Thursday, November 29, 2007

Quite a View: Fetal Feet from New Book "Hoof Problems"

Here's one of my favorite images from the new book "Hoof Problems". Do you have your copy yet? We sold out at Cornell vet school's farrier conference but have plenty more in stock now!

Click here for more information.

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Sue Dyson Will Present New Information on Imaging for Foot Lameness at AAEP Convention

Dr. Dyson specializes in sport horses at a leading diagnostic referral clinic in England.

Sue Dyson MA, VetMB, PhD, DEO, FRCVS, Head of Clinical Orthopaedics at the Animal Health Trust equine unit in Newmarket, England will present an in-depth three hour presentation on Tuesday, December 4 at the American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida.

Co-presenting with Dr. Dyson will be Kent Allen DVM of Virginia Equine Imaging.

The title of the program is “Lameness and Diagnostic Image in the Sports Horse: Recent Advances Related to the Digit” and it will be a case-by-case presentation between the two experts.

Dr. Dyson is known in the foot world for her meticulous diagnostic procedures and her documentation of imaging techniques, particularly in the foot. In recent years, she has made tremendous strides by using Scintigraphy and MRI to confirm or debunk the diagnosis of navicular disease in certain horses.

Her article in Hoofcare and Lameness #79 documented lesions in the deep digital flexor tendon that were treatable with rest and therapy. Many “navicular” horses have been re-evaluated since MRI has been in use, thanks to Dr. Dyson’s documentation. The tendon tear findings also explain why some horses appear to recover from navicular disease after being turned out to pasture and why other horses may not respond to certain types of medications.

Click here to download a PDF file of an article from the Equine Veterinary Journal by Dr. Dyson documenting 199 scans of equine feet. The file name will be EVJ07_39_340_343.pdf.

Sue obtained a Fellowship of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) for her thesis on shoulder lameness in the horse. She holds the RCVS Diploma in Equine Surgery (Orthopaedics) and is a recognized Specialist of the RCVS. She obtained a PhD from the University of Helsinki for a thesis on lameness diagnosis.

Sue Dyson is co-author of the textbook Diagnosis and Management of Lameness in the Horse and a consulting editor to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. Her newest article is on the subtleties of identifying multiple limb lameness in horses.

Sue is a past President of the British Equine Veterinary Association. She has also ridden at top national level in both eventing and show jumping and has produced horses that have subsequently competed at the Olympics and World Championships.

Any opportunity to hear her speak is a gift. See you there.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Les Quatre Ecoles: Snapshots from Paris

Here's a little slide show of moments at Les Quatre Ecoles d'Equestre performance in Paris last week. For the first time, four great schools of horsemanship Lisbon (Lusitanos), Jerez (Andalusians), Vienna (Lippizaners) and France's Cadre Noir performed together and demonstrated their interpretation of the high school of equestrian art.

Here's a page of links on Google Video to clips taken by spectators.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

alexa info text

# Contact info submission

site_owner: Fran Jurga, Hoofcare Publishing
address1: PO Box 6600
city: Gloucester
state: MA
country: USA
postal_code: 01930
phone_number: 1 978 281 3222, Fax: 1 978 283 8775
site_name: Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog
site_description: Writings concerning equine lameness, horse hoof and foot problems, veterinary and farriery science, laminitis, farriers and the horse industry by Fran Jurga, editor and publisher of Hoofcare and Lameness, The Journal of Equine Foot Science.© Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing. No use without permission. You only need to ask.

Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page).

To subscribe to Hoofcare and Lameness (the journal), please visit the main site,, where many educational products and media related to equine lameness and hoof science can be found.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Where's My Brumby Now: Chris Pollitt Offers Donors a Chance to Ride Along for Hoof Satellite!

I am posting a research brief from Dr. Pollitt that should be of interest to every reader of Hoofcare & Lameness Journal. I think a brumby's hoof data would make a great Christmas present! Above: Australian feral horses ("brumbies") photographed from the air by Dr Pollitt in July of 2007 while conducting preliminary research.

Australian Hoof Research Project Brief: Determining the range of the Australian wild horse (Brumby) and the relationship to foot type and conformation.

Our team has spent much of the past 12 months investigating the use of GPS technology to track the movements of horses. As a result we have developed the ideal tool to track the day-to-day movements of horses in both the domestic and wild environments.

Our GPS tracking units allow us to accurately pinpoint the location, speed and altitude of the horse at one-second intervals for up to one week or at 30-second intervals for up to six months.

Domestic horse wearing a collar with GPS tracker attached.

