Ian Hughes DipWCF is one of life’s all-round good guys, who also does a rather fine job of
As well as shoeing his own clients’ horses and helping at Leahurst Equine Hospital, Ian comes to Ashbrook Equine Hospital weekly to provide remedial farriery for inpatients, lameness cases and visiting clients, ensuring we can provide a holistic treatment plan to help your horses perform to the very best of their ability. We took time out of our busy day to learn more about the man behind the forge!
How did you get into farriery?
I’m a third-generation farrier so there really was no option! (That being said, he describes it as ‘the best job in the world’, so he’d do it
were given the choice! - Editor). Interestingly, Ian’s 3 children elected not to chase him into farriery.
Where did you train?
I trained in Ruthin, North Wales with a blacksmith and a farrier. Most of my apprenticeship was spent in the engineering side and I can even put up a steel frame building if needed!
This background has certainly helped me make shoes to suit the needs of my equine clients. I also spent time with Mr Caldwell, whom some longstanding clients may remember from the early years of Ashbrook.
Do you ride?
It has been known!
What are the highlights of your career so far?
Over the years, I’ve been part of the farriery teams at 3 World Championships, 5 Olympics and 4 Paralympics. I’ve been head farrier for the last 4 Paralympic Games and also head farrier at the Beijing Olympics.
I’m the British P1 (Podium) and P2 Para team farrier and P2 Show
meaning I look after 16-18 medal contending horses at any time.
Being such an integral part of the Paralympic equestrian movement is a perfect combination of helping horses, people and travelling all over the world.
The physical farriery part of the role is often the smallest (and easiest!) part, as I do that every day. Much more of the time is spent liaising within the whole team management structure, making sure each horse and rider can perform to their very best. When not away at Championships, I also end up liaising with each horse’s home farrier to make sure horses are maintained all year round.
Being Team farrier means a lot of away days assessing team and potential team horses. Head farrier at a Games also allows me to meet and treat other nation’s horses - a true privilege. At Championships, you are only allowed a limited number of people per athlete
so smaller nations often compromise on farriers so they can bring enough team members and carers for each athlete, meaning I get to be involved if needed.
What a list of achievements! How did you become a team farrier?
In 2004, one of my clients was competing at Athens and the horse pulled off their shoe along with half their foot, leaving a lame horse and a team desperate for their horse to compete.
The owners knew how sensitive their horse’s feet were so organised a flight out that day, for me to try and ‘fix’ the problem.
Cue - a rush to get packed, gather some basic emergency farriery equipment and find my passport, only to find it was out of date! Undeterred, I was told to get to the Passport Office in Liverpool, and someone would be waiting to make me a new one (friends in high places, eh?! - Editor) so I could still make the flight. I made the flight, ‘fixed’ the problem whilst all the horse’s connections looked on anxiously and the combination went on to win Bronze, helping the team secure Gold as well.
Two weeks after my high-pressure shoeing of one rather famous horse, I got a letter from BEF inviting me to be Team Farrier and I’ve had the best time ever since, shoeing team horses at home and at so many major Championships.
You spend a lot of your time on the road, what will we hear on the radio if we join you for a day?
Usually, Radio 2. If not that, it might be a Chill Mix, courtesy of Spotify. I drive around 25 000 miles a year, often in 3-6 hour stints, so would love to start listening to audiobooks. However, I really need to work it out before I start my next long journey, rather than thinking about it 5 miles into the journey!
I would definitely recommend CarPlay - it’s the best thing ever!
What do you do on a day off?
A day off?? I shoe more horses! I also enjoy clay shooting, dog training and rugby.
What’s your favorite food?
I could live off steak, particularly one of our local butcher’s legendary Tomahawk steaks. No ketchup anywhere near it though - I hate ketchup!
What’s next on the horizon?
I’m really excited to be heading for Germany soon with the Para Teams and later in the year I’ll be spending a month in Hangzhou as head farrier at the Asian Games. This is my first time in this role so I’m really looking forward to it. I couldn’t take up this role when I was last asked as I had just come back from 3 months in Beijing and thought I’d better shoe some of my clients in the Northwest and Wales! 2024 will see us heading to Paris for the next Olympic cycle.
What’s your favorite competition venue?
The Millennium Stadium! No guessing which country Ian supports when it comes to rugby!
What’s your motto for life?
I’m a firm believer in always saying yes - you never know where it might lead you in life and you might only get one opportunity!
Gastric ulceration was traditionally associated with racehorses and those
horses kept in very intense environments with prolonged periods of stabling and cereal based diets. We now know
that gastric ulceration can occur in many different types of horses and ponies. It has
even been described that 39-57% of leisure horses have gastric ulcer lesions.
Gastric ulceration can affect 2 broadly different areas of the stomach, the glandular and non-glandular areas. The non-glandular area of the stomach is not protected by a mucus layer and ulceration is typically associated with splashing of the acid from the stomach contents.
These lesions are usually simpler to treat with medication and dietary modification. Ulceration within the glandular area of the stomach can be more challenging to treat and often requires prolonged treatment times.
Definitive diagnosis can only be made using gastroscopy and visualising the inside of the stomach directly. Gastroscopy also allows us to monitor the success of treatment or if there is any requirement for prolonged treatment.
There are many different treatment options; however, most treatment revolves around omeprazole, either as an oral preparation or an injectable format. Other medications may include misoprostol, esomeprazole, ranitidine and sucralfate. In all cases, the vet will also provide advice management advice to try and limit the recurrence of ulceration.
We would be very grateful if any horses are attending the Hospital arrive with their passport.
This allows us to check whether any vaccinations are due, update microchip numbers on our computer systems as required, and ensure your horse is signed out of the human food chain.
Signing horses out of the human food chain enables us to prescribe certain medications, including ‘bute', as this is not licensed for any meat producing animal. Although this may seem academic as most of our equines are far too precious to consider them entering
the human food chain, it is a legal requirement and we’d be very appreciative of your understanding.
At Ashbrook, we continue to promote regular
(WEC, FEC) to ensure only those horses that have a significant parasite burden are given de-worming drugs. Only worming
those horses with high parasite burdens not only means you can save money, but also dramatically reduces the risk of resistance developing amongst the worms on your horse’s pasture.
The CANTER campaign helps identify risk factors for your individual horse, so is very well worth a visit. Please do remember every situation is individual and as such, vets are uniquely placed to advise on worming strategy. Please give one of our experienced team a call if you’d like to discuss this further.
Find out more at https://canterforhorses.org.uk/