Friday, December 14, 2012

Millwater's Farriery: Project Lexicon...

Project Lexicon... About Millwater's Farriery.
"The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms."

   Many years ago, when I was stumbling up the path from being a 'guy who shoes horses' to becoming an actual farrier, I started taking the trade journals, attending clinics, and doing the best I could to expand my understanding of art and science. Problem was that writers and speakers often threw around references and expressions, assuming that everyone was already familiar with them. ...Some of us weren't!

   I wire-brushed the devil out of the bottoms of a lot of hooves trying to get them clean enough so that I could see the "dot" that Duckett fellow had discovered, which some magazines mentioned, but didn't explain.

   Then there were the articles and lectures from veterinarians and academic researchers. They like to use a lot of ten dollar words just to show-off. But, when you think about shoeing horses, even simple terms like "up", "down", "right", "left", "front", and "back" can be confusing due to the fact that we look at things from so many different points of view. Sometimes the fancy terminology really was more precise.

   Even 'plain old' horseshoeing language caused confusion. I recall an early contest where there was a rather heated argument between the judge and a contestant over "heel calks", "corks", and "blocked heels"... Then there was a clinic where I found myself exchanging confused shrugs with a few other tarheel farriers as the lecturer explained that "Over eighty percent of the pleasure horses in the show ring speedy-cut at the passing gait."

   By the early 1990s, it had gradually dawned on me that there ought to be a glossary of farriery.   I'd successfully written for several major equestrian magazines by then, so I decided to give it a go.   In 1994 I published The Pocket Dictionary of Farrier Terms and Technical Language.  It sold-out pretty quickly, even as better authoring tools became available to me, and a lot of new terms that needed to be included became apparent.  So, the following year, The New Dictionary of Farrier Terms and Technical Language was published.

   There wound-up being eight editions of the New Dictionary between 1995 and 2010.   Each featuring new terms, refined and expanded definitions, more and better illustrations.

   Initially, the focus was on the sort of scientific and specialized jargon you can't look-up in Webster's.  But, over the years, I realized that there were a lot of horseshoers with impressive technical knowledge and skills who had somehow managed to skip over some fundamental basics.   I also discovered that many of my readers were other equestrian professionals and horseowners.   So I began expanding the scope of the Dictionary to include the "foundation" terms needed to support the advanced material.

   Terms evolved into topics.   Definitions into articles.   With the tenth print version of the lexicon, it has grown into something new.  An encyclopedic dictionary.  A cross-referenced collection of interlocking entries designed to allow readers to come in at any level from prospective student or interested horseowner to established professional, and go up, down, or sideways as their reference needs dictate.

   It was on the advice of two veterans of farrier publishing that I added my name to the title of the tenth lexicon.  I was a little reluctant.  Even my hubris has limits...   But it ultimately made sense.  The transition to an encyclopedic format, centered on articles rather than mere definitions, meant that the book would reflect my own experience and approaches more than the previous works had.  This will probably elicit some criticism, as I do tend to develop some unusual techniques...

   As I was finishing-up with shoeing a rather tricky therapeutic case, I mentioned to my wife that I was going to have to work on finding a way to explain a "trick" I'd used for an article.

   She said "You can't tell other people how to do that!"

   "Why not? You know it works."

   "Yes," she allowed. "But nobody but you can make it work right."

   I'm pretty sure she's mistaken on that point. But she made me put-in a disclaimer anyway.


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