A GPS unit attached to a strap around the horse's neck is able to fix the position of the horse by aligning its position with at least six satellites orbiting overhead and storing the data on board. When data is retrieved, it is interfaced with Google Earth to 1) produce an aerial photograph of the horse's movements (see photo) and 2) be overlaid on a geographical mapping system which applies the data to soil and vegetation type, use of water points and topography type.

This exciting technology is being applied to horses for the first time by our research team, with the goal of establishing a complete picture of the movements of horses, both domestic and wild, and how they interact with their environment.

The effect of movement and environment on the horse’s foot is a significant focus of the research.
We know from preliminary work that the typical domestic horse’s foot travels very little (approximately 7 km daily) in comparison to its wild counterpart which may travel up to 50 km or more in a single walk. We have several populations of "Brumbies" (Australian feral horses) under investigation to determine natural foot structure and function under various environmental conditions.

Tracking data (3 days) from horses grazing a large 40-acre forested paddock

We are about to embark on the most exciting part of the research: to track the wild horses. Brumbies will be darted silently from a hide with a tranquilizer, giving the team two minutes to photograph feet, place permanent markers to determine hoof wall growth rates and attach the GPS collar (see photo).

On reversal of the tranquilizer, the horse will rejoin its family band unaware of the intervention. The same horse will be recaptured using the dart gun at the end of the trial to retrieve equipment and then released back to the wild.

This work will begin in March 2008 and continue for 12 months in locations in Central and Northern Queensland and the Northern Territory and Eastern Kimberly region of Western Australia.
The project will ultimately identify the relationship between a horse’s movement and the effect on foot conformation, structure and function.

Our goal is to make well-informed recommendations of the ideal conditions to keep domestic horses to improve the well-being of their feet.

You can help in this groundbreaking research. The more GPS units we can attach to wild horses, the better and more accurate the data set will be. For AUS$3000 (approx $2,600 US) you can own and name a wild horse for the 4 to 6 month tracking season. We will supply photos and location data at the time of GPS attachment and, when retrieved, we will use the GPS download from your horse to generate a report using Google Earth maps.

Ultimately, the combined data from all the horses will be compiled into freely available scientific reports.

Please help if you can.

Professor Chris Pollitt

Professor of Equine Medicine
School of Veterinary Science

The University of Queensland

St Lucia, Brisbane, Queensland
fax 07 3365 2351

Note: To learn more about Dr. Pollitt and his observations of brumby feet, refer to "The Natural Hoof Down Under" in Hoofcare and Lameness Issue #69. He has also been a keen observer of zebra feet in the wild.

Double-click on any photo to view it in an enlarged size but please remember that these photos are the property of Dr. Pollitt and are protected by the copyright of Hoofcare and Lameness Journal and, to say nothing of Dr. Pollitt's six satellites circling the earth.

Western Pleasure Gait Analysis: Is this what the rule book ordered?

quarter horse show western pleasure
Traditional definitions of the number of beats in a given gait are being challenged by the unique movement of horses shown in the western pleasure classes at US horse shows.

A new study published in the journal Equine and Comparative Exercise Physiology sheds some light on perhaps why I get so confused when I watch the western pleasure classes at the Quarter Horse Congress.

Our friend Molly Nicodemus PhD, formerly of the McPhail Center at Michigan State College of Veterinary Medicine and now at Mississippi State, and J.E. Booker of Auburn University analyzed a group of western pleasure horses at the jog and lope.

While the paper contains a lot of information, it requires a bit of reading between the lines. It tells you what a western pleasure horse (if the horses tested are typical) does but without comparing it to what other "normal" horses do.

For instance, the study determined that both the jog and lope are four-beat stepping gaits. (A stepping gait is one in which the horse has at least one foot on the ground at all times--think: walk, rack, running walk, fox trot, tolt, paso largo, etc.). The opposite of a stepping gait is a leaping gait, which contains an "aerial" phase when no limb is in contact with the ground--think: trot. piaffe, gallop.)

Gait analysis has shown pretty reliably that the trot is a two-beat leaping gait and the canter is a three-beat leaping gait.

In her book The Dynamic Horse, Dr. Hilary Clayton describes the western pleasure jog as a symmetrical two-beat stepping with a high degree of collection (what trainers call "being in the frame" and what makes it look, to the uneducated spectator, like the horses are trotting in place and will never get all the way around the arena.)

Does the new research mean that the jog and lope are variations of the walk?

