Friday, May 23, 2014

E-Hoof: European Hoofcare Educational Reference Takes Profession to the Next Level is in the launching stage and is available for a ten-day free trial. The massive reference and education site has been under construction for years and Hoof Blog readers are invited to view the English-language site.
This article has been a long time in the making. For years, I have tried to peek behind the curtain while wizards created wonders. Finally, it is time to unveil what is surely the single most ambitious hoof-related education project that anyone has ever undertaken.

What is it? "E-hoof" is, at its core, a subscription-based website created by the vet school faculty at the University of Zurich with the support of 10 national farrier organizations across Europe.

But it's also a course, a reference source, an encyclopedia, a video library and a classroom. Its face is still a little nebulous--will this be perceived as being for veterinarians, for farriers, for horseowners? Will it work for both students and for working professionals? 

Time will tell, but E-hoof is off to a great start.

How well it succeeds will be your determination when you use it, but my guess is that you will use this reference many times, for many things, and in ways that will probably not be obvious until you have explored it for a while.

Created in Switzerland, is a syllabus of farrier and veterinary education related to the hoof and horse subjects on the horse's hoof. It contains more than 100 chapters, covering:
  • general equestrian knowledge (evolution, breeds, colors and markings, feeding etc.), 
  • equine anatomy and biomechanics; 
  • in-depth farriery knowledge (materials and tools, forging techniques, normal and specialized shoeing techniques, health and safety); 
  • and in-depth veterinary knowledge (diseases and disorders of the hoof, lameness examination, diagnostic imaging).
E-hoof's text is illustrated with more than 3,000 photos and drawings, over 50 flash animations and 200 educational films.

A quick slide show of some still images from, which is filled with animation and video, as well.

Users navigate from fact to fact in a linear sequence, as if leafing through a book. Alternatively, the Internet-like navigation allows a targeted search to be made for specific information, or clinical aspects to be interlinked with sections describing horseshoeing techniques.

Where appropriate, links open an integrated anatomy atlas, which contains scientific drawings and a 3-D reconstruction of a distal limb with all its tendons, blood vessels and nerves.

This teaching aid also contains special options including a search engine, a multilingual glossary with over 1,000 hoof and horseshoeing related terms (in English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Swedish, Danish and Czech, no less), an extensive list of literature references with a direct link to the MedLine Pubmed database (National Library of Medicine) and the full script of the learning material.

Now you see why it has taken so many years!

E-hoof screen samples show the depth of information and breadth of just a few of the subjects covered.

At this time, the program is functional except for a few modules, and (best of all) it is free for a ten-day trial period. After that, you will need to subscribe, and there are various levels of investment you can make. The glossary is always free, though not all the terms are defined, and some of the definitions sound awkward; since different terms are used in Europe, such as the obvious references to podotrochlear apparatus and coronary horn, it will come in handy.

You will always access e-hoof through the web, so a good video-capable Internet connection is a mandatory requirement. E-hoof will not work on your smartphone at this time. It does, however, work in a browser app (Safari, Chrome, etc.) on your tablet, assuming you have a broadband or DSL type connection, and plans are for the program to be available in a stick (USB) drive in the future, for offline use or people without broadband access. Note: The project began as a German-language dvd, so be careful in web searches that you specify, so you do not access information either not in English or for a different product.

It wasn't all work and no play backstage during production of e-hoof. Here's a fun and very unofficial glimpse into the production stage of just one of the 200 videos on the site.

Michael Weishaupt at the University of Zurich has been the project leader on e-hoof, which is a joint project of his university, the Swiss Metal Union, and the European Federation of Farrier Associations; Isabel Imboden is the editor.

Educational partners include:
Weishaupt, Imboden and their team deserve praise not only for the high quality of the work but for the depth and breadth of the subject matter. I know that I have only scratched the surface in my description.

E-hoof in English was officially launched this spring in London at the National Equine Forum, where Princess Anne laid first eyes on the English version in a private demonstration, and Isabel Imboden presented highlights of the project from the stage.

Building E-hoof was neither easy nor cheap; efforts benefited from being part of the Leonardo educational stimulus program in Europe, along with private funding from Mustad Hoofcare and Swiss farrier supply house Eurotrade AG.

"She likes it!" Princess Anne (wearing shawl) of Great Britain had a private preview of e-hoof during the National Equine Forum in London this spring. (Craig Payne photo)
With time, this will become something that people use as a defining reference, in spite of the "Euro" differences so obvious to American users. That said, Americans may recognize Swiss farrier and national team member Aaron Gygax in the videos; he was a staff farrier at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital's podiatry center for several years. Among other things, Aaron demonstrates the one-person way to shoe a horse, while other Swiss farriers demonstrate the two-person method. International competition veterans will also recognize world-traveler Ulrich Wenger, a stalwart of the Swiss team since the earliest days of Calgary's world championship.

Isabel Imboden and Michael Weishaupt, both of the University of Zurich's Vetsuisse Faculty Equine Department, lead the e-hoof project from Switzerland. (Fran Jurga photo)
Schools are eligible for a group license, so that students can use it in their coursework. That said, please don't capture images without permission from to use in your presentations or pad your Facebook posts. A legal notice is posted and it sounds like they mean it. Images are watermarked with the © symbol; for this reason, no still images from the program are included in this introduction. I hope you will respect it, too.

Please join me in welcoming to the English-speaking hoofcare universe. It is not every day that a project accomplishes what it sets out to do. It is even more rare when the final product exceeds our expectations, as e-hoof certainly does.

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