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Getting experience on the hoof
  1. Joy Fenner


Vet student Joy Fenner spent a week working with farrier Kevin Willard under a new initiative highlighting the importance of cooperation between vets and farriers

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ONE vet student from each of the UK's seven veterinary schools recently took the opportunity to spend a week with one of the country's leading farriers under a new initiative from the Worshipful Company of Farriers (WCF) (VR, May 1, 2010, vol 166, p 541).

The Equine Veterinary Studies Award highlights the importance of close cooperation between farriers and veterinary surgeons. The final-year students were placed with highly qualified farriers, who were also WCF liverymen; the students were able to count the placement as part of their extramural studies (EMS). The WCF funded the students' accommodation, subsistence and travelling expenses.

The first recipients of the award were Joanna Goliszek (Bristol), Rachel Croft (Cambridge), Katherine Rooney (Edinburgh), Christy Mackenzie (Glasgow), Emily Sabin (Liverpool), Christine Threlfall (Royal Veterinary College) and Joy Fenner (Nottingham).

Joy spent a week with Kevin Willard in Kent. She says that the experience helped to reinforce what she had learned practically and theoretically while at university. Describing her week, she says: ‘The first task for the farriers each morning was to make the shoes needed for the day. I was introduced to the team, given a health and safety briefing and told what to expect during my week. I was then given my first task – to make a hoof pick! ‘I now have a much greater understanding of the role of the farrier in clinical disease of the equine foot, and the various treatments they can recommend and carry out’

‘The first call of the day was to two elderly Highland ponies, one for a trim and one for a change of front shoes. On the way, Kevin explained the benefits of making horseshoes, and the importance of the traditional skills involved.

Joy made her own hoof pick during her week. Half an hour into the job she was discovering that it was much harder than professional farriers made it look

‘Our second visit was to a pony with chronic low-grade laminitis that has been improving with Kevin's chosen treatment: egg bar shoes with gel filler. This was a perfect example of the benefit of forging custom-made shoes, as it would have been impossible to buy shoes small enough to fit this pony. He discussed the pony's progress with the owner and the improvement he had seen, and agreed to discuss any changes in management with the vet concerned.

‘The majority of the horses we saw during the week were elderly, as geriatric horses were this farrier's speciality. Patience, he said, was essential when working with older horses and ponies. It was important to give them a rest – a chance to rebalance – between working on each foot, and he explained how shoeing them appropriately helped a variety of geriatric conditions.

‘I had a fantastic week; not only was it a great opportunity to see how a master farrier approaches various clinical problems, but, as we drove from client to client, there was the chance to discuss a host of subjects. Kevin described what it means to be a liveryman of the Company, and we discussed the working relationship between farriers and vets, the similarities between our professional codes of conduct and CPD, as well as the nuisance of roadworks and the weather!’

▪ The WCF has confirmed that it will support the award for the next five years, and an invitation to take part in 2011 has been sent to all of the vet schools. Students who wish to apply should contact the school's academic support officer or their EMS adviser.

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