The American Farrier's Association's Annual Convention opened this morning here in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I am happy to be lost among the hundreds of farriers here--young and old, from near and far--who are enjoying the trade show, lectures, competitions and, most of all, each other.
Dutch researcher Meike van Heel PhD spoke this morning on biomechanics, and tomorrow finds the University of Georgia's Dr. Andy Parks taking the stage with a new lecture on hoof support. California's Gene Armstrong overcame a technical catastrophe in his lecture today titled something like "Who do you work for? You work for the horse!" and an interesting husband-and-wife combo of Judy and Mike Spitzer discussed training and shoeing the show hunter.
When the doors to the big trade show opened this afternoon, you might have wondered, "What recession?" as farriers gobbled up the new products, including the new-look GE tools, a wedge Vibram hoof pad, free samples of Magic Cushion hoof packing, Double L's new vet line of "DeLuxe" hoof knives from Italy, hot-colored plastic Happy Hoofwear shoes from Florida (Crocs for horses?), and beautiful HC Biovision plastinated hoof tissue models at the Hoofcare and Lameness booth. Delta-Mustad erected their version of the Emerald City from the Wizard of Oz (you could get lost in there!), FPD brought in antique trucks converted to farrier rigs, TracMe shoes offered thoughtful advice on hoof problems, and Stonewell Bodies displayed priceless William Russell shoe cases on loan from horseshoe museum curator Lee Liles.
Dozens of students from Kentucky Horseshoeing School roam the halls, along with a cadre of young farriers (some competing for international honors) from the Japan Farriers Association. I've met farriers from Sweden, Germany, Italy and Great Britain and seen many old friends.
I'm sure something political is going on somewhere, but most of the people here seem oblivious. It's much more fun to tell jokes, slap backs, shake hands very firmly, recite cowboy poetry, and play their guitars, banjos, and mandolins til midnight, as they did on stage last night in a star-studded all-horseshoer "jam" session of folk, blues and country music.
In between all that, the talk is of horses and hooves and how the heck are you, anyway? As always, most look you right in the eye and offer a hand in friendship.
The hotel and the city don't quite now what has hit them, but I'm sure they are enjoying it too.
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