The American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), which also defines the jog as a "smooth, ground-covering two-beat diagonal gait", recently changed the judging standards for western pleasure classes: "The horse (in the jog) works from one pair of diagonals to the other pair. The jog should be square, balanced and with straight, forward movement of the feet. Horses walking with their back feet and trotting in the front are not considered performing the required gait."

Also from the AQHA: "The lope is an easy, rhythmical three-beat gait....Horses traveling at a four-beat gait are not considered to be performing at a proper lope."

The AQHA obviously believes that corrrectly-performing Western Pleasure horses are exhibiting aerial gaits; Molly Nicodemus' paper documents that the horses she tested are not in compliance with AQHA standards.

Here's a confusing sentence from the AQHA rulebook: "Lope with forward motion will become the only gait recognized as a lope." Can a horse lope without making forward motion? That's one for a gait analysis project...

Not too many years ago, Hilary Clayton's gait analysis showed that medal-winning FEI dressage horses were not performing movements as prescribed in the stone tablets of dressage judging standards. The canter pirouette, in particular, and the piaffe were found to be quite different than believed.

Go to most recent story on the Hoof Blog and read all news.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Hilary Clayton Footing Lecture This Friday in Orlando, Florida

Dr. Hilary Clayton will lecture on the nature of footing, in all its depths and shapes and surfaces, at the United States Dressage Federation Convention this week in Orlando, Florida at the Disney Coronado Resort. Hilary will speak on Friday, November 30, both in the morning and again in the afternoon. The title of the lecture is "Impact of Arena Footing on Soundness". The USDF convention has an extensive program on horse health, and lameness in particular, this year.

Next week, Dr. Clayton will lecture on her latest research on the temporomandibular joint, reporting on how horses chew hay and pellets. That lecture will be on Wednesday, December 5 at 11:05 a.m. as part of a seminar on dentistry at the American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, also in Orlando, but at the Orange County Convention Center.

Watch for a new book and dvd set coming soon from Dr. Clayton, who is the Mary Anne McPhail Dressage Chair in Equine Sports Medicine at Michigan State University's College of Veterinary Medicine and a key contributing editor to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal.

If you are attending either the USDF or AAEP conventions (or both), say hello to your faithful blogger!

In the photo: Palamino warmblood stallion Treliver Decanter from Treliver Stud in Buckinghamshire, England makes good use of his arena's footing.

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Speedy Recovery Wishes to Farrier Allen Smith

Some horses in Massachusetts have had to allow a stranger to pick up their hooves lately. Forgive them if they're restless; some of these horses have never even known another farrier. That will be the case today when a Dutch Warmblood named Iabony lifts his big feet for Tom Maker, who'll be helping out a friend.

Allen Smith normally shoes for a very select client list; his list hasn't changed much over the years. But right now, Allen is recovering from cataract surgery and a detached retina, so Tom and some other farriers are lending their able hands for an old friend.

Allen is known, of course, as the former president of the American Farrier's Association and its de facto ombudsman. But he really does shoe horses when he's not quoting Roberts Rules of Order.

The AFA has always depended on Allen to see things clearly and he hopefully will be doing that again very soon.

(I've known Allen so long that the photos of him in his file with the magazine are black and white!)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

"Farriery: The Whole Horse Approach" Nudges Farriers to Take A Look Above the Hairline

Author David Gill contends that the normal supporting limb (during the progression of the stride) is positioned at an angle of around 84 to 86 degrees, rather than directly perpendicular to the ground as often portrayed in diagrams. Therefore, he writes, lateral heel landing should be considered normal.

Hoofcare and Lameness Journal is the exclusive US source for the new book Farriery: The Whole Horse Approach by British farrier David Gill. The first copies have arrived and already found their way into the hands of eager readers. And the discussions are beginning!

This is the first book to truly focus on grazing stance, shoulder angle, chest width, back pain, “handedness”, crookedness, etc. and their effect on horses with mismatched feet and/or limb deformities and gait asymmetries. It redefines evaluating the foot as an indication of the horse’s development and athleticism, both normal and abnormal. And it suggests that "normal" may not look like what we have been studying in textbooks all these years.

This is the most in-depth treatise on imbalance in the modern horse that has been written. The author perceives the hoof as the dynamic structure that is the great equalizer (or victim, in some cases) of asymmetric weightbearing, gait and conformational challenges from above, and suggests how to recognize problems that can be corrected and compensate for those that cannot.

Chapters: Anatomy (40 pages), Hoof Balance Revealed, Anterioposterior Balance, "Odd But Normal" Hooves, Mediolateral Hoof Balance, The Crooked Horse, Farriery in Practice.

