The popular image of the American "wild" horse has gone through a lot of changes in recent years. Once the epitome of the wild and free animal in a Marlboro cigarette commercial, the wild horse soon was denigrated to the enemy of the Western rancher, a competitor for forage with valuable cattle during years of drought. Then came the Bureau of Land Management years, when wild horses were rounded up and "adopted" by well-meaning owners, soon followed by the sanctuary concept, indicating that the hope for wild horses was to find areas of the country that could be set aside for them. Recently, individuals within the BLM have been accused (but not proven guilty) of corruption and illegal sale of wild horses for slaughter. Throughout, humane groups have championed the wild horse’s right to exist and live as (and where) it pleases. In the winter of 1996-1997, a tribe of wild burros invaded a California town and took over gardens, lawns, and trash cans as their rightful domain, as humane groups and law enforcement officials struggled for a solution.

Wild horses have captured the public imagination in books and movies for years. But lately, wild horses have stampeded into the intellectual pursuits of many vets and farriers in America, and as far away as Australia.Will the wild horse provide a model for study of what’s wrong with our domestic horses’ feet?

Wild horse feet first found an audience at the 1988 convention of the American Farrier’s Association in Lexington, Ky., when author/researcher Les Emery of California shared the stage with farrier/horseman Jaime Jackson of Arkansas. The two presented a mass of data about wild horse feet that glazed the eyes of the assembled farriers. Tables, charts, and graphs filled the screen. Farriers rolled their eyes. Still, the two researchers insisted that they were onto what would become the biggest story in the horse world for years to come.

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