A farrier and blacksmith from Essex is celebrating after joining an elite band of farriers to be awarded a PhD.

Chris Pardoe completed his doctorate at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC). He studied part-time for 10 years.

His research into “the mechanics of hoof impact and loading in the horse” establishes the extent to which the hoof slips when it makes contact with the ground.

He describes slippage as “nature’s way of lessening force” and says his findings have implications for the way we shoe horses – and use accessories such as studs.

Dr Pardoe told H&H: “I found that the foot is still moving even when it appears stationary to the eye.

“We put things on a horse’s foot without giving it a thought – there needs to be more research into how we shoe horses, what materials we use – and how this affects the limb in the long-term.”

Dr Pardoe said he was “daunted” when a professor at the RVC asked if he’d like to do a PhD.

“I’m a farrier, not an academic,” he told H&H.

“I still do a bit of shoeing, to keep my hand in – but now the academic work has rather taken over.”

Lecturing and research now take up most of his time. And he admits there are certain benefits to academia.

“On a sunny day, it’s nice to be out at a shoeing competition,” he said. “But with winter on the way, I don’t miss it so much!”

This news story was first published in the current issue of Horse & Hound (13 October, 2011)