From a subscriber who bought one of the first copies: "The book I bought from you at the meeting (Farriery: The Whole Horse Concept by Gill) is a very good book and I'm reading it cover-to-cover. It is very succinct and the illustrations are excellent. References cited in the book are current and reflect the author's obvious study of leading edge research."

The illustrations are excellent. Whether you agree with the author or not, you will admit that this book diagrams functional hoof anatomy at a level not available to us before. As with our other new book, Hoof Problems by Rob Van Nassau, I wish the illustrations were available in a cd-rom archive for educators (and journal editors).

Introductory Price: $80 (subject to change) plus post
Postage: USA $6, Overseas $15; actual cost will vary by country and may not be insurable.
Specs: 7.5 x 10" with 146 pages, laminated hard cover
Illustrations: over 200 (estimated) color photographs and drawings
Availability: Now in Stock
Click here for a faxable/mailable order form.
Click here to visit our web page on this book.
You may order by phone (01 978 281 3222), by fax (01 978 283 8775); by email ( or by mail (Hoofcare & Lameness Journal, 19 Harbor Loop, Gloucester MA 01930 USA). Visa and MasterCard accepted.
The author is meticulous about the fresh specimen prepared for his photos. He used mostly white feet. All the photos of cadaver limbs are identified as such, and all photos of limbs have been vignetted so there is no distracting background except when living horses are shown. This photo of the laminae making their hairpin turn at the heel is coupled with a photo of a corn seen from the solar surface.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

New "Duplo" German Horseshoes: The Concept is Change

The foot surface of the German Duplo shoe.

Something else to be thankful for this Thanksgiving weekend: clever people keep trying to build a better horseshoe so I always have fodder for articles.

I think mousetraps are over-rated. The horseshoe is certainly the world's great design-improvement challenge. The latest new shoe concept to catch my eye is the "Duplo" shoe, a fine example of German engineering, and the latest entry in the 3-D horseshoe design challenge.

Before I even looked at this shoe, I was sidetracked by the sizing system. They make two models: round and oval, which roughly translate to front and hind. And each shape comes in 13 different sizes...and the company apologizes for not having shoes big enough for some warmbloods and draft horses.

I know the Germans like to be precise; the diameter increases by 4 millimeters from one size to the next. (For the metrically challenged, that's about 3/16" increments.)

The choices don't stop there: the 26 sizes are available in three hardnesses. (I can see some of the farrier suppliers starting to twitch now.) So now we are up to 78 possible configurations of this shoe. There are also winter models and closed therapeutic models, so I think that must take them well over 100 models and sizes.

Another interesting thing is that this is a plastic shoe with a metal insert for stability. The horseshoe is made of soft plastic, which is cast around a plate of laser-cut sheet-metal. This metal insert provides purchase for the nail heads.

This view shows the height of the teeth that grip the wall. This is the foot surface of the shoe.

But the piece de resistance of out-of-the-box thinking is that there are no clips. Instead, the profile is textured or "studded" on the foot surface to prevent slippage. Any "studs" (more like teeth) close to the sole can be ground down. The thicker the hoof wall, the more rows of studs (teeth) you'd leave in the shoe.

And the manufacturer says that the nail holes are "punched" perpendicular to the white line. I've read the literature about the shoe but I'm still foggy on this one. (Do the nails come back out?) There's also an inverse inner plastic rim.

Hubert Frank, the shoe's designer, is a farrier in Germany and he has managed to engineer a shoe that goes where none has gone before. His intriguing horseshoe concept is not a prototype; it is for sale in Germany. I wish him and all the other innovators out there the best of luck. Keep the ideas coming!

Note: Hubert's website is: is in German, French and English.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thankful Thoughts: Veteran Farrier Joe Kriz Sr. Loses Lower Leg But Keeps on Going

Thanksgiving makes you stop and think. You look around the table and see the ghosts of those who aren’t in their seats. Or maybe there is no table this year at all. It’s a good idea to stop and give thanks for those are there, those who make your world what it is, and those who have inspired you to keep going, whether they are at the table or not.

For me, a lot of thanks go to the older citizens of the horse world and especially the older farriers who have inspired me so much by sharing stories and encouragement and being my friends.

The two gentlemen in this photo are great examples. On the left you see Bob Skradzio from Pennsylvania. No one works harder than Bob, and no one has more energy left at the end of the day to share with younger people. I had the honor of hosting a clinic for farriers this summer with Bob in Saratoga Springs, New York. Bob seemed to know instinctively how to approach the farriers and push their buttons in a kindly way. His stories are legendary but his kindness and generosity to farriers is so inspiring.

