Lifetime achievement award for dedicated hoof care writer

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Fran Jurga reacts to being awarded the Lifetime Journalism Achievement Award at the International Equine Podiatry Conference.
Fran Jurga reacts to being awarded the Lifetime Journalism Achievement Award at the International Equine Podiatry Conference. Image by Greg Thomas

One of the equestrian world’s most prolific journalists has been honored for her work over some 40 years of writing about hoof and lameness research.

Fran Jurga received the Lifetime Journalism Achievement Award for “invaluable journalistic pursuit of the science, art and history in equine podiatry and farriery” at the recent International Equine Podiatry Conference, hosted by Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky.

Jurga, based in Gloucester, Massachusetts, has long been at the forefront of hoof information, starting with the print magazine Hoofcare and Lameness, to the online Hoof Blog, and her latest initiative, the cutting edge hoof research compilation HoofSearch.

More comfortable behind the scenes, Jurga found herself the centre of attention when the surprise award was announced.

Rood & Riddle’s Podiatry Partners implored Jurga to attend this year’s Equine Podiatry conference – so vigorously that she was told she must be there, even if she had to crawl. On the Friday night of the conference, she learned why they were so insistent, and that she was the only one who was not in on the secret.

In his introduction for the award ceremony, Rood & Riddle farrier Victor Camp said: “It is said that no other person has provided for more personal introductions between farriers, veterinarians and equine studies researchers, many resulting in subsequent lifelong friendships, than Fran Jurga.”

Jurga shifted from shock and tears of gratitude to an impromptu acceptance speech addressing the crowd of conference attendees.

It was during the first podiatry conference in 2019, that Jurga’s passion for horses and their hooves shone through as she documented the presenters and their respective materials. Those efforts did not go unnoticed by the Rood & Riddle Podiatry team, whose efforts led to the creation of the award.

The overall size of the the copper and steel award sculpture is only about 15″ wide overall – creating the intricate detail from the two disparate metals was an ambitious project.
The overall size of the the copper and steel award sculpture is only about 15″ wide overall – creating the intricate detail from the two disparate metals was an ambitious project. Image by Greg Thomas

Victor Camp recruited Michigan farrier and artist blacksmith Jennifer Horn of Daisy Hill Forge to create the award. He imagined the award piece to be a combination of metal art and forged components in the form of an open journal or magazine, and Horn took that idea further and created a replica of HoofCare & Lameness Journal. When the Covid-19 pandemic brought everything to a screeching halt, the pair continued to incubate a plan for the inside pages, which ultimately melded the professions of equine veterinary medicine and farriery into one cohesive unit, just like Jurga has been facilitating for all these years.

The overall size of the copper and steel award sculpture is only about 15″ wide; creating the intricate detail from the two disparate metals was an ambitious project.

Horn attended a workshop and learned copper repoussé; and actually forged the veterinary caduceus on the left-hand page at the event under the tutelage of Travis Fleming of Artistic Anvil Forge in Athens, Alabama.

Horn’s farrier clientele are mostly pleasure horses, so the wedge heel roadster shoe that she chose is well outside her everyday forging. This is a very challenging configuration with the tapered thickness of the shoe’s web, combined with the trailers to add traction, not to mention the asymmetrical crease and nail pattern needed to properly fit this hind hoof.

In 2022, six days before the event, she hit her stride and the pieces came together, all 40 of them. Much more than the sum of the parts, the result represents all facets of hoof care.

Fran Jurga with some of the Rood & Riddle podiatry team after the conference; from left, farrier Victor Camp, Rood & Riddle Podiatry Department Partners Dr Raul Bras, Dr Craig Lesser, Dr Scott Morrison and Dr Scott Fleming.
Fran Jurga with some of the Rood & Riddle podiatry team after the conference; from left, farrier Victor Camp, Rood & Riddle Podiatry Department Partners Dr Raul Bras, Dr Craig Lesser, Dr Scott Morrison and Dr Scott Fleming. Image by Greg Thomas

The Hoofcare and Lameness magazine was published from 1985 to 2005; 79 issues in all. Jurga produced the whole thing, writing the articles, procuring images/art, photography, and graphic design.

The Hoof Blog dovetailed with that in 2004, eventually replacing the paper version. In the 18 years since, Jurga has posted well over 1800 entries.

HoofSearch is Jurga’s latest endeavor. The paid online subscription service is a library of lameness and hoof-related news, information and research. It extends to stable management, arena/track surfaces, racing safety and injury, and specific information on breed/sport foot problems and lameness that affect performance. It also delves deeply into laminitis and indexes the latest research citations and descriptions of peer-reviewed on insulin dysregulation and PPID, as well as navicular disease, anatomy, biomechanics and much more.

Alongside all this, Jurga is a freelance writer and graphic designer, contributing content to well-known equine publications such as Equus Magazine, AIM Equine Network’s coverage of the Olympics, World Equestrian Games and more. She spearheaded the social media and information hub for Dreamworks’ film War Horse. A few notable book PR projects include The Horse Boy and Equus by Tim Flach.

On a separate track, Jurga has also been involved in the development of many of the world’s leading aquariums, zoos, natural history museums, and visitor centers. Her work is found from Europe to Japan and many places in between.

Reporting: Geena Keesling

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