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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Heart-Bars in Heaven: George Platt DVM Has Died

Heart-bars in heaven: George Platt DVM and farrier Burney Chapman waged war against laminitis from one end of the United States to the other. Credit for their remarkable success rate was always modestly given to the only physical symbol of their treatment, the heart-bar shoe. The shoe inadvertently became a talisman of good or evil, depending on where you stood, and evidence to insurers that severe laminitis wasn't always a death sentence.  (© Hoofcare + Lameness file photo)

Dr. George Platt has died.

The legendary veterinarian who spent most of his career fighting the disease of equine laminitis suffered a stroke in late August and died this afternoon.

If you have ever seen, or touched, or made or used a heart-bar shoe,  George Platt had a part in it. The Texas veterinarian teamed up with horseshoer Burney Chapman in the 1970s and together they experimented with treatments for laminitis. They found the heart-bar shoe in an old textbook and gave it a try; the rest is history.

George Platt in 2009
That history was recorded in 1984, at the 30th Annual Convention of the American Association of Equine Practitioners. Platt and Chapman presented the heart-bar shoe as the centerpiece of their treatment protocol which they documented as successful in rehabilitating a long list of cases referred to Platt by insurance companies.

George Platt's specialty, for many years, was answering the challenge of bringing these high-profile racehorses or show horses back from the near-dead. A broken neck in a skiing accident slowed him down for a while and he made a comeback as a lecturer and clinician because he felt the need to keep the heart-bar shoe front-and-center after Burney Chapman's death, and to clear up many of the misunderstandings about its use. But he ended up back in practice in the mountains of Colorado, where he told me he intended to just be a "ski bum". But he couldn't resist working on horses.

A few years ago, George posed for an over-exposed veterinarian fundraising calendar for an animal shelter in Vail. He was at least twice the age of most of the vets who posed--but he stole the show.
He received the "Veterinarian of the Year" Award this year from the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association, and it was one of many accolades to add to his long list.

Dr. George Platt (right) with farrier Eddie Watson (left) explaining heart-bar shoes at the 1992 American Farrier's Association Convention. Their collaboration sent Platt off to write a paper for Hoofcare + Lameness on using heart bar shoes for heel pain, which was quite a radical proposition in those days.

In looking through a file of letters from him, I'm struck by how many times he said "Just kidding!", both as he wrote humorously and as he spoke.

The last letter I received from him is undated. It says: "This is it: I can't explain how to fit a heart bar but I can show anyone how to." And that's what he did. 

I was lucky to have George Platt as a friend. He was a staunch and generous supporter of Hoofcare Publishing; all his contributions, of course, were about heart-bar shoes.

I have to say that he, as much or more than any one individual, changed the course of the way that farriers and veterinarians work alone and together when he teamed up with Burney Chapman.

People are always quick to give George Platt credit for the heart-bar shoe because he was the very first to lecture on it. He and Burney Chapman did much more than wake a horseshoe up and dust it off: They either launched the beginning of a new age or they opened a Pandora's box. Even 25 years later, it is too soon to tell which, but how many horses have benefited in the meantime?

George Platt wasn't one to sit around and wonder what the historians would have to say about him and his ideas on laminitis. He knew what he'd accomplished in his decades of trying to stop laminitis from taking horses' lives.

He might not be able to explain it, but he could show you how it's done. 

And he did. Thank you, George Platt.

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1 comment:

Jack Millman said...

Both George and Burney were good friends to me.
It is sad to see an era disappearing but heartening to know the legacy that they have left us.
Both of these men were so sincere in their desire to help horses their owners get through a difficult disease.
I am very proud to have known and learned from both George and Burney.
Jack Millman