One horseshoer said he wondered why I was walking the backside at the track with a grumpy old man at my side. The next day, he was shaking my hand and saying “Thank you so much for introducing me to Bob Skradzio.”

I’m thankful that I know Bob.

And then there’s Joe Kriz about whom it can be said: it’s hard to keep a good man down. The most-photographed Connecticut farrier and poster boy for Capewell Horse Nails is now 91 years old and recently had to take a break from his lively life as America’s Senior Farrier. Joe told me the other day that he has had an operation to amputate the lower part of one of his legs.

Translation: Joe Kriz has been forced into retirement. He has stopped shoeing horses, at the age of 91. Was he the oldest working farrier? His son, Joe Kriz Jr. says that his dad has been fitted with a prosthesis and has already gotten a scooter and is down at the barn and zooming to the mailbox each day.

Some advice: hide the keys to the shoeing truck.

Joe, along with his late brother Johnny, probably trained more farriers than anyone in the USA in the second half of the 20th century. Among his former assistants: Michael Wildenstein, farrier instructor at Cornell, and Siggi Siggurdsen from Iceland, who gave such a great presentation at Cornell last weekend. And a long, long list of others.

Join me in wishing Joe the best; send a card or message to Joe Kriz Sr., 7 Bear Hill Road, Bethany CT 06525.

Who’s on your thankful list?

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Les Quatre Ecoles: The Turkey Alternative for the Jet Set

As you sit down to the traditional turkey and pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce this Thursday, consider that it will be a historical day for the world of classical equestrianism.

They are calling it "Les Quatre Ecoles d'Art Equestre à Paris". In Paris, France, the four leading international schools of horsemanship will demonstrate their skills under the same roof, at the same time. France's Cadre Noir cavalry from Saumur, the Spanish Riding School lipizzaners from Vienna, the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art (Jerez, Spain) and the School of Portuguese Equestrian Art of Lisbon, Portugal (Lusitanos) will send their best riders and horses to demonstrate the airs above the ground and the unique training approach each school brings to its equally unique horses.

Football will be far from their minds.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Job Announcement: Research Opportunity in England

Myerscough College in England is offering a research studentship leading to the award of a University of Central Lancashire Master of Science by Research (MSc by Research). The research topic area is: "relationship between the physical characteristics of equine sports surfaces and equestrian performance".

The studentship is planned to run for a period of 12 months. The successful applicant will be expected to base his / her studies at Myerscough College and will join the existing staff research team in their respective areas of work.

More details are available at:

Closing date: 07 December 2007

Photo of Blue Hors Matine's hooves making good use of the excellent arena surface at the 2006 World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany by Kip Houghton, courtesy of FEI.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

German Court Rules in Favor of Hoof Trimmers; New Federal Law May Be Affected

The full impact of a German court ruling announced yesterday is difficult to understand but I will tell you what little I know. As I announced in my presentation at the laminitis conference in Palm Beach two weeks ago, a major governmental change has been planned for the farrier profession in Germany, a country where regulations are part of professional life.

Until now, farriers have been educated like blacksmiths, under the metal trades division of the labor force in Germany. After completing blacksmithing training, farrier candidates then go on to horseshoeing school.

Current German law defines farriery as the application of steel (metal) shoes with nails.

As I understand it, when barefoot hoof trimming began to gain popularity in Germany, trimmers could practice without any standards or regulations because they were technically not covered by any law; i.e., they didn't use shoes or nails. A second group of professionals, called "soft shoers" also sprang up. These people were sympathetic to barefoot principles but saw the need for shoes in some cases; these semi-farriers also worked outside the law and the requirements of formal farrier education by applying only hoof boots, plastic or aluminum shoes or by glueing shoes.

All that was to end now. Under a new law, anyone engaged in the care of hooves would be grouped together under an agricultural profession and all would be educated under one system. In addition to anatomy, horse physiology, hoof function, etc. all would demonstrate proficiency in traditional shoeing, soft shoeing and barefoot trimming. Everyone would be technically capable of shoeing a horse, even if he or she chose not to.

The government approved the new professional structure, but the barefoot trimmers and soft shoers sued the government, claiming the law was unconstitutional because it forced them to learn forging skills, which they would not use.

Martin Schenk of the Erster Deutscher Hufbeschlagschmiede Verband e. V. (EDHV or "German Farriers Association") has been very helpful to Hoofcare and Lameness for the past two years with translations and interpretations of the law through the government system. Formation of the law began with open meetings with all three professions invited; from what I was told when I was in Germany a year ago, very little input was received from the shadow professions, yet a curriculum evolved that included and respected their skill sets.

