I recently had the pleasure of meeting Mat Meek, a farrier covering parts of East Somerset, whilst out on his rounds.
I was looking for someone in the equestrian industry to follow for a few hours/day in order to really capture what their role in this ever growing leisure industry is and the impact their role directly has on them. Mat, who is in the middle of creating a Facebook Page for his business stepped into action for me.
With over 27 years of farriery behind him, Mat offers a huge amount of experience and knowledge to all his potential clients. Offering mostly a cold shoeing service he has a wide range of clients on his books. Today we were at one of Mat’s regular clients – Vaux Park Polo Club, a venture established in 2006 and run by the Vaux family within the fabulous backdrop of Wigborough Manor Estate.
After I’d stopped drooling at the impeccable grounds directly surrounding the house and imagining incredible photo shoots on the lawns, I moved round to the indoor stabling barns where Mat was already working on his first pony of the day.
The range of ponies at Vaux Park is far wider than I imagined and I soon learnt that the venue also teaches polo as well as hosting match fixtures. So in order to meet the needs of a range of clients, there has to be a range of ponies too. Yes there are your typical Argentinian ponies, but I also met a rather lovely heavier warmblood type too.
From Mat’s perspective the maintenance of the lower limb on a polo pony can be quite different to the everyday ridden horse. Despite the protection all ponies go out to play with, injuries to the lower limb are quite common – with ponies often standing on another ponies coronet band or hoof and, of course, overreach injuries. Those of us that have had damage done to these areas know that it not only affects the way the horse moves, temporarily or permanently, but it can also lead to some damage to the hoof. Damage in a hoof can take months to grow out or be corrected.
Mat, like other farriers, will assess each foot and limb accordingly and always works with the needs of the pony at the forefront of his mind. Watching Mat calmly and diligently working with each pony, some of which as I’m sure you can imagine can be potentially quite sharp, was really lovely to witness. He goes at their speed, which I’m sure older, stiffer equines in his trust would really appreciate.
I chatted to Mat as he went about his work and I quietly went about mine too. Learning more about his trade than I have in a fair few years! Not directly having horses of my own anymore can leave me a little out on a limb with how the various equine sectors have grown, or not, so it was really nice to just catch up a bit and also find out what makes Mat tick.
The industry has changed a lot in the 27 years he’s been certified. Areas such as remedial shoeing and plastic shoes come to mind from the perspective of the horse. The communication process too with clients too thanks to texting, emails and social media.
As with many farriers there are the normal injuries and on-going physical pains and strains. The back takes a fair battering and so do the knees. Matt spoke of some of the injuries to his hands and fingers he’d had from horses pulling their foot away mid nailing – a nail can rapidly rip through human flesh and is one of the reason for the heavy chaps they wear.
For me, the greatest pleasure of my time with Mat was seeing how well he managed the horses. If I had horses at home again, I’d be straight on the phone to him. Mind you, with his love for Donkey’s I’d probably need to entice him as a new client with a Donkey for him to trim instead!
If you are in the Yeovil/Ilminster area of Somerset and need a farrier then please contact: Mat Meek – 07970 073061
If you are interested in Vaux Park Polo Club and giving this sport a go, then click Vaux Park Polo
I left him scratching his head with a mathematical dilemma though as I asked him just how many horses he had shod or trimmed last year.
Grateful thanks to the Vaux family for letting me work with Mat in this way.
Have a fabulous week!
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