Farriers Hammer Home Their Message

Anvils on wheels, horses on loading docks, and a fleet of oversized pickup trucks from nearly every state in the union were evidence that the farriers had come to town. Close to 1,000 farriers, friends, and trade show exhibitors jammed the Rochester Convention Center in Rochester, N.Y., Feb. 24-28, for the world's largest single gathering of the hard-hammering professionals--the annual American Farrier's Association Convention (AFA).

At the center of the convention was the star-quality presence of Edward Martin, FWCF, a senior farrier from Scotland who has influenced many American farriers. Already the recipient of the Member of the British Empire (MBE) honor from Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, as well as being the first blacksmith in 400 years to be named Supreme Master of his craft, 79-year-old Martin received awards from U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ann M. Veneman and the New York State Agriculture Department, as well as countless testimonials from AFA members at a formal reception in his honor.

In his first address to the AFA membership, new executive director Bryan Quinsey announced that the organization would immediately re-prioritize its mission, with education as the primary function. A new web site, www.nofootnohorse.com, will be an information resource for the horse-owning public provided by the AFA. The AFA also offers a voluntary four-level certification program for member and non-member farriers.

A long list of lectures was offered, ranging from business skills and muscle therapy for farriers' own bodies to veterinarians' use of shock wave therapy for suspensory ligament damage and how chiropractic affects horses' feet. More than 100 booths filled a trade show bursting with high-tech hoof products and materials.

An update was given on sport horse shoeing from the Florida horse show circuit as well as a presentation on using video analysis (see page 26) to track shoeing changes. Both included advice to farriers on working with trainers and grooms to monitor shoeing and trimming for the best possible performance and comfort of the horse.

"A groom won't change calks if he's not educated (as to) why he needs to," advised David Farley of Ohio, who shoes many top jumpers in Florida each winter. "Teach them to do it correctly, and to check for sprung shoes.

"We are shoeing the best horses in the world, in the worst possible environment," he concluded, referring to the confinement of horses at showgrounds and the practice of continually bathing horses, sometimes up to three times a day, and saturating hooves with excess moisture.

Farriers stood in line for a place at the popular, fast-moving, and informative anatomy laboratory, organized by HorseScience's Allie Hayes and facilitated by veterinarians and farrier educators from around the country. Discussions ensued on subjects ranging from identifying "designer" natural hoof trimming styles to understanding how club feet change the inner architecture of the horse's foot.

To learn more about the AFA, visit www.americanfarriers.org.

About the Author

Fran Jurga

Fran Jurga is the publisher of Hoofcare & Lameness, The Journal of Equine Foot Science, based in Gloucester, Mass., and Hoofcare Online, an electronic newsletter accessible at www.hoofcare.com. Her work also includes promoting lameness-related research and information for practical use by farriers, veterinarians, and horse owners. Jurga authored Understanding The Equine Foot, published by Eclipse Press and available at www.exclusivelyequine.com or by calling 800/582-5604.

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