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Monday, September 26, 2011

Friends at Work: Will Hellyer Shoes a Real Shire for Virtual Farmers

Shoeing a Shire horse isn't easy. Neither is describing the process in a little more than a minute but The Farm's "Head Girl" Emma Warner did it.

Yesterday The Hoof Blog commiserated with a researcher who had to explain insulin resistance and its role in equine laminitis in less than three minutes.  Who knew an academic could avoid all the big words and cut to the chase?

Today I was thinking that it's equally hard to explain what a farrier is doing as s/he shoes a horse. And I found someone who did it in a minute and a half. "Head Girl" (that's British for horse manager) Emma Warner had some very good video editing behind her voiceover to make it possible. And in doing it, she manages to avoid many of the cliches and misused terms that many journalists and broadcasters inevitably--and understandably--garble.

Virtual farmers make the decision at a web-managed farm
Farrier Will Hellyer is hard at work on one of the Shire horses at the National Trust’s "MyFarm" project at the 2500-acre Wimpole Estate in Cambridgeshire, England, where over 250,000 visitors a year get up close and personal with farm animals, including many from rare species, on a "real" working farm. They also have the option of joining the farm and can become virtual decision-makers on how the farm is run. It's a very interesting way to use the Internet, and would be a great model for a show or racehorse stable, too.

I became aware of the farm in July when they set up a web cam in the stall of a Shire mare who was about to foal. I thought it would be exciting for people to follow the birth and encouraged people via Twitter to tune in.

Equus Giganticus subsp. shire
The Shire is one of two native heavy horse breeds in England; the Suffolk is the other. Shires are traditionally shod with toe clips. Photo by Lars Lundqvist.

It turned out to be something quite different than what any of us imagined. The foal never took a breath after it emerged from the womb and the experience of watching the process turned out not to be the idyllic, joyful one people expected, but rather the hard, cold realism of life (and death) on a real farm, after all.

The farm said that 800 people were watching at the time.

Watching how the farm handled the publicity over the foal's death was interesting, as the public expressed a wide variety of opinions and reactions, thanks to the open book of social media. The farm seemed to post any and all comments, and take the critical ones in stride.


© Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing; Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. Please, no use without permission. You only need to ask. 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. Questions or problems with this blog? Send email to  
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