Martin writes in an email today, "One of the arguments of the German Constitutional Court judgment is: If the person is only trimming hoofs it would be an 'over-qualification' to ask the person to learn shoeing. We just got the statement from the court yesterday, but we will have it checked with our lawyers first before we can give any statements. The German Federal Ministry for Agriculture is responsible to take further actions. They also just got the judgement yesterday. They now check if the law will just be altered or if we get a new law. But now it is definitely too early to give any statements."

Well-known dressage farrier Uwe Lukas, who is director (head officer) of EDHV, concurred with Martin's evaluation of the situation in a separate email.

In Great Britain, hoof trimmers are also allowed to work because of a technical loophole in the farrier law, which makes it illegal only to apply a shoe. Trimming and applying alternative shoes are not covered by the law. Only a registered farrier can nail on shoes, in most legal situations. However, in Great Britain hoof trimmers have been prosecuted for animal cruelty in the way that some cases of laminitis were handled.

Where farriers are regulated, they are protected by law in some instances, and have their arms tied by law in some other instances. What may be most important to consider is how legal and educational standards may affect the decision of young people to enter the hoofcare professions at all. Why go to the effort of a long apprenticeship to learn traditional shoeing? On the other hand, why go the shorter route and learn softshoeing or barefoot trimming if the government may declare that an illegal profession?

Stay tuned for updates from Germany.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Meet Theo; He's a Boot

Ideas just keep coming for what makes a good hoof boot. Here's "Theo", a new boot that comes in kit form from Germany with interchangeable soles (shoes). My German isn't great, but this seems to be a boot for all seasons; on icy days, use the ice shoe, etc. The inventor is Theo Rüspeler, a.k.a. "Das Hufschuhdoktor". (Things always sound so much more impressive in German.) More details to follow; the base of this boot is a detachable shell that might be just the ticket for therapeutic applications, if it is malleable. Has anyone seen one of these up close?

Castle Gift Helps Launch Laminitis Institute at Penn Vet

Here's the official announcement from UPenn about the donation to laminitis research by Mr. and Mrs. Castle:

KENNETT SQUARE, PA --­ The University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine today announced a gift of $1 million from philanthropists Marianne and John K. Castle to support its laminitis research. “We are enormously grateful for the Castles' generosity. Their thoughtful philanthropy leverages two of the University’s strengths, research and the translation of research into medicine for both animals and humans,” said Penn President Dr. Amy Gutmann.

In speaking about the gift, Mr. Castle said, “Marianne and I are thrilled to be able to support Dr. Orsini and the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in their research. Our hope is that the knowledge acquired will be important in helping both animals and humankind."

In addition to funding research in laminitis, the Castles’ gift will support the institute directorship, which will be held by Dr. James Orsini, Associate Professor of Surgery at Penn Vet’s New Bolton Center campus. In 2001, Dr. Orsini founded the First International Conference on Laminitis and Diseases of the Foot, building on his many years of experience treating patients afflicted with this condition. The biennial conference is funded in large part by the Castles, in memory of their beloved horse Spot, who died from laminitis.

“John and Marianne Castle have been long-time champions of advancing laminitis research,” said Dr. Orsini. “Their magnanimous support has been vital in the progress made to date. We are excited about the new opportunities this gift provides to make significant inroads into understanding this disease and translating that research into new ways to treat and prevent laminitis.”

When fully funded, the institute will include new research laboratories, funding for research projects at Penn Vet, and in collaboration with other institutions, a home-care treatment model, support for student research opportunities, and improved clinical facilities. “The Castles’ generosity will allow us take a significant step forward in creating a research institute dedicated to sharing and advancing the breadth of knowledge about this deadly condition,” said Dr. Joan C. Hendricks, the Gilbert S. Kahn Dean of Veterinary Medicine.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Michael Dickinson Turns to Artificial Surface Duties, Will End Training Efforts

