Fran Jurga receives Lifetime Journalism Achievement Award for invaluable journalistic pursuit of the science, art and history in equine podiatry and farriery
The 2022 International Equine Podiatry Conference included an unexpected addition to the itinerary. With so many hoof care professionals out in the world, all working hard at learning/perfecting/doing their work in the most productive and successful capacity possible, it’s easy to forget about the folks whose mission it is to observe and report all this learning/perfecting/doing.
Journalism is like advertising, only there’s no product being sold, so it’s effectiveness can’t be measured in sales reports. In the case of newspapers, magazines and television, it’s quantified by readership and viewership, with the various entities vying for these eyes by whatever means necessary to get them.
A craft in itself; this important and essential vocation that facilitates even more and better learning/perfecting/doing. Journalism is a mostly invisible vocation; unless the story’s setting is dire or dangerous, most folks don’t think about the writers and photographers who produce the non-drama-laden media that we consume on a daily basis. Observing, documenting and then relaying events and information in such a manner that other folks can benefit of it in an actionable way, or come away from it having been entertained or enlightened – is way, way harder than most folks realize.
In the horse industry, there are plenty of forms of media to consume on all things horse. But when you get to the feet, it’s a whole ‘nother, much more complicated ball of wax. Horse hooves are simultaneously miraculously resilient and frustratingly, heartbreakingly fragile. There’s an entire sector of folks out here studying and trying to understand the resilience, so they can support the fragile and repair the broken. All in varied situations requiring different approaches, leading to different solutions.
We needed somebody to keep track of all this hoof information; to write it down so others can catch up, absorb, add to, subtract from, and ultimately apply all the stuff that’s being discovered and demonstrated. For some forty years, one person in the horse industry did just that for all things hoof-related. Fran Jurga has stepped up in every way imaginable, from her Hoofcare and Lameness print magazine, to the online Hoof Blog, and the cutting edge hoof research compilation HoofSearch.
In 2019, the renowned Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital hosted the first International Equine Podiatry Conference. Fran was at this important event, documenting the presenters and their respective materials as only someone with her passion for horses and their hooves can. MSU’s Equine Research Lab’s Lisa Simons Lancaster Msc, PhD, DVM took notice, and suggested to Kentucky farrier Victor Camp that Fran be publicly recognized for her invaluable journalistic pursuit of the science, art and history in equine podiatry and farriery; a Lifetime Achievement Award. Those two engaged R&R’s Drs Scott Morrison and Raul Bras and the rest of the Podiatry partners; thus the Lifetime Journalism Achievement Award was born.
Victor recruited Michigan farrier and artist blacksmith Jennifer Horn of Daisy Hill Forge to create the award. Victor imagined the award piece be a combination of metal art and forged components in the form of an open Journal or magazine, Jennifer took that idea further and created a replica of HoofCare & Lameness Journal. When covid 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 Fran has been facilitating for all these years.
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
– Victor Camp, from his award ceremony introduction
For artists, getting the concept out of the brain and into physical form is usually fraught with challenges. For over a year, Jennifer ruminated on the idea for the award; kept in touch with Victor and discussed same. She 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.
Jennifer’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 is positively magical; contrasting metals, organic form, icons representing all facets of hoof care – it was perfect.
Fran’s so humble, she would never talk about her many accomplishments that inspired the hoof community to honor her with this award, so I am here to do it on her behalf.
Hoofcare and Lameness print magazine was published from 1985 to 2005; 79 issues in all. Fran produced the whole thing, writing the stories and articles, procuring images/art, photography, graphic design = everything. Then she attended conventions and seminars across the country (and the world) meeting her subscribers and advertisers in person; gathering more materials for stories and feature articles.
The Hoof Blog dovetailed with that in 2004, eventually replacing the paper version. In the 18 years since, she’s posted well over 1,800 entries. All exquisitely researched, absolutely factual, featuring images that are perfectly suited and often so obscure that I’ve never seen them anywhere else. Even though I’ve strongly encouraged her to repost/recycle her excellent content – she instead forges onward – each of those 1,800+ entries is new and unique.
HoofSearch is her newest endeavor. A paid online subscription service, it’s like having your own private library of only hoof-related news, information and research. Each month, HoofSearch covers the wide world of hoof and lameness research. And that extends to stable management, arena/track surfaces, racing safety and injury, and specific information on breed/sport foot problems and lameness that affect performance. Of course, it 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.
Not only does her written text inform and educate everyone from horse owners to hoof care professionals to PhDs, Fran’s graphic design that presents said text is out here quietly winning awards. Multiple times, American Horse Publications has recognized her in various categories, competing with other submissions specifically from the equine industry.
Alongside all this, Fran is a freelance writer and graphic designer, contributing content to well-known equine publications like Equus Magazine (1,600+ articles!), 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, Fran 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 between. She’s the wordsmith and storyteller behind the writing on the walls. Wow.
Thank you, Fran, for your immeasurable contributions, surely they’re more far-reaching than any of us could imagine.