What's in a name?
If you are a non-veterinarian who goes by any number of job titles to define your work with horses' hooves, you might start to wonder.
Perhaps you thought you were practicing blacksmithing, plating, hoof care, trimming, horseshoeing or podiatry. While those job titles seem to evoke a definitive impression of what the person does for a job, the more archaic and woefully ill-defined (in the USA) term of "farriery" has replaced it, at least in the AVMA's most critical document affecting those professions.
The AVMA Executive Board approved revisions to the new 2011 Model Veterinary Practice Act (MVPA) in November 2011, and those changes became official on January 7, 2012 when the AVMA's governing body, the House of Delegates, approved the document.
The Model Veterinary Practice Act is just that: an approved sample ("model") document that is promoted by the AVMA as reflecting the verbiage and policies it would like to see adopted in each of the 50 states as the state veterinary practice act.
That said, each state can and probably will make some changes; the states usually end up with documents that vary on many topics related to how veterinary practice in conducted or regulated.
Each time the MVPA is changed, the AVMA opens a comment period for members and the public to have their say. That period has now passed.
The AVMA reported that it received "985 comments on individual sections of the model act. About 70% of the comments were submitted by non-members, and 10% came from organizations as opposed to individuals. The sections attracting the most comments are Section 2 (definitions, especially “complementary, alternative and integrative therapies” and “practice of veterinary medicine”), Section 6 (exemptions to the act), the preamble (general comments) and Section 3 (board of veterinary medicine)."
While horseshoeing had been previously excluded from practicing veterinary medicine, this year's edits (Section 6. Number 8) showed a line drawn through the word "horseshoeing". It was changed to "farriery".
The old document read
The exemption now reads "Any person lawfully engaged in the art or profession of farriery."
Although other professions, such as pharmacists and researchers, are also listed as exempt, farriers are one of only a few professions predicated by "lawfully engaged". And it seems to be the only one described as an "art or profession".
Since farriery and other hoof-related professions are not actively regulated in the United States except on racetracks, the language begs the question of how it would be determined that an individual was lawfully engaged in providing farriery care to an animal.
And what, exactly, farriery is.
The word change in the horseshoeing--or farriery--section is probably a minor matter in the big picture of things, but it should be duly noted. "Horseshoeing" is the word traditionally used in government documents; farriery is seldom mentioned. The word seems to have been dusted off, perhaps around the time of the formation of the American Farrier's Association and it has enjoyed a renaissance, particularly in the past 30 years or so.
That said, it remains poorly defined and some hoof-oriented professionals simply don't like the word, while others prefer it. You can call yourself whatever you please--except a veterinarian, unless you are one.
The general public, however, is behind the curve; people are usually convinced that a farrier either makes fur coats or carries people back and forth across rivers in a boat. They think "farrier" is a great word for "Words with Friends" on their iPhones.
Repeated calls and emails to the AVMA and its task force administrators were not acknowledged or returned except for one interchange with a media relations representative who referred me to the librarian. I did enjoy my conversation with Diane Fagen, AVMA librarian, who set out to find out if a farrier was defined anywhere by the association.
Being a good librarian, she cheerfully suggested we look up farrier in the ultimate reference, the Oxford English Dictionary. I warned her not to, and that attorneys roll their eyes at OED definitions, but she did anyway.
"Oh my," Ms Fagen murmured, reading aloud a lengthy definition of the term "farrier" that seems woefully outdated, though historically accurate. "It means horse doctor," she concluded.
"I can see why you called," she acknowledged. But no, she didn't have any information on why the word had been changed.
But that's how change happens, sometimes: it just does.
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