One of the world's great racing personalities will change his role in 2008. Trainer Michael Dickinson, the celebrity trainer of Maryland's Fair Hill complex, will devote fulltime efforts to the sales and development of his Tapeta racing surface business, according to an article posted on today. Tapeta is now in use in five countries around the world. Dickinson has long been a champion of safer all-weather training surfaces and went to work to prove to the world that horses can train and run more safely by developing his own formula and engineering system. “I have been concerned for some time about the welfare of horses racing on unsuitable surfaces and really want to repay the horse in my own small way,” Dickinson’s statement said. A native of Yorkshire, England, Dickinson trained the first five finishers in England's 1983 Cheltenham Gold Cup. In the U.S., he established Tapeta Farm in Maryland. Dickinson’s most acclaimed training feat came when he conditioned 1996 Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Da Hoss to a repeat win in that race’s 1998 renewal at Churchill Downs, after a two-year layoff. Da Hoss was plagued with so many training setbacks while on the comeback trail that most trainers would have relinquished the notion of bringing him back to the races. Da Hoss is familiar to Hoofcare and Lameness readers because the game colt raced his entire career with only half a coffin bone in one of his front feet. Michael Dickinson is an eccentric personality known as "the mad genius". His turf training system includes strips of hilly terrain. He drives next to the galloping horses in his Range Rover and shouts encouragement as he observes the horses closely. He feeds his horses special treats like Guiness stout, free-range eggs, and organic grass--among other things--and may be remembered a few years ago for striding boldly out into the middle of Churchill Downs before the Kentucky Derby to personally check the surface before allowing his colt Tapit to run. Dr. George Pratt, a noted engineering professor at MIT who is a specialist in impact surface reaction forces (especially for racetracks), assessed Dickinson's Tapeta surface and noted that horses working on the Tapeta™ surface experience one-half the impact as compared to running on a conventional surface. He said "It's like running on a living room rug." Dickinson is so confident of the surface that if a horse has a chip, fracture, or quarter crack while in training at Tapeta™ Farm, he will pay for the surgery to be done at the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center. Racing needs Michael Dickinson. I wish he could be cloned. Good luck to one of my heroes!

University of Minnesota's Leatherdale Equine Center Opens

Click here to view a sound-enhanced slide show from today's Star-Tribune newspaper in Minneapolis-St. Paul, showing the features of the recently-opened Leatherdale Equine Center at the University of Minnesota.

Click here to read the supporting article.

Directed by muscle disorder expert Dr. Stephanie Valberg, the new center is a complete diagnostic and treatment center specializing in equine sports medicine.

In spite of harsh winters, equestrian activities are growing in Minnesota and the new center reflects the demand for state of the art veterinary care in the region. Minnesota has the tenth largest horse population of the 50 U.S. states.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Life Imitates Art: World Championship Blacksmiths Pitch Their Tent in Massachusetts

Maybe it was my head cold, but it seemed like a tableau off the wall of a British art gallery. I had just finished selecting a series of Murfin paintings for the next issue of Hoofcare and Lameness; they depict the sights and sweats of the Shire Horse Show shoeing competition held in Peterborough, England each March.

On Friday, the paintings seemd to come alive right in front of me when the World Championship Blacksmiths Competition passed through western Massachusetts; they pitched their big yellow tent at our regional all-breed, all-sport horse fair, Equine Affaire. I was able to drop in for a few minute minutes between sniffles and sneezes.

Both the name recognition factor of the competitors and the geography represented were impressive. Also impressive was the lineup of farriers on the spectator side of the "caution" tape line, the announcer (New Mexico farrier and WCB front man Craig Trnka) and the judge, Billy Crothers of Wales.

Probably my favorite part was the blasting music. Who couldn't smile when you walk up to a big yellow tent full of blazing coal forges and hear Johnny Cash singing "Ring of Fire"? Maybe it was my cold medicine, but I swear the hammers were swinging to the beat.

My heart skipped a beat a little as I looked around and saw what was missing. My late great friend, New York farrier (and tireless competitor) Vern Hornquist, would have been front and center in a very big way at this event. Vern, as many of you know, died a few years ago.

Note: World Championship Blacksmiths is a private corporation producing regional forging competitions around the USA. I believe this was their fourth event, leading up to a national championship to be held in Tampa, Florida in February. Anyone wishing to compete may join the organization and admission seemed to be free for spectators.

About the paintings: These Murfin images are posted for viewing on this blog only. You may double click on the image to see a larger version. You can see more from this series in the next issue of Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. No downloading or reproduction of these images without permission of Hoofcare Publishing and the artist. They are protected by both British and American copyright.

