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Sunday, December 14, 2008

AAEP Convention Report: Hoof Dudes, Unite

There must have been something in the water. Or maybe it was in the tequila. But the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) Convention, held in San Diego, California, last week was an escapist's dream. Five days of lectures, a huge trade show, a beautiful city, great food and drink, but most of all, a collection of interesting people from all stripes and ranks within the horse health and husbandry worlds made last week one of the most memorable conferences I've attended.

They streamed in and out of the Hoofcare and Lameness booth: veterinarians, farriers, vet techs, practice managers, hoof trimmers, educators, researchers, therapists, chiropractors, authors, journalists, photographers, artists, spouses, ex-spouses, significant others, old friends, new acquaintances and even a Dachshund from Arizona. Seldom was heard a discouraging word.

I hadn't expected the convention to be so upbeat. I flew in from the land of gloom and doom, where falling real estate values and collapsing stock prices have convinced everyone that the End is Near. I wasn't expecting people to be generous and supportive and so very friendly. What a wonderful surprise!

I would like to thank everyone who visited the booth, everyone who worked so hard to present their finest information and images from the stage, and especially the AAEP for hosting this event in the right city for this year. Warm and sunny and relaxed was the perfect recipe.

Special thanks go to our friends at Vettec for sponsoring our California-themed "Hoof Dude" unofficial convention guide. It had tips and schedules designed just for people who were interested in hoof-related information.

The AAEP again hosted a sub-conference for farriers. I can't estimate how many farriers were there because, as was the case in San Antonio, a lot of the people in the lecture hall were vets, which is encouraging. I did see a lot of farriers in the trade show, and met some from California that I might otherwise never have known.

Special thanks to everyone who came up and opened a conversation with the kind words, "I read your blog every day!" and especially to the one who said, "I check your blog before I eat breakfast."

I have more friends out there than I could ever know about, since I really have no way of tracking who reads this blog, or how many read it. I can only keep count of the "unique visitors" who actually go to the blog's web site (vs those uncounted legions who read it by RSS, email, and on various feeds like the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance) and I'm thrilled to report that the uniques passed 150,000 (cumulative) while I was in San Diego. I'm stunned. (Thank you to Big Brown, Barbaro, and Molly the Pony--three lame horses who have fascinated the public and brought thousands and thousands of people to this blog to learn more about how and why the three horses had such problems.)

The AAEP convention is the end of the conference year. It is the single biggest and most expensive event on the Hoofcare and Lameness calendar each year, and it is often difficult to pull it off when it is a few days after Thanksgiving, or when the trade show budget is being scraped as clean as a cookie batter bowl.

In December 2009, the AAEP travels to Las Vegas for the first time, where it will share the big bright city with the National Finals Rodeo (NFR). Hoofcare and Lameness already has a booth reserved.

My red-eye flight home landed in Massachusetts just a few hours before the worst ice storm in recent history hit the region. I feel a bit of survivor guilt, since the storm was mostly rain here on the coast, although the power did go out and is still out just a few miles from here. People are in the dark in their cold houses tonight as I write this.

It seems impossible that I could have been standing under a palm tree just a few days ago. I hope I can share with you some of the rays of sunshine that spill from my notebook, even if it is hard to type with gloves on.

Please keep the cold New Englanders in your thoughts, especially those who can't and won't leave their animals to get to a warm, safe place. It's not warm here. There are no palm trees. But it's home.

© 2008 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, www.hoofcare.com, where many educational products and media related to equine lameness and hoof science can be found.

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