It would be a brave man who, on returning from a meeting of TATHS, would admit to his wife that the star of the day had been a leggy 20 year old.

But those of us that made the journey to Chris and David Blaggs' farm at Whitwell Common, Worksop, had no such difficulty, for the 20 year old in question was a very patient and well behaved Cobb-cross horse named Willow.

In truth there was a second star, in the person of Steve Mallinder. Most of us know Steve as the quietly spoken, modest and unassuming chap who comes along to TATHS meetings with David Blagg. However, today we learnt much more about Steve and his craft as a master farrier. In fact during his 43 years in the business, Steve has won no less than eight National Championships and four International Championships. He has also been a Judge at four World Championships and is a member of the Worshipful Company of Farriers.

The Worshipful Company of Farriers can trace its history back to 1356, when the Mayor of London called together the farriers of London to establish a fellowship, originally known as Marshalls of the City. For those of us less well versed in the origins of our language, it might come as a surprise to learn that the word 'marshall' is derived from an old French word 'mareschal' which means farrier. The 'modern' history of the Company began in 1674 with the grant of a Charter by Charles II.

Willow was not the only creature to welcome the nineteen adults and four children (our youngest attendee was just two years old – we start them young here in the North!) who enjoyed the day, as Chris and David's two dogs made everybody welcome and swallows nesting in the barn swooped above our heads.

Keeping well back from both the pointy and blunt ends, all present were amazed with the complexity of the craft farriers ply, which as Steve explained, begins with a detailed understanding of the anatomy of a horse and the mechanical dynamics of how they move. He emphasised that the task of the farrier is to adapt the horse for different climatic conditions and tasks of an animal whose natural habitat is the desert. This is achieved by manufacturing purpose-made shoes that match not only the anatomy of each individual foot of a horse, but also the task to be performed with the design being specifically calculated to minimise the risk of injury during the activity.

The detailed assessment carried out by Steve and skill required to forge a shoe for Willow with a few simple tools was truly astonishing, with the welfare of the horse being his number one priority at all times. I'm not sure he appreciated the rather hard bar of metal David had found in the corner of the barn out of which the shoe was forged. Certainly the perspiration on his brow and physical endeavour reflected accurately the wording on the coat of arms of the Worshipful Company, namely VI ET VIRTUTE (by strength and by virtue).

By the time Steve had finished the task, we were all exhausted just watching!

Our thanks to attendees for their donations which enabled a contribution to the Stroke Association and a modest return to TATHS

All in all a wonderful visit to watch a true craftsman at work. Many thanks go to Steve and his family and of course to Willow and her handlers Tracy and Jess who stood patiently throughout. Also huge thanks to Chris and David for hosting the day.

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