Icelandic Hoof Interlude at Cornell: Sigurdsson Tolts On

Rider Sigurdur Oli Kristinsson, farrier Sigurdur Sigurdsson, and Cornell's Michael Wildenstein pose with a furry Icelandic horse (don't call them ponies!) after an in-depth seminar on shoeing and gait adjustment on the Icelandic horse. The farrier speaker brought a top rider with him to illustrate the fine points of gaiting the fast little island-bred horses that have become very popular in the United States. Below are the finished front feet on this horse. The fine art of adjusting a horse's gaits was covered; the Icelandic horse has five natural gaits, including the four-beat "tolt" which can be trotty or pacey. Adjusting shoe weight behind or in front can have a big effect on the horse's tolt, as illustrated by Siggy and Siggy on two horses worked on the indoor matted horse run at Cornell. The farrier's job is to make sure that the tolt is a true four-beat gait. "Siggy Sig" is director of hoofcare studies at Holar University College, Iceland and is very active as a rider in international competition. Many farriers from the Northeast attended to learn about these horses that are showing up in their practices. It was an outstanding presentation; it's a rare treat to see a farrier pleased enough with his work to ride the horse and there were many points that would have been valuable for trainers or farriers. No one in the audience could say "been there, done that". You know it's a good clinic when I'm not the only one taking photos.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

UPenn's Rob Sigafoos Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

America's "Mad Scientist" of farriery received the lifetime achievement award at the Fourth International Equine Conference on Laminitis and Diseases of the Foot in West Palm Beach, Florida on Saturday. Sigafoos's career has spanned more than 20 years of innovative thinking that culminated in his important role in the team working on Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro during the colt's long stay at the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center, where Sigafoos has been staff farrier for more than 20 years.

Among Sigafoos's many contributions to veterinary medicine and farriery have been pioneering the use of PMMA adhesives like "Equilox", glue-on shoes with cloth cuffs, external fixator braces, and many innovative cast and brace designs for orthopedic cases.

If there are giants in the farrier world, Rob is one. He-who-hates-nails changed the way we approach therapeutic options for hoof conditions, and showed us all how to think way outside the box.

Congratulations, Rob!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Million-Dollar Gift from Marianne and John Castle Will Boost Laminitis Research

Several major news stories are in development this morning as I have just returned from the Fourth International Equine Conference on Laminitis and Diseases of the Foot in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Complete details will follow, but let me be hopefully the first to announce to the world that Mr. and Mrs. John Castle of New York, New York and Palm Beach, Florida stunned the audience at the conference with the announcement that they will donate one million dollars to Dr. James Orsini's new Laminitis Institute at the University of Pennsylvania for the study of the causes and treatment of laminitis in the horse.

A more formal article will follow, but I wanted to share the great news!

Some background information on the laminitis initiatives at UPenn are outlined in this file.

Farrier Profiled in Video: Australia's Melbourne Cup Will be Run in the Shadow of Equine Influenza Crisis a State Away

It's Melbourne Cup week at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne, in the Australian state of Victoria, where the equine influenza (EI, or "horse flu") outbreak that has paralyzed New South Wales and Queensland has (so far) not erupted.

Several of Australia's top horses are unable to compete because they cannot be transported out of New South Wales. Runners from Europe and Japan have been affected by quarantines as well, or fear the odds of entering the country. Last year the race was won by a Japanese horse.

But the race, made so famous to foreigner through the legend of the great Australian superhorse Phar Lap, will go on. (You may remember how cruel stewards at Flemington kept piled lead on the gifted horse to "equalize" the rest of the field.) Many top stables and racetracks are located in Victoria and South Australia. Horse that were in Victoria when the crisis began just stayed there.

The Australian Broadcast Corporation has posted a very good video profile of farrier Vaughn Ellis from Victoria and his life as a farrier on and off the racetrack. It's worth a look, and American farriers will chuckle when they see him opening a box from the USA as the narrator describes the hardship of Australian farriers, who depend on foreign manufacturers for almost everything they use.

Vaughn is not being hit too hard by the flu crisis, since it has not hit Victoria, but he does remark that he has fewer horses to shoe because the horses from Sydney are unable to come to Victoria for the spring racing season. (Australia, being in the Southern hemishere, is enjoying spring now.)

Try clicking on this type to go to the video. This is a very nice piece and is blessedly free of the sentimentality and cliches that usually mar profiles of professional farriers.

Legal strings with ABC forbid posting the video on this blog. To watch the video you need to click on the highlighted type to the right of the main text and under the photo of the horse hanging his head over a stall door.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Breakdowns Mar First Weeks of Racing on Santa Anita 's New Artificial Surface

The Daily Racing Form is reporting that 11 horses have been euthanized since September 24 at California's Santa Anita racetrack near Los Angeles. The fall "Oak Tree" meet is the first to be run on Santa Anita's new Cushion Track surface and also the first to be run there there since the state of California passed a rule banning toe grabs on front raceplates.

Five horses have died during training and six horses have died during races. The latest death is a three-year-old maiden filly.