Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Annual Report: Wrapping up 2014 with a big blog bow

Happy New Year!

Last week, you read about the Hoof Blog's favorite stories based on numbers. Now, we’ll dissect the blog for you to highlight some stories you might like to bookmark or share, or maybe read for the first time, if you missed them.

Think of this as an index for future reference. You can refer back to it to find stories. Interspersed are some favorite images from the year, which may or may not relate to the text. At the end are some beyond-the-Hoof Blog media files that you can bookmark, download and (hopefully) share.

First, the stories I hope you will read and liked as much as I did. These were some of my favorites, although my favorite story is always the one I'm working on next!

Four stories the numbers said you might have missed

(Click on any title to open article)

BEVA Congress Farriery Day Asks: What Would You Do?
I may have attended more lectures on farriery and foot lameness than anyone, and when I hear two lectures in a row dissect farriery in a way I haven't heard it done before, I'm all ears. Evidence-based farriery sounds like an oxymoron and it may be the biggest challenge ever to face hoof professionals of all types. I suggest buying access to all the lectures in this series, but first read why I thought these three innocent-sounded starter presentations were loaded with significance. With Stephen May, Chris Pardoe and Renate Weller.

Required Reading: Dr. John Steele's 68th Year in Equine Practice Profiled in Chronicle of the Horse This Week
True, I spent a lot of time writing about an article in another magazine. Someone like Dr John Steele will always get the extra hour, the extra mile and the article about the article not only because he is who is he is but because his article explains that one can be at the top authority and still be a human who is loved and admired for who he is as a person, not just for what he knows or whose horses he treats. Think about it.

Vive St Eloi...and the Spirit of the Monuments Men: Painting of Farrier Patron Saint Returns to Owner
I write about the patron saint of farriers, St Eloi, every December. This year, I had nothing new to say until I learned that a magnificent painting of him had been confiscated by the Nazis during World War II, and was part of the art treasure on which George Clooney's film "Monuments Men" was based. Except reality is even stranger than Hollywood: the painting has been hanging in the Louvre in Paris, waiting to be claimed, for 60 years. This fall it was returned to the American grandson of its rightful owner.

St Nicholas Abbey Euthanized After Surgery for Severe Colic Today; Laminitis "Was Resolving"  
and (for background)
St Nicholas Abbey Fracture Fixation Pin Breaks
One of the greatest racehorses in recent years broke his pastern during training in August 2013 and set into motion a chain of disastrous equine health events that not even a champion could survive. I did my best to chronicle St Nicholas Abbey's fracture repair surgery, colic surgery, and eventual support-limb laminitis and maggot therapy, with the help of reports from Coolmore Stud in Ireland. But the end came tragically, even as his laminitis was improving, just a year ago this week. I hope everyone who thinks that laminitis has been solved will read the six-month series of updates and think about what this horse went through, only to lose his life to recurrent colic in the end. There is so much work to be done here.

Hooves@War was born out of a desire to document some of the farriers, veterinarians and other horsemen who went to Europe and the Middle East to care for horses in World War I. Their stories have never been told. They don't show up in Google searches. Some were heroes. Some died. Many were wounded or sick. But they took care of the horses and a few told their stories and their families have been kind enough to share them. Many of their stories are lacking details, but at least once a week someone gets in touch because they have read one of the articles and know someone, or had a relative, or are researching something. This project is ongoing and important, in its own way. If history's not your thing, just skip over them. But some day, that story may be about you.    Link to a menu of stories published in fall of 2014

Photograph Wait For Me by Alexandra Meulemans on 500px
 Photography just keeps getting better. The hoof is in focus more than ever, thanks to creative photography by artistic people who keep proving that we haven't seen it all. No, we certainly haven't!  A good example: Wait For Me by Alexandra Meulemans on 500px looks like it was shot backstage at the circus...

Events: The calendar is crowded

I love the way that we have augmented the idea of horse events as not just for sport but also for education. Many now include educational components, but the savvy self-educators among us are freelancing new experiences by observing top sport horse or racing professionals on the job and checking out the latest gear on the top horses under competition conditions. When this works out, it is as good as it gets. A few articles that highlighted some of the top competition events this year (click on any title to open article):

Breeders Cup Classic: Will It Be a Battle of the Specialist Horseshoes?

White Turf: How Do Polo Ponies and Racehorses Stay on Their Feet in the St. Moritz Snow?

Dubai World Cup: What--and Who--Was Underneath the Horses in the World's Richest Race?

Shoes, Half Shoes, or No Shoes At All: Swedish-Trained Trotters Ruled Hambletonian Day

World Equestrian Games Farriers--August and September's archives are filled with articles about the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France. Check them out!

