Friday, November 12, 2010

After 26 Years of Excellence, Cornell Vet School Cancels Farrier Conference

The greatest tradition in continuing professional education for farriers in the world ended last week with an announcement from Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.

The university said that the 27th Cornell Farriers Conference, scheduled for this weekend, had been canceled.

Held in the highest esteen and featuring stellar farrier and veterinarian speakers in a world-class academic environment, the conference attracted a list of the virtual "who's who" of the farrier academic world over the years while sticking to a strict education-only policy that was embraced by attendees and supported by sponsors and trade show exhibitors.

A quick check of the (incomplete) files here shows the speakers over the years to have included Mark Aikens, Mike Ball, Philippe Benoit, Roy Bloom, Dan Bradley, Doug Butler, Christina Cable, Mark Caldwell, Victor Camp, Hans Castilijns, Brent Chidsey, Jacqueline Cilley, Meredith Clarke,  Buster Conklin, Janet Douglas, Dave Duckett, David Farley, Gene Fletcher, Laura Florence, Don Gustafson, Chris Gregory, David Hood, Vern Hornquist, Betsy Keller, Steve Kraus, Scott Lampert, Jeffrey LaPoint, Jack Lowe, Neil Madden, Bruce Matthews, Kelly McGhee, Myron McLane, Dallas Morgan, Scott Morrison, Tia Nelson, Charley Orlando, Andrew Parks, Bob Pethick, Chris Pollitt, Haydn Price, Jeremy Rawlinson, Pat Reilly, Dave Richards,  Mike Savoldi, Judith Shoemaker, Rob Sigafoos, Sigurdur Sigurdsson, Meike Van Heel, Gary Werner, and Pamela Wilkins.

Over the years, I became very interested in the history of Cornell's vet school and especially the many ways that farriery (and farriers) had always been deeply integrated into the veterinary education program. I was surprised to find out that the farrier department had once even endorsed a brand of horseshoes in an ad in the Horseshoers Journal. Did you know that Cornell once was the home of fine Percheron horses?
Farriery has been an integral part of Cornell's veterinary school since its inception and Cornell opened a much-heralded school to educate farriers in 1914. The opening of the school was the front page story of the Horseshoers Journal. Instructors of farriery at the vet school have been leaders of farrier education ever since, in particular professor Henry Asmus, whose work was published by the US government and distributed to horse owners and farmers all over the nation in the 1920s and 1930s.
Michael Wildenstein, who led the farrier program at Cornell until August of this year, took up Asmus as a role model and built up the conference to bring in leading lecturers from all over the world. He took pride in the number of repeat attendees at the conference, who returned year after year after year, and said that these people were the best-educated farriers in America because of their exposure to the talented and generous speakers who had been part of the conferences.

In the lighter-fare Saturday night programs at Cornell, farriers raised money for memorials, auctioned things off (like Professor Chris Pollitt's Australian Akubra hat), read poetry, tossed horseshoes and anvils, told stories about their mentors,  played instruments and sang  (among many unforgettables: a farrier opera singer, the Welsh national anthem a cappella, and three Australians who sang a "Waltzing Matilda" chorale), and there was even an Anvil Chorus karaoke one year.

I don't know what I'll do this weekend.

But I would like to thank Cornell for the 20 or so conferences that I attended. I can't think of any event that was so educational, where I learned so much, felt so welcomed, or looked forward to so much.

I will especially remember using the incredible Flower Sprecher Library at the vet school, and walking through the rows of shelves, finding farriers on their hands and knees reading books (old and new), or making copies of pages of books, or using computers to find articles and search databases. Cornell really did open its doors to farriers for that weekend each year. It was a gift and I hope you were able to benefit from it, in some way, while it lasted. I know I did, in a big way.

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Anonymous said...

Why did Cornell cancel the farrier conference?

Heidi Meyer said...

Why did they cancel it?

Me said...

The Cornell Farrier Conference was canceled this year only, due to lack of sufficent numbers for pre-registration. The conference will resume next year, with a full program. I think Fran was not clear about this temporary cancellation.

Steve Kraus, Resident Farrier Cornell Veterinary College

Fran Jurga said...

I hope Steve is correct and that the uiversity will announce a date, speakers and format for a 2011 event immediately.

This year's (2010) event was canceled before the registration deadline had been reached. With such an expensive registration fee, many people do not register in advance. There was also an option to register on the day of the event, so it is impossible to know how many people may have been planning to attend.

If a minimum attendance was required in order to hold the event, that was not clear on the registration form/brochure.

Stephanie Specchio, Director of Communications, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University said...

Thank you for your positive comments about Cornell’s long-standing farrier conference. We are very pleased that you found the conference to be a valuable addition to your professional development activities. I am happy to share that Steve is correct: we will reinstate the conference in 2011. The exact dates have not been selected, but I will be sure to let you know as soon as possible. We look forward to presenting an exciting and educational conference for many years to come.