Thursday, December 11, 2014

Guest Report: Australia’s 2014 Functional Hoof Conference

by Betsy Lordan, DVM

The second Functional Hoof Conference was held during Melbourne Cup Week (November 6-9, 2014) in Daylesford, Victoria, Australia. The clinic was hosted by a group of hoof care professionals seeking to improve knowledge and understanding of the equine foot and to spark discussions.

To this end, they brought together a selection of international speakers who were experts in equine pathology, biomechanics, lameness and laminitis. The audience included vets, farriers and barefoot trimmers from Australia, New Zealand, Europe and the United States.

Headlining the speaker list was Hilary Clayton, BVMS, PhD, DACVSMR, MRCVS, who until her retirement earlier this year held the Mary Anne McPhail Dressage Chair in Equine Sports Medicine at Michigan State University's College of Veterinary Medicine. The author of four books including Conditioning Sport Horses and The Dynamic Horse, Clayton rides her own horses in grand prix dressage without shoes. She presented her research on limb biomechanics and barefoot trimming.

Andrew van Eps, BVSc, PhD, MACVSc, DACVIM, senior lecturer in equine medicine at the University of Queensland and a protégé of Professor Chris Pollitt of the Australian Equine Laminitis Research Unit presented recent research on laminitis and insulin metabolism.

Each panelist trimmed a cadaver foot and wrote a description of his or her respective technique, which was subsequently presented at the conference.
Deb Taylor, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVIM (LAIM) presented lectures on the physical examination of the equine foot and her current research on the digital cushion. She and her son presented comparative research between human and horse foot biomechanics. Dr. Taylor is a member of the veterinary faculty at Auburn University in Alabama.

Another interesting presenter was Lars Roepstorff, DVM, PhD, lecturer in anatomy and physiology at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala. He served as a consultant for the 2012 London Olympics, advising on surfaces and footings for the show jumping competition. He presented research on the function of the hoof under load and how it interacts with various footings.

Australian farrier Michael Saunders, American hoof trimmer James Welz and Australian veterinarian Luke Wells-Smith during a panel discussion.
Other speakers included Neal Valk, DVM, DACVS a large animal surgeon based in Tennessee who maintains horses in his practice barefoot; Cindy Nielsen, DVM from Nevada who specializes in rehabilitation and management of horses with Equine Metabolic Syndrome and Equine Cushings Syndrome, and Australian equine nutritionist, Carol Layton.

One of the most intriguing parts of the conference for me was the “Table of Trimmings.” A series of farriers and trimmers were selected before the conference; each panelist trimmed a cadaver foot and wrote a description of his or her respective technique, which was subsequently presented at the conference. The feet were freeze-dried and displayed for attendees to examine. The inspiration for this event was “A Table with All the Trimmings” which was run by the American Farriers Association anatomy lab some years ago. 

Australian veterinarian Luke Wells-Smith and American veterinary education Debra Taylor of Auburn University comparing notes using plastic hoof models.
Barefoot trimmer panelists included James Welz from Arizona, Thorsten Kaiser from New Zealand and Rebecca Jacaranda Scott from Australia. Farrier panelists included Craig Jones and Michael Saunders of the 2014 Mustad Australia team, and Luke Wells-Smith, BVSc of Australia’s Equine Podiatry and Lameness Centre.

Farriers Craig Jones and Michael Saunders delivered a powerful lecture demonstrating the importance of examination prior to shoeing and how a shoe could be applied to improve landing patterns and pathologies associated with lameness. While there were similarities between many of the trims, the farriers discussed the reasons why they would choose to shoe a horse over leaving it barefoot. Their lectures covered conformational assessment, lameness and pathologic conditions of the equine foot.

Australian farrier educator Craig Jones gave a presentation to the panel.
Craig is lead training farrier at The University of Queensland Gatton Vocational Education Centre (UQ-GVEC). Michael completed his farrier training at the Melbourne Institute of TAFE and earned the diploma of the Worshipful Company of Farriers (DipWCF) in the United Kingdom. Luke Wells-Smith discussed his trim preferences and presented several cases that emphasized the importance of shoes for pathologic conditions of the foot. 

It was an excellent panel with a great discussion of the various approaches to managing the equine foot.

On Saturday night, Brian Hampson, PhD, a human and animal physiotherapist and leading researcher on feral horse hooves, presented a lecture on the Przewalski’s horse. Brian completed a PhD on the feral horse foot in 2011, has been a barefoot trimmer, and recently qualified as a farrier.

Brian showed a series of wild horse feet from around the world and compared the differences in foot conformation between the populations of horses. He then discussed the incidence of laminitis in wild horses, which was surprisingly high. This was an excellent lecture which really brought a question to light: Can the wild horse foot be a model for trimming and shoeing the domestic horse?

Each demonstration hoof specimen was accompanied by an explanation and identified with its trimmer.

Overall, it was a great conference, filled with discussion, and many of the attendees went away with new opinions and ideas about trimming and shoeing. While several farriers and veterinarians attended, a greater presence from these groups would have been of benefit.

I was very impressed with the presentations from the farriers on the panel for the “Table of Trimmings” and I would have liked a more in-depth presentation on the approach to foot pathology, especially from those farriers who work in veterinary hospitals. There were some great lectures and a lot to be learned from both sides.

The organizers did a fantastic job and I’m looking forward to attending the next Functional Hoof Conference. 

About the author: Guest contributor Elizabeth (Betsy) Lordan, DVM is a graduate of Boston University and Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine (2013). During her time in veterinary school, Betsy began working as a farrier's apprentice in order to learn more about shoeing and its relationship with lameness and biomechanics. 
She joined The Equine Podiatry and Lameness Centre in New South Wales, Australia in 2014. 
Betsy still calls Gloucester, Massachusetts home. 


Scott and Messina, conference organizers
Rebecca Jacaranda Scott and Zoe Messina, near and far right, respectively, organized The Functional Hoof Conference Australia. They announced December 12th that they are looking at holding the next conference in Australia in "two or three years' time."

However, they also said they are considering bringing the concept to the United States, and have had preliminary discussions with several interested parties. They hope to firm up any plans for a US event early next year. They would need 18 months to two years to organize such a conference.

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