(as well as the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes articles and "best shod" British event horse stories that made the Top Ten)

This photo made me smile the most in 2014. It's one of those candid shots that just works. I still laugh whenever I see it, and some days, it's much needed. British Eventing photographer Adam Fanthorpe has an eye for the hoof and I'm quite a fan of his but this one is out of the realm of action shots and in the humans-caught-looking-silly category. But how else do you look at a hoof? Shot at Badminton Horse Trials in England during the Best Shod Horse judging. Don't you wonder what they're all looking at? It must have been some hoof! (Thank you, Adam!)

Education: The world is my classroom (and so is my iPad)

My classroom was once the lecture hall at the Bluegrass Laminitis Symposium or AAEP Convention, or Allie Hayes' Anatomy Lab at the AFA Convention. Now the world is open to us, and whether we travel business class to get there, or use a wifi hotspot to connect with a Google Hangout, we're out there. And more than ever, the Hoof Blog has a legion of iPhone equipped reporters ready to capture something for you. Here are some great examples:

(Click on any title to open article)

Biomechanics and Uses of Wide Toe, Egg Bar and Heart Bar Horseshoes: Research by Dr. Jenny Hagen via Werkman's E-Lecture Series

Spring laminitis case videos: What’s new for prevention and hoof management?

Utilize Support during Stall Time to Prevent Capsular Distortion in the Thoroughbred Racehorse's Foot (Scott Morrison)

Video: How Does Dianne Volz of Equine Therapy 502 Help Keep Top Thoroughbreds Running?

Foal Foot Bone Sequestrum Infection, Surgery and Recovery (Fraley Equine Podiatry)

It's the same the world over: At the Spanish Riding School of Vienna, a groom trots out a Lipizzaner for the vet and stable manager. This scene is repeated a thousand times a day in stableyards, vet clinics and racetrack alleyways. Was it a new horse being checked out? What was the verdict? Thanks to Eadaoin Flynn for this photo.

Think Different

Barefoot hoofcare is something people just don't get tired of reading about and talking about. The Hoof Blog obliged in 2014, since barefoot horses and  the people who work on them were making news and I think it's interesting, too, to see how our world is changing. Here's a sampling of top articles, both about barefoot hoofcare and about changes in the farrier and vet worlds related to it. One thing is for sure: barefoot doesn't mean the same thing to everyone.

(Click on any title to open article)

Barefoot horses in theory and practice:

Is experimenting with shoe pulling before a race to take advantage of a track surface or help a horse with a limb interference issue the same as spending a year or two helping a horse grow a "natural", uncontracted hoof? I don't think so, do you? Could it be that there are really two barefoot movements?

Coolmore's Daddy Long Legs to Run Without Shoes in Dubai Stakes Race; Interference Given as Reason for Rule Exception

Research: Does the Unshod Dressage Horse Really Bear a Competitive Disadvantage?

Polytrack Podiatry: Shoeless in Lexington

Just Wait Til Next Year: Shoeless Senior Racehorse Tahoe Warrior

Australia's Fundamental Hoof Conference: Dr Betsy Lordan Reports

Shoes, Half Shoes, or No Shoes At All: Swedish-Trained Trotters Ruled Hambletonian Day

Do you notice anything about this photo? Just another Scott Morrison demonstration? Look again. Every set of eyes in this group of Irish farriers is focused on him and the hoof. No one is checking a phone, talking to a friend, or even scratching an itch. Intense concentration like this is rare these days. Good for them! (Irish Farriers Association photo)

Barefoot trimming in court and effects on farrier regulation and equine welfare enforcement (primarily in the UK):

Barefoot Hoof Care Subject of British Government Survey to Veterinarians

British Non-Farrier Found Guilty of Over-Trimming, Gluing Hoof Boots; Charged as Animal Welfare Act Violations

Australian Farriers Seek Regulation of Profession in New South Wales

Next Step in Re-vamp of Farriers Registration Act in Great Britain

Same Old Story, One Last Time: Steven Beane, Calgary Stampede's Final World Champion Farrier

Whenever I get together with equestrian journalist pals, they always marvel that, after all these years, I'm still writing about hooves. "Haven't you written all those articles a hundred times?" they always ask, as if I must be bored to death writing about my special interest.

I'm always quick to respond that in 30 years I haven't written the same story twice. There is always something new. There is always a different way of looking at everything. I never get bored.

But this week, putting together this report, I realized I was telling them a bit of a white lie. I've been basically written one story five times, each time English farrier Steven Beane won the world championship at the Calgary Stampede. Ditto for Wales' Billy Crothers and Canada's Bob Marshall, who also won the title five times, and Wales' Grant Moon, who holds the record six wins.

If you want to crown a country, it would be Wales, with 13 titles out of 34; Welsh farriers Richard Ellis and Jim Blurton also were Calgary champions. England had 8, but if Bob Marshall's English origin counts, Wales and England would be tied at 13 titles each, which is a nice way to end it. The US and Canada had five each, and Scotland two.

