Boost for lameness research as farriers to hoof it back to school

Models of a shod foot with packer comparing hoof deformation in walk (white) and trot (yellow)
Models of a shod foot with packer comparing hoof deformation in walk (white) and trot (yellow).

Hoof and lameness research in Britain has been given a leg up with the introduction of a new Graduate Diploma in Equine Locomotor Research for farriers.

The course welcomes farriers back to Britain’s Royal Veterinary College after 225 years with the course, which can be taken over a minimum of two and a maximum of five years.

The Grad Dip ELR course is a UK Higher Education Level 6 course and is divided into two sections, Contemporary Study Skills and Applied Equine Locomotion. It will be delivered using a variety of methods including face-to-face learning sessions on weekends, webinars and podcasts.

The course will be led by Dr Renate Weller who is Professor in Comparative Imaging and Biomechanics and by Dr Thilo Pfau is Senior Lecturer in Bioengineering and will be supported by other members of the Structure and Motion lab, the Equine Referral Hospital and the epidemiology group.

Computed tomography images showing hoof deformation with a packer in the unloaded (grey) and the foot simulating trot (orange) as seen from behind (left) and the side (right).

They will be joined by Learning Development Manager Dr Rachel Davis and her team, who have vast experience and with vocational learners returning to education.

The RVC’s Structure and Motion lab is home to the largest research group and most extensive facilities dedicated to animal locomotor biomechanics with the horse at its centre.

The course is specifically designed to enable participants to develop the necessary scientific and academic skills in order to produce their own research project to the highest professional standard.

3D model of a shod foot with packer comparing hoof deformation in walk (white) and trot (blue)
3D model of a shod foot with packer comparing hoof deformation in walk (white) and trot (blue).

Weller, who is leading the course, said: “I am super excited by this course. As an equine clinician, I cannot emphasise enough the importance of farriery in the prevention and treatment of lameness in horses. As a researcher, I am excited to be able to work with people who have the practical experience and knowledge to generate scientific evidence for farriery strategies.”

Major (Retd) Richard Waygood MBE, the performance manager of Britain’s dressage team, said riders were always seeking to find a competitive advantage, describing the course as “a great initiative that will provoke the brain cells and create some thinking outside of the box.”

“I believe this course will enable science and practical farriery to provide factual evidence which will help produce the X Factor which generates the marginal gains that are required in the competition field,” Waygood said.

Admission is open to farriers eligible to be registered with the UK’s Farriers Registration Council and who have a minimum of two years’ practical experience in advanced foot care. Applications are also being considered from “individuals who can demonstrate the necessary experience in advanced foot care and provide evidence of reflective practice in the form of an extensive portfolio”.

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