Monday, November 03, 2008

The Big Event: 25th Cornell Farrier Conference This Week Features Mark Caldwell

by Fran Jurga
Exclusive to Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog; published Novem
ber 2, 2008.

British farrier instructor Mark Caldwell FWCF (Myerscough College and the University of Lancashire) began his lecture once with this slide. He said this was the group of shoes he had made up for the week ahead. Looking at them lying on his shop floor, he realized that there were no normal shoes among them. Was he doing something wrong that the horses he shod required ongoing orthopedic support? (Mark Caldwell photo)

On Saturday and Sunday, November 8-9, Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine will celebrate its 25th annual farrier conference. The college welcomes farriers from all the US and Canada, and provides a first-class setting for a range of speakers and demonstrators.

The two "lead" speakers this year are two farrier instructors from Great Britain, Mark Caldwell and Neil Madden. Both have earned the FWCF level of recognition from the Worshipful Company of Farriers and are currently at work as the instructors of the world's first official Bachelor's degree program in farriery.

Additional speakers are Steve Kraus and Bruce Matthews, along with Cornell's Dr. John Lowe.

On Saturday, Caldwell and Madden will compare video-based gait analysis and sensor-embedded pressure mats to demonstrate hoof balance quantification. Sunday will be a full day of lectures in the high-tech lecture theater.

Cornell is located in Ithaca, New York; it is approximately in the center of the state. There is a very good reason why this conference has succeeded and lasted for 25 years: it is simply excellent. Hoofcare and Lameness is proud to be associated with this event.

Click here for more information or call 607-253-3200 to speak with Amanda Mott about registration. A full conference brochure can be downloaded from the Cornell web site.

Caldwell's lectures can ask as many questions as they answer. Here you see two views of the right front foot a horse brought to him "to be fixed".

I've heard Mark Caldwell speak several times and it's hard to say what the audience at Cornell should expect. I remember one video example shown by Caldwell was a time delay over four strides. As the load came over the medial heel, the medial heel became a fulcrum point around which the hoof rotated outward, slightly.

Video analysis showed that over the four strides of the two-beat gait, synchronization of the loading feet was delayed by .020 seconds. As we all know, synchronicization is crucial to a horse. Without it, he is likely to forge or interfere, or even stumble. At the very least, the horse falls out of the collected frame.

At this point in farrier science, we probably don't know how much variation in timing a horse can compensate. In Caldwell's sample case, by the fourth stride, the horse had to compensate for his imbalance by “hanging” on the left rein while it re-collected itself. With a lot of horses, that's one "long side" of the ring. Horses can get away with a lot and keep trying; it takes an experienced rider (or, sometimes, a bigger arena) to sense what is really going on; a good rider can help a horse.

Caldwell's example makes a good case for not evaluating a horse based on a single isolated stride on high-speed video...or even several strides. Even with the best scientific aids, farriery still requires the art of looking at a horse in motion and recognizing rhythm and cadence, before one can even begin to dissect the horse's problem. You just might look in the wrong place.

Caldwell talks a lot about the marriage of art and science that is necessary for good farriery. His and Madden's lectures at Cornell this weekend should be a great update for new ways to approach studying the hoof.

See you there!

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