In 2014, Steven won the grand finale, the last tango in Calgary. The Stampede is changing its programming for farrier events, so the tribe is on its own. But it was a great run, and most of the equestrian championships I know have not been able to last 34 years in one location.

Photograph Five time world champion by Cowboy Photo on 500px
Some of the most difficult photography conditions ever invented can be found at a farrier competition. Yet Aaron Kampfer keeps impressing me with his creative and sometimes even tender portraits of the English farrier team giving it their all, whether in practice or actual contests. A good example: This portrait of Five time world champion Steven Beane by Cowboy Photo on 500px is as good as it gets. Because it is so chaotic in a cramped forge, the natural impulse is to zoom in but Aaron somehow managed to de-clutter Steven's landscape. He stepped back, gave Steven room to breathe and let the sweat shine through. 

Steven Beane and Nigel Fennell of the English shoeing team set a tone of their own when competing but this image by Aaron Kampfer captures them practicing teamwork along with skill. The colors in this (or lack of colors) is remarkable. 
And sometimes you don't need color at all. World Champion Steven Beane on the wire brush by Aaron Kampfer. Three ways of looking at the same farrier. Three levels of color saturation. Three of many.

 Silent Anvils, Empty Stalls 

People and horses pass through our lives, but Lim, Bruce and Charley were three farriers I've known for more than 30 years. They watched me make a lot of mistakes. Somehow, we made it through a thousand crises. My life is emptier now. Likewise, it is one thing to know that a horse has laminitis, or even that a horse died of laminitis, and another thing to have to call the owner or trainer and try to interview him or her. Some days, this job is full of joy. Some days, it just seems hopeless.

(Click on any title to open article)

Lim Couch: Elvis's Horseshoer
Bruce Daniels: American Horseshoer 
Charley Orlando: The Teaching Farrier 
St Nicholas Abbey
Presley Boy

Valentina Cala was in Luxembourg Square in Brussels Wednesday night. She shared this photo of the famous blacksmith statue there. The blacksmith became Charlie, too. Thanks, Valentina.

Beyond the Hoof Blog

Is there life beyond the Hoof Blog? Some days, sure, but it's more fun here, writing for you! If you enjoy the Hoof Blog, you might find some of these articles and publications from 2014 helpful, interesting or entertaining:

(Click on any title to open article)

The War on Laminitis from The Jurga Report, with oral sugar test (OST) video. Forget spring laminitis, it's a year-round problem, a global concern and a rallying cry for an alliance of "freedom-from-laminitis" fighters.

Horse Owners, The New Laminitis Researchers from The Jurga Report profiles research projects around the globe that involve horse owners by collecting data on normal and laminitic horses at home.

Hoofcare Insider: Nails Edition  I think the saying is "like a kid in a candy store". That was me, when Delta Mustad Hoofcare Center asked me to research the history of horse nails. I could have filled 100 pages. Or more. Enjoy and download or print the history and function of horse nails, written and designed by Fran Jurga, with photos by Marguerite Paige, Sarah K. Andrew, Arnd Bronkhorst, and the annals of history.

King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery: The Big Guns of Horseshoeing (report on farriery seminar with Haydn Price and Professor Renate Weller, sponsored by Stromshom Farrier Supplies, UK): Come along on a chance-of-a-lifetime adventure in London, far behind the scenes of Britain's ceremonial gun carriage horses and horsemen and, of course, farriers. Lectures by Haydn Price, Professor Renate Weller, and the Troop's head farrier, Sergeant Bould.

(Use the arrows at bottom to flip the pages, the + sign to enlarge, or the diagonal arrows to go full screen. Click on the title link above the box for the source document to bookmark or share.)

Finally, 27,000 views on Facebook can't be wrong: my words were turned into the soundtrack of a video quilt of motion and beautiful stills of farriers by Sandra Mesrine and Marguerite Therrien-Paige for the Delta Mustad Hoofcare Center. Now "Ode to Farriers" is on YouTube, for all to see, and I hope you like it. Tell your friends. 

(Click the "play" icon in the center of the screen to play the video, click through to YouTube to share--and please do.)

There's your annual report, though there are dozens more stories for you to read from 2014 that I didn't get to mention. The Hoof Blog celebrated ten years of publication in September, as well as its 1600th article. 

If there's something your want to read about, it's probably here. If not, it will be. Check back in a day or two. Send me your wish list. Better yet, send me your pictures and maybe we can write something up.

Let's make this a better world, for life and for work. If we sit back and wait for someone else to do it, it won't happen. It's up to us. It always has been, but now more than ever, we need to be moving forward. Onward. Together. Now. 

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