The flying farrier

 

When the 

 

shoes fit

 

For the past 24 years Bernard Duvernay has worked as a consultant farrier in India  – a job, which has shown him some of the most beautiful places of the country while he’s been able to teach the locals how to shoe their horses.

 

By Camilla Alfthan

 

 

Flying Anvil is the name of the foundation that Bernard  Duvernay extended to the northern province of Rajasthan with the aim to educate farriers from around the world. As a globetrotting colleague for the past 30 years in far away places such as South America, the Middle East and Asia, few know the business as well as him.

 

“Traveling through a job is the greatest introduction to life outside the touristic places. Normally, you associate India with over populated, noisy cities with crowded traffic and pollution. You hardly imagine to find quiet, peaceful places.

However, India has some of the most beautiful stud farms for thoroughbred horses in the world.

They are in the old British tradition but the Indians have also developed breeding at a very high international standard.

My job is to visit the farms and give my expertise on the feet and limbs of young horses, to correct them when needed and also to teach local farriers to improve their skills. I also work at the race courses around the country for a few trainers. The country has changed a lot during the last 24 years but India is still a love story for me,” tells Duvernay en route for the annual CHI Geneva in his native Switzerland.

 

What is your background? 

 

I learned farriery in Switzerland after I dropped out of the second year of my vet studies.  I made an apprenticeship with a very good master. At that time I never thought that my profession would take me around the world! It seemed impossible because at that time even the Swiss farriers would not share their experience with a neighbouring colleague.

 

Why Rajasthan?

 

Because it is still one of the most beautiful states in India with a lot of tradition and also a very interesting old breed of indigenous horses –  the Marwari.

I have a friend in Rajasthan, Raghuvendra Singh Dundlod, who is a Prince and the owner of the Fort in Dundlod. I’ve been going there for a very long time to visit his family and to give workshops about farriery for the local Marwari breeders. When I told my friend about the idea to create a farriery school in India he said that he wanted to offer the land for this. The deal was done without even thinking about the difficulties to create something in India.

 

What was the profession like when you started?

 

It had been neglected for ages however, as you reach the higher casts it becomes more prestigious.

Traditionally, the only place to learn farriery was in the army which has the last  – and the biggest  – cavalry in the world.

It means that elsewhere in the country farriers have no education about what they are doing. It is sometimes very difficult to understand to which degree they damage the horses’ feet and how hard life can be for the working horses. That’s also why I wanted to create a school for everyone – rich or poor – so that they can understand what the profession is about.

 

Have you seen some change over the years?

 

Education is the only way to improve anything, however, when you see how hard life is for the people in some parts of the world it is difficult to expect them to care about the welfare of their animals.

It happens that I am watching a lame horse pulling a cart and then I watch the owner who is more handicapped than his horse… should I really blame the owner for bad care?

 

“Traditionally, the only place to learn farriery was in the army which has the last  – and the biggest  – cavalry in the world.”

 

My job is to help not to criticize. When you give your knowledge and you show your passion for your job, then your trainees are listening and they become passionate, too. Teaching is a fantastic way to keep learning yourself. Then the result of your classes will come and you will see it on the horses you meet.

 

You have many volunteers.. 

 

They are fantastic; the Flying Anvil Foundation has created a great solidarity network inside the farriery profession and around the world. From word of mouth and through different publications, professionals said ‘let’s go’ and they came. At the end of 2014 we had 16 volunteers from 11 different countries. That was an unexpected result and I have to thank them all very much because they are our best ambassadors for the Flying Anvil Foundation.

 

Everything is still done the old fashioned way and horses are sold at markets. Do you think traditions will continue? Or are machines gradually taking over?

 

We still have half the population of the world who is dependant of the crafts animals whether it is oxes, camels, elephants, donkeys, mules or horses. It will take many more years to change and horses will be used for work in great numbers even if the people of the city are ignorant of this. By the same token, leisure activities are growing and equestrian sports represent new opportunities for the farriers.

 

Spirited temper

 

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