In Pictures: The hands that shape the shoes - Irish farriers eye Euro success
Ireland's top farriers are preparing to pit their skills against the best of their trade across mainland Europe.
A team of four master farriers from across the country are in strict training for the European Farrier Championships to be held in Aarberg in Switzerland on June 22 and 23.
The team is managed by master farrier John McLoughlin from Nurney, Co Kildare and members were chosen earlier this year after a well-contested competition.
The team members are Eddie Channon from Newbridge, Kildare; James Woods, Shanagolden, Limerick; Paul Duddy, Strabane, Tyrone; and Sam Brennan, Askeaton, Limerick.
They gather regularly at the Farrier School in Kildare Town, to hone their skills and practice carrying out tasks against the clock as the competition demands. The team is operating under the aegis of the Irish Master Farriers' Association which has 140 members including apprentices.
As team manager, John McLoughlin is confident they will be in the shakedown for prizes - and with a bit of luck can bring off a big win. He explains that the competition comprises five separate classes, with phases one to four directed at horseshoe-making from scratch through the various phases.
The final test involves shoeing a horse within strict time limits. "The contest demands making two shoes and putting one of these on a horse within 60 minutes. You have to combine top class work with efficiency and speed," John McLoughlin explains.
The Irish Master Farriers' Association (IMFA) is keen to maintain as many of the old skills as possible in an era of mechanisation and factory-made shoes. Members say that many master farriers regularly make shoes from scratch to meet specific customer demands and this skill is much prized.