Farriery has historically been rooted in practice-based approaches, often largely reliant on visual observations and anecdotal evidence. There is a movement to bring more data-driven science to the art of caring for horses’ hooves, and UC Davis veterinary hospital farrier Shane Westman is a big proponent. With a keen interest in research, and the opportunities available to him through his position at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, Westman recently earned a Graduate Diploma in Equine Locomotor Research (GradDip ELR) through London’s Royal Veterinary College.
The program, which Westman completed in three years while navigating complications caused by the COVID-19 pandemic that interrupted class schedules and limited travel, provides participants with scientific and academic skills to produce original research to the highest professional standard. Topics range from academic writing and communication skills to data processing and analysis.
“My goal is to utilize these new skills to help with my everyday practice at the university,” said Westman. “Combining these objective approaches with advanced equipment at a state-of-the-art facility like the UC Davis veterinary hospital could help expand the knowledge base of what we do as farriers.”
The final module of the course requires participants to undertake an original research project. Westman’s study, formally titled “Effect of an adhered fiberglass and methyl methacrylate solar-hoof casting technique on stabilization of type III distal phalanx fractures,” investigated a hoof casting technique for stabilizing coffin bone fractures. This novel approach is a technique that he learned from a fellow farrier that specializes in racehorses.
Westman said that it has been used successfully in the clinic, but the aim of his study was to collect data to determine if the glue and fiberglass material that is bonded to the hoof sole and hoof wall (not just wrapped around the hoof) stabilized the bone in the hoof capsule. He plans to submit his findings to the journal Veterinary Surgery.
To complete this research, Westman worked closely with UC Davis equine surgery residents Drs. Tom Cullen, Thomas Bergstrom and Lisa Edwards, with guidance from Research Engineer Tanya Garcia-Nolen, under the mentorship of Dr. Susan Stover, director of the J.D. Wheat Veterinary Orthopedic Research Laboratory.
“Shane’s vision was realized as a result of his ambition and innovation, along with the resources, people, equipment and facilities at UC Davis that enable these types of research projects,” said Stover. “The team environment supports learning and facilitates advances on many levels.”
The knowledge that Westman gained through this program will provide UC Davis veterinary students, residents, faculty and patients with access to advanced approaches to clinical care.
“I want to use this new knowledge and the tools and resources that I have at the university to expand the knowledge base of what we do as farriers,” said Westman. “I really enjoy helping the students, residents and faculty with research ideas and implementation and look forward to being a more valuable contributor to the team.”
The UC Davis farrier shop at the hospital’s Large Animal Clinic (LAC) plays an integral part of providing high-level diagnostics and cutting-edge therapeutic services to UC Davis clients.
“This remarkable achievement is the result of Shane’s passion for his role as a therapeutic farrier,” said LAC Director Dr. Bret McNabb. “We are fortunate to have someone on our team whose interests and dedication to equine podiatry serve our clients in delivering world-class care to their horses while providing unique training opportunities for future veterinarians.”
Westman is one of only two farriers in the western United States to boast this credential, the other being Tim Shannon, past distinguished UC Davis Annual Charles Heumphreus Memorial Lecturer.
The UC Davis Center for Equine Health provided partial support for Westman’s training.
Farrier services at UC Davis will become more integrated into equine care at UC Davis in the upcoming Veterinary Medical Center’s Equine Performance and Rehabilitation Center. This state-of-the-art equine medical facility to be constructed soon at UC Davis will create the world’s most advanced hub for maintaining the health and fitness of performance and recreational horses. A vital component of that center will be the incorporation of a new farrier shop located adjacent to clinical facilities to provide immediate access to advanced hoof care.