horse that goes out every day it will have a shoe that is job specific for it, so it will have a basic set. On top of that horses may incur problems within the feet and the limb, which need help in addressing through a specialist shoe, so we have remedial shoes to try and target a specific area, or conformation.

The shoes allow the horse to work across a variety of different surfaces. In the shoes there are stud holes – we apply studs (which act in the same way as a football stud) to help to ensure grip.

There must be lots of interaction with the other support elements to ensure the delivery of performance?

We do communicate across the different areas of the Programme, particularly for my role this would be to ensure that the athlete, groom and vet are fully in the loop. Obviously if there are any ongoing issues then this may end up involving the wider support team, with support from either other members of the ESSM or HSSM teams.

I play a small part in the whole of the team, but we each have our roles to play to help riders achieve their goals.  

What are the top items that you wouldn’t be without?

  • The anvil - which is the table for preparation of the shoe
  • The fire - heats the shoe, making it malleable so that it’s easier to work with
  • Apron - for protection, which is very necessary before we start the shoeing process
  • My floor tools