Farrier James Gilchrist - What Changes He's Seen In The Last Twenty Years

Sunday, February 23, 2014
Posted by Betsy LaBelle


James Gilchrist the farrier for Boudicca a young horse owned by DressageDaily Journalist Betsy LaBelle
James Gilchrist the farrier for Boudicca a young horse owned by DressageDaily Journalist Betsy LaBelle
The Official Farrier for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, the 1998 World Equestrian Games in Rome and the 1999 Pan American Games in Winnipeg, James Gilchrist AAPF works hard in Wellington, Florida shoeing dressage horses and jumpers for top riders and up and coming riders. It’s important to work with a good farrier with accreditation from the American Association of Professional Farriers. Gilchrist shared with us what he has seen change in the Dressage World during the last twenty years. “Those events were very stressful, you can only imagine, especially the dressage horses because it takes so many years to train one of them and most of the riders only have one Grand Prix horse at that international level. All their hopes and dreams are on that one particular horse and that one particular event. If something goes wrong, it’s not good for anybody.” A farrier for over 30 years, Gilchrist continues to shoe high performance horses. He said, “I started shoeing horses in 1980, full-time in Atlanta, and started coming to Wellington for the winters in 1981. I moved permanently in 1999. Mainly, I shoe jumpers and dressage horses, but I also do therapeutic shoeing. I’ve shod horses for client during every Olympics since 1988, dressage horses and jumping horses, once or twice a 3-Day client.”

In talking about what changes he’s seen in the last twenty years, he said, “What has changed in the farrier industry in the 20 years is the technology and the footing. It’s unbelievable. We all use different types of shoes than we did back then because of the new footing that everybody uses in these dressage rings.  It really affects the way we shoe these horses. We can use the technology to make the shoeing better."

"Still, a lot of people don’t understand the importance of the footing yet, but it’s coming when everyone will understand. We are going with lighter shoes, and taking weight out of the heavier shoes on dressage horses. We hardly ever use bar shoes anymore. Twenty years ago, every horse had bar shoes at the Grand Prix level and lots of Small Tour horses. Everybody wanted them. Now, no one is doing that anymore. The footing makes all the difference. All the top dressage riders know. The dressage horses more than any other discipline work best on this new footing,” he stated.

Gilchrist likes to keep things simple and basic, he said, “As far as what I’m doing on dressage horses, I try to keep it as simple as possible, do what’s best for the horse, and maintain a biomechanical, functional hoof. The horses stay sounder longer. When we alternate and change things on these horses, that’s when we get into trouble.”

“My best advice to any rider from a show horse farrier is to just take your time with these young horses. Save them, don’t push them too hard. Bring them up the ranks as slow as you can, take good care of their bodies, their feet, and their minds. I’ve seen it both ways, the push hard and the taking time method. Take your time,” he advised.

James Gilchrist supports the American Association of Professional Farriers and the Canadian Association of Professional Farriers. It’s important to know that your Farrier works in the industry with a community of supporting Farriers. The organization established a respective Accreditation platform to the profession and in areas of farrier specialty.



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