Dr Steve Roberts on The Functional Hoof Conference - A message to fellow veterinarians...

Call to Conference – By Dr Steve Roberts DVM


“Whatever your veterinary perspective, this conference will challenge your view of the equine hoof.” 


The first Functional Hoof Conference in 2011 provided a ground-breaking opportunity for veterinarians to access relevant, current information on hoof form & function. This critical aspect of horse performance & welfare is very poorly covered in our undergraduate training & we usually do not take it into consideration in evaluating lameness cases.

Speakers at the 2104 Functional Hoof Conference include world leaders in their fields who will provide practical information to help inform our management & prevention of lameness. This is an exciting opportunity to learn more about how important the hoof is to the horse, often in ways we do not usually consider.

Details are on the website www.thefunctionalhoofconference.com/  but a snapshot includes Dr Hilary Clayton from Michigan State University who is well known for her research & publications on equine biomechanics in performance horses. Dr Debra Taylor from Auburn University focuses on better management options for laminitis cases. Prof Lars Roepstorff of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences researches details of hoof loading & interaction with ground surfaces; his work was used at the London Olympics show jumping. From Australia we have Dr Andrew van Eps at the University of Queensland, working on the pathophysiology of laminitis with Prof Chris Pollitt.

Other speakers will challenge your view of what the hoof actually is & what its role is in horses’ general health & well-being. For example, management of insulin resistant & other metabolic cases should include consideration of effective hoof function.

This conference provides a unique professional development opportunity for all veterinarians dealing with horses as it brings together leading researchers (many of whom are also equestrians) with those providing different types of hoof care on a daily basis.

A  highlight promises to be A Table with All the Trimmings” which presents 6 freeze-dried hooves, 3 that have been trimmed by farriers and 3 by non-farriers.  Each hoof will be presented by its trimmer, including supporting documentation as to why they trimmed the hoof the way they did. A moderated discussion will give everyone an opportunity to ask questions and hear the replies from a variety of viewpoints.

This is an opportunity to not only increase your knowledge of what’s going on in hooves & how they affect the horse, but also to better understand the challenges facing trimmers & farriers every day!

The Functional Hoof Conference is a great way to widen veterinarians’ hoof horizons!


Photo taken by Jo Arblaster, of Animal Focus

Photo taken by Jo Arblaster, of Animal Focus

Steve Roberts has been a veterinarian for over 40 years, working in large animal and horse practice for 18 years before moving to the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service. He has a life-long personal horse interest and has been involved in endurance riding for over 30 years as a competitor, rider organiser, committee member and veterinarian. His particular areas of interest are hoof care, nutrition and exercise physiology.

Steve completed his first 160km endurance ride in the mid-80’s with his horse wearing 4 Easyboots, before they were officially recognised as acceptable. He has continued his interest in better hoof care, researching the literature, studying hoof care methods and trimming his own horses. He was one of the prime movers in having the rules of endurance riding in Australia changed to allow competition without metal shoes. After that became known, he was asked to have the Australian rules of racing changed to allow unshod Thoroughbreds to race and subsequently put in a submission, but that is a much harder nut to crack!

Now semi-retired, he continues his involvement with endurance riding as a head vet and is getting back into competition with a horse that he bred and started. All his horses are worked barefoot and bitless.