Friday, January 03, 2014

What You Read: Most Popular Hoof Blog Stories of 2013

There are lots of ways of looking at a horse's foot. The Hoof Blog offered a lot of them in 2013. Some were more popular than others. What were your favorites? And what kind of a screen did you use to view them?
As the new year begins, it's time to pause and think about the way this news comes to you. This article is #1501 published since 2005. It's time to stop and thank all of you who read here regularly, and thank you for your interest in "hoofish" matters and this blog's eclectic approach to presenting the news.

Have you ever wondered what stories on this blog resonate with other readers, or with the wider public out there who wander in when a hoof story strikes their fancies? How do your own favorites stack up against the public's use of this site?

As I started to analyze the 2013 statistics with Google Analytics software, I wondered if maybe it should have been called the Budweiser Clydesdale Hoof Blog. In February 2013, a series of stories on The Hoof Blog went viral, by hoof world terms, as statistics soared in the days surrounding the Super Bowl.

It was all because the Budweiser 2013 Super Bowl commercial featured a scene with a Clydesdale cantering down a city street.

A Clydesdale cantering on pavement intrigued readers and Super Bowl fans. The Hoof Blog had the story of how it was done...and why it just looks like the horse has shoes on.

Yikes! How could Budweiser show something so unsafe? Those big flat shoes would be slippery, or else the puddles or nuggets of hard-surfacing would jar the colt's soft tissue. We know what comes after that.

As it turned out, the horse wasn't shod. He wore special barefoot hoof covers designed for the shoot by hoof entrepreneur and educator K. C, LaPierre of Florida. And, thanks to KC, the Hoof Blog broke the story.

Two other stories related to the ad also scored very high in our stats for 2013, as Clydesdale fans from all over the world flocked to the site.

Between the Clydesdales and World Champion farrier David Varini, it paid to be from Scotland this year. Varini featured prominently in two top stories, his win at Calgary and his work in helping his client, Muriel Colquhoun, design the ShoeSecure heel guards.

If you weren't from Scotland and you weren't a Clydesdale, it helped if a story was promoting a product. Hallmarq MRI, and Hamilton Biovets' Stayons Poultice overcame any stigma of commercialism by piquing readers' interests. Many thanks to the companies who support the blog via sponsored stories or ads.

For the most part, people liked stories with videos and "eye candy" illustrations and photos, particularly when they pertain to detailed distal limb anatomy or pathology. "Weird and wonderful" hoof photos, such as RT Goodrich's effort to heal the "dimpled" hoof, or the chewed hooves from the "rats in the barn" series scored well.

The Royal Veterinary College of London and the Royal (Dick) Veterinary College in Edinburgh, Scotland ruled the research end of the popular stories, with top scores for digital cushion studies by Sharon Warner and Eugenio Cillán García's paper on analysis of tendon lesions inside the horse's foot.

Here are the top 20 stories for 2013:
  1. Super Bowl Scoop: Hoof Boot Solves Budweiser Clydesdale Safety Concern (with KC LaPierre)
  2. The Helpful Farrier: Dimpled Laminitis Treatment Stirs Facebook Furor and Charitable Shoeing
  3. Name the Budweiser Clydesdale Foal Star of 2013's Super Bowl Commercial
  4. Shoeless Thoroughbred Wins at Keeneland; Track Lists Barefoot Entries as Trainers Experiment with Polytrack Surface Effects on Hoof Slide
  5. Digital Cushion Response to Pressure Tested in Horses vs Elephants at Royal Veterinary College
  6. Hoof Explorer: Discover and Interact with the Horse's Foot in Three Beautiful Dimensions, Online, and For Free
  7. What's Eating These Hooves? Readers' Photos Document Stable Pests Have Hoof Hunger
  8. Rats in the Stable? Check the Horses' Hooves and Your Grandfather's Stable Manual
  9. Badminton Horse Trials' Farrier Prize to the Best Shod Horse 2013 Won by David Smith
  10. The Budweiser Clydesdales 2013 Super Bowl Commercial: Advance Showing on the Hoof Blog
  11. Vet Video: Fractured Pastern Surgically Repaired on Champion St Nicholas Abbey; Details on Work by Irish-American Surgical/Medical Team
  12. Hoofcare History: Japanese Hoof Sandals Gave Horses Removable Traction
  13. Video: Almost Killed with Kindness, an Overweight Pony's Rehabilitation Begins with His Overgrown Hooves
  14. Scotland's David Varini is World Champion Blacksmith (Farrier) at the Calgary Stampede
  15. Hallmarq Standing MRI Presents: Navicular Disease Diagnosis, Then and Now
  16. Lost Shoes Solution: Shoe Secure Keeps Your Horse's Shoes On, World Champion Style
  17. British Farrier Apprentice System Suspended as Training Suffers Negative Government Evaluation
  18. Shoeless and Ageless, Tahoe Warrior Wins at Keeneland
  19. Goof-proof Hoofcare: “StayOns” Instant Hoof Poultice Wraps Simplify the Way You Wrap a Foot
  20. Farriery: More Than Meets the Eye to Duckett's Blindfolded Shoemaking
Two stories about barefoot racehorses brought in readers from both the barefoot scene (although many are already here) and from racing. Videos from World Horse Welfare and Coolmore Stud were very popular.

