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National horseshoe fixing championships open this week

Posted March. 16, 2017 07:15,   

Updated March. 16, 2017 07:25

The horse wears shoes like the humans. A small steel plate called horseshoe is affixed on each of the horse’s feet to protect the hoof. Generally, an "I"-shape steel bar is bent into a hoof shape before being attached on the hoof by nailing into five to 10 holes.

The horseshoe for a racehorse, which runs at speeds of up to 60 kilometers per hour, is produced with materials such as light sturdy aluminum or duralumin. The horseshoe of the horse for horseback riding is made of steel. The process to affix a horseshoe onto the hoof is called "jangje (horseshoe fixing)." The horse’s hoof is a transformation of the sharp tip of the tiptoes, which is made of gelatin like the human’s fingernails, and grows about 8 millimeters per month. Hence, the horse needs replacing of the horseshoes about once a month.

Replacing of the horseshoes requires delicate manual work by a professional called "horseshoe fixer." The fixer trims the hoof as if cutting the human’s fingernails, and nails down to affix the horseshoe. If a nail penetrates deep to reach beyond the nerve-free part of the hoof, the horse can get hugely surprised, which can cause serious injury, and the process warrants strong concentration.

According to the Korea Racing Authority, the horseshoe fixing industry in Korea is worth 12.3 billion won (10.7 million U.S. dollars), including horses for both horseracing and horseback riding. This is the "cost for horseshoes" alone. The horseshoes for horseracing amounts to 2.9 billion won (2.53 million dollars) or 24 percent, while that for horseback riding accounts for 9.4 billion won (8.2 million dollars) or 76 percent.

There are only 80 active professional horseshoe fixers in Korea, and demand far exceeds supply. The number of horses for horseracing and horseback riding in Korea exceeds 15,000.

For this reason, the Korea Racing Authority is holding the national horseshoe fixing championships at the Seoul horseshoe fixing center at Let’s Run Park in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi Province on Thursday and Friday. “We hold the event to address shortages of professional horseshoe fixers and provide an opportunity to nurture talent,” said a KRA official.

The championships comprise of 11 competitions, and are categorized into three levels of difficulty. The competitors will be ranked by comprehensively eval‎uating the style of their works, specifications, and special forging work. Six people of the winners will be entitled to participate in the international horseshoe fixing championships, which will take place in the Netherlands in April.

Jong-Seok Kim kjs0123@donga.com