Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016's Ten Most-Read Stories on The Hoof Blog

In a year defined by "fake news" as read on Facebook--and as heard in the barn aisle--it's reassuring to know that there is so much "real" news right here in the hoof world.

The results are in from the tabulation of which stories were read on The Hoof Blog in 2016. We counted "unique visits" and share the interesting list of the ten most-read stories of the year.

Just click any story title from the list below to open the page and read it, if you missed it, or read it again!

This list of the most-read articles is provided as much for curiosity as for bragging rights on the part of any of the horses and people covered. Whenever a story on The Hoof Blog "goes viral", it is because someone like you shares it on an influential platform or to a share-friendly audience. Thank you, if you are someone who shares a link to a Hoof Blog story on the Internet, on Facebook, in your PowerPoints, or with your students.

Your support and your "shares" are appreciated and very important, and will never be taken for granted.

1. Arabian Show Horse Shoeing Rule Changes Proposed: Toe length increases, pad limit and measurement may be imposed
2. Badminton Farrier Prize: Charlie Sands' four-star horseshoeing wins best-shod award for his girlfriend's horse (Part 1)
3. Olympic Farriers: Inside the Forge at Rio
4. Research: Hoof Conformation and Flat Feet in New Zealand Thoroughbred Racehorses
5. Research: Farriery and Hoof Care Data Collected for Dressage, Showjumping Sport Horses in New Zealand
6. Sport Horse Farriery: Burghley's 2016 Best Shod Horse Award
7. What Was Under the Mare Who Won the 2016 Badminton Horse Trials Farriers Prize? (Part 2)
8. Video: British Racing Farriers, Thoroughbred Hoofcare Featured on CNN Special Segment
9. Pennsylvania Court Petitioned to Require State to Resume Racetrack Farrier License Tests
10. Discipline Committee strips British farrier of right to practice; apprentice complained of bullying

(Just hover over the name of any article in the list and click the link to open that story in a new window.)

It may be a coincidence, but most of the stories fell into categories:

Farriers in court

Two stories that made the top 10 had nothing to do with performance, or showing or racing or even shoeing or trimming. The horseshoeing profession paid attention when the Journeyman Horseshoers Union in Pennsylvania took the state racing commission to task for not enforcing its own law that requires farriers to have a license. The union wants everyone to have to take the test, just as they always have. Their lawsuit made that clear!

And from England, we saw either the raw underside or the true value of regulated horseshoeing as the national licensing body stripped a longtime farrier of his right to work following allegations from a former apprentice that he had been bullied by his master during training. (We may have sequel to this story: The case is under appeal.) That was a story no farriers wanted to read, I'm sure. But they did, in big numbers.

International flavors

This year, stories came from all over the globe: New Zealand, Brazil, and England, as well as the United States, made the top 10. The primary sports that motivated people to click on stories covered Thoroughbred racing (3), eventing (4) and, for the first time, Arabian show horses.

It's great to see some stories about research making the list this year. Chris Rogers and his colleagues in New Zealand are compiling a solid body of research on horses' hooves there, and several other stories about research were just off the list.

It was especially nice to see the story about the farriers at the Rio 2016 Olympics read so widely, especially in South America. This brought a whole new group of people to the blog and to the Hoofcare and Lameness Facebook page. Thanks (and all credit) to Dr. Luiz Gustavo Tenório for his help.

Best-shod eventers

Eventing was well-represented in the top story list because of the high level of interest in the sport, and because of the Worship Company of Farriers' ongoing support of the "best shod" classes at large horse events in the United Kingdom, including the new racehorse shoeing award at the Grand National steeplechase this year. (Thank you!)

For the second year in a row, a farrier shod his girlfriend's horse to win the Farriers Prize at the famous Badminton Horse Trials. For a while, it looked like Izzy Taylor's winning English horse was going to the Rio Olympics to compete against Team Ireland's Euro Prince, Clare Abbott's 2014 and 2015 best-shod Badminton winner, but unfortunately the mare was injured and withdrawn from the British team before Rio turned into a battle of the best-shod trophy winners.

Arabian shoeing rules

The Arabian breed is not the biggest in the United States, but the people who show those wonderful horses take it very seriously. The announcement of proposed changes to Arabian Horse Association shoeing rules was probably more about other things in the horse industry than small changes to how the toe is measured. At the same time that the new rules were announced, the US Department of Agriculture announced a potential executive action to impose strict new regulations on show ring Tennessee Walking horses.

The USDA documentation caused a flurry of concern across the show horse world, since it was not clearly stated which breeds or sports were governed by the potentially stricter regulations. We still don't know if the new rules will go into effect before the end of President Obama's time in office, but you can bet that the lawsuits will begin soon afterwards, if they are put into place. If more than Walking horses are affected by the ban on pads and shoe bands, the effect will cripple horse shows across the country.

Along those lines, it is safe to say that the stories that were most read were not necessarily the best-written or most valuable. They are read because there is a little carrot of interest that the reader is after. Some of the most valuable articles are not so shareable, since they aren't exciting or don't feature well-known people or horses. But they are the ones that people come back and read, year after year, long after celebrity has passed.

Racing's celebrity farrier crew

Thoroughbred racing often makes the news on the Hoof Blog. The news is usually about a horse breaking the mold with a new or different shoe design or material or adherence process. That wasn't the case this year, although the Kentucky Derby shoe review was just off the list, in the top 15 stories. Instead, people were interested in the documentation of flat feet in Thoroughbred racehorses in New Zealand, the racetrack farrier licensing lawsuit in Pennsylvania and the background behind the farriers featured on a CNN racing feature filmed in Newmarket, England. The Hoof Blog was able to share the footage of the special segment, which was not broadcast in the United States, and apparently plenty of people were interested in seeing it! Thanks to Billy Mulqueen for his time on that project.

Into the future

The Hoof Blog enjoyed its 11th year of publication, and now offers readers more than 1,700 articles to read. In the last five years, almost 2.5 million people have read a story (or two or many more, in some cases). Hundreds of people receive a daily email with Hoof Blog headlines and links directly to stories on the site.

What The Hoof Blog doesn't have is income from advertising, or any source, and that needs to change to keep the lights on. The New Year's Resolution around here will be to monetize the website without compromising the integrity of article content and the company's reputation for unbiased reports. These days, that is a tall order.

It's a humbling sight to look at the numbers and now that people like all of you are reading these articles and sharing the information in them. Thanks for reading! But most of all, thank you for caring about horses and making life better for them and the people around you. That's about all any of us can ever hope to do.

Happy new year!

© Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing; Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is the news service for Hoofcare and Lameness Publishing. Please, no re-use of text or images on other sites or social media without permission--please link instead. (Please ask if you need help.) The Hoof Blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a headlines-link email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page). Use the little envelope symbol below to email this article to others. The "translator" tool in the right sidebar will convert this article (roughly) to the language of your choice. To share this article on Facebook and other social media, click on the small symbols below the labels. Be sure to "like" the Hoofcare and Lameness Facebook page and click on "get notifications" under the page's "like" button to keep up with the hoof news on Facebook. Questions or problems with the Hoof Blog? Send an email.  

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