Google Analytics is a blogmaster's best friend. I know a lot about the people who visit the Hoof Blog, as well as when they visit and how they visit. The most popular cities were London, Los Angeles, Sydney, New York and Melbourne; Brisbane, Dublin, Alexandria (Virginia) and San Francisco were close behind.

But most readers don't live in big cities. They live in the country or suburbs, so the city statistics may not mean much. When it comes to nations, the top ten are: 1. USA; 2. United Kingdom; 3. Canada; 4. Australia; 5. Germany; 6. France; 7. The Netherlands; 8. Sweden; 9. New Zealand and 10. Ireland.

If you looked at the stats over on the Hoofcare and Lameness Facebook page, they tell a very different story. There, the most popular cities are Toronto, Ontario and Lexington, Kentucky. The hoof-eating rat stories are the most popular on Facebook.

Stories like the Budweiser Clydesdales and Badminton Horse Trials bring in readers from outside the usual tribe of professional farriers, vets and hoof trimmers who frequent the blog. 

When it comes to browsers, people visit in almost equal numbers via Safari, Chrome, Internet Explorer and Firefox, in that order; American "desktop" visitors use Comcast as the primary service provider, followed by Verizon.

Readers tend to be male (55%), but they are much less dominant than in the past. The readers are also getting younger: 60% are under the age of 35. Compare that with the Facebook page, where 54% of people who "like" the page are male and under the age of 35, but 76% of the people who interact with news, videos and images are female, and 59% of them are over 35. 

Statistics can be misleading; The Hoof Blog has a steady base of readers with a vested interest in hoofcare but when a story about racing or the Budweiser Clydesdales is picked up by Google News or linked from a major site like the New York Times, the stats are skewed by an influx of people who want to read one story only and may never visit again. They are most welcome, but their statistics are blended in with data on regular readers by default.

What's most interesting is that a full 30 percent of visits to the blog in 2013 was made via a tablet or smartphone; I hope everyone is using the Hoof Blog's "m" site designed for mobile use. The iPhone is by far the device of choice, followed by the iPad, Motorola Droid Razr 4G, Samsung Galaxy SIII and SII. The Google Nexus 7 is new on the stats, and growing quickly. The iPhone was so dominant that if you added up all the Android devices, they would still total less than 20 percent of the iPhones.

But those stats are for the year in total, and include the floods of people who read about the Clydesdales and racing stories. Consider that in the month of December, Android phones climbed in stats to be equal to iPads, and the iPhone is only two percentage points ahead of them.

When people come to The Hoof Blog, they stick around. The "landing page" is the first page visited during a session and people spent an average of 3:27 on that first page. The page in 2013 with the longest duration average visit was RT Goodrich's "swiss cheese hoof" story, with an average visit of 5:46. Time spent watching videos factors into those relatively long visit sessions.
People are always looking for something: 30% of visits included at least one search using the little search tool at the top of the sidebar. People are looking for things as specific as "pictures of hippopotamus hooves", "Swiss cheese hoof", "collateral ligament horse", or "clogs for horses with laminitis". When it comes to people, they are currently looking for Fran Jurga, Rob Renirie, Bob Pethick, Burney Chapman, Hilary Clayton, Cheryl Henderson, Ada Gates, and Dave Duckett, but that can change at any time.

In fact, it has probably already changed in the time that you've been reading this article. That's what the web is all about. It is a changing landscape, and Google Analytics is our field glasses. As we gallop along, the view is fine, thanks to all of you who are out there with us, making it possible and so rewarding.

Thank you, and happy new Hoof Blog year!

Credit: Seven dwarves illustration courtesy of Andrew Tarvin.

© 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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