AT school in Guiseley, Andy Smith's teachers were keen for him to stay on and take his A levels but Andy had other plans.
He knew what he wanted to do and that meant leaving school at 16 and becoming an apprentice.
After four-and-a-half years, he recently qualified as a farrier. "It's a long apprenticeship but I think it needs to be," said Andy, 21. Nobody was more surprised than Andy when the final exam results were announced and his tutor told him he had passed with honours – the only apprentice in the country to do so.
"I really thought he was joking," said Andy, who studied on block release courses at Myerscough College, Preston. Out of 62 students from three colleges who sat the written, oral and practical exam, five were given distinctions and there was just one honours award.
It was particularly pleasing for Andy because he is dyslexic. He was given learning support at school and college and allowed extra time for his theory work.
A farrier must learn about the anatomy of a horse as well as learning about different shoes and how to make and fit them. By looking at the way a horse wears down its shoes, a farrier can often help in diagnosing such things as back problems. "It's rewarding working with animals and it can be a challenge," said Andy. "You get nervous horses to deal with and particularly working with young stock that hasn't been handled, that can be a challenge."
He grew up with horses as his mother, Fiona, runs a small livery yard in Guiseley.
"I watched the farrier working in the yard and I decided that's what I wanted to do. You have to find an approved training farrier to take you on and that's the tricky bit."
Being used to handling horses helped and Andy was taken on as an apprentice by Chris Pedley at Follifoot Riding School near Harrogate. Including a trial period, Andy worked for Chris for five years, starting out by making cups of tea, sweeping up and watching how Chris worked.
Andy had his own pony as a child and then shared a horse before other interests took over. Now, thanks to his girlfriend Zoe Dawson, he has taken up hunting and loves it.
She works part time as a groom for Stephen Hazeldine, a joint master of the York and Ainsty North. "I hadn't hunted before but now I'm going twice a week and it's good fun. At first, I just wanted to gallop round the countryside but now I'm getting interested in the hounds and watching them work."
Once he had qualified, Andy decided to set up his own business. He is based in Nun Monkton near York and is gradually building up a list of regular customers. Entering competitions at county shows, including the Great Yorkshire, helped him prepare for his final exams and he is a great admirer of a very successful Yorkshire farrier, Steven Beane, from Northallerton, who was world champion blacksmith at the Calgary Stampede in Canada for the second year running. Andy may have a way to go yet but you never know...
Estate to open gates again for festive fun
BLOW the cobwebs away at New Year with a ride out on the estate at Farnley Tyas near Huddersfield.
After the success of the first estate ride in September, when good weather brought a large number of horses and riders to the village, the owners have decided to open up some of the land for another ride.
"The course allowed riders to gauge the fitness of their horses," said estate spokesman Paul Elgar. "In the case of some of the younger riders and even some of the older ones, this was the first opportunity to ride in open country without any concerns about traffic and other users of ridden routes."
The ride will take in estate tracks, woodland and some areas of farmland. The final route will be confirmed on the day, depending on the weather conditions.
The ride will start at Field Lane, Farnley Tyas (opposite the Golden Cock pub) and the route will be open between 10.30am and 2.30pm. Riders of all ages and experience will be catered for.
No charge will be made but donations will be welcome for Help for Heroes and for the parish church. Information from: email@example.com.
BRAMHAM International Horse Trials, which run from June 2-5 next year, will have the boost of sponsorship from Welcome to Yorkshire, the county's tourist agency. Bramham's event director, Nicholas Pritchard, said: "Over the last few years the event has grown in stature and visitor figures and I'm confident we'll have a bumper 2011 thanks to this valuable support."
Dutch star Adelinde dances away with the qualifying title at Olympia
ADELINDE CORNELISSON and Jerich Parceval danced their way to victory in the Reem Acra FEI World Cup qualifier at Olympia this week with a freestyle set to a ballet music medley.
British judge Andrew Gardener described the performance, which was choreographed with one-time changes to the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, as "a complete picture... it was like a dance performance, athletic and with moments of brilliance."
Adelinde is a member of the Netherlands world gold medal team and the reigning European silver medallist. Laura Bechtolsheimer, who became the first British rider to win the Grand Prix Special earlier in the week, did well to contain the powerful Mistral Hojris to take second place. "It was a little bit tricky," said Laura. "He's not really made for the indoor season.
"He did some fantastic work and is so powerful that even with a few mistakes he can still get a good mark."
World champion Edward Gal was third with Sisther de Jeu and American rider Catherine Haddad fourth with Winyamaro. She is now top of the Reem Acra leaderboard.
Olympia proved a great showcase for Britain's dressage talent.
Amy Stovold finished fifth on Macbrian and the very experienced Richard Davison was sixth on Hiscox Artemis, a result that has put him into second place on the Teem Acra leader board.
Laura and Adelinde's placings were reversed in the Grand Prix Special when Laura, the last to go, beat the rest of the field with an impressive score of 82.92 per cent with Mistral
Horjis and set a new Grand Prix British record in the process.