This programme is currently closed to new applicants. A revised programme may be available in the future.

The Graduate Diploma in Applied Equine Locomotor Research from the RVC offers professional farriers the chance to develop the skill-set necessary to produce original research and increase the evidence base behind farriery.

We will be in touch with news about the course and more information on how to apply.

What's On Offer?

This course is delivered in a blended format combining online learning with residential weekends to ideally suit the busy schedule of the professional farrier. The next intake will be in January 2022 and will be based in the USA. The residential weekends will be held at the New Bolton Centre, University of Pennsylvania. Anyone interested in the this course will need to meet the visa requirements to enter the USA for study on six occasions over two years. Students are responsible for making their own visa arrangements.

Why choose this course?

Participants in the course will develop knowledge and skill in equine locomotor research directly related to the field of farriery. The course is specifically designed to enable participants to develop the necessary scientific and academic skills in order to produce their own research project to the highest professional standard.

Graduates will be awarded a Graduate Diploma in Equine Locomotor Research, which is a Level 6 (FHEQ) UK Higher Education qualification (equivalent to a Bachelors degree). The programme has been carefully designed to help graduates meet the project and presentation requirements for the Fellowship of the Worshipful Company of Farriers examination.

3d models of equine foot
Models of a shod foot with packer comparing hoof deformation in walk (white) and trot (yellow)

Tim Shannon, GradDip ELR

I am a practicing Farrier in Southern California since 1987. I work mostly on FEI 3-Day Event and Endurance horses. I passed my CJF in 1994 and my AWCF in 2016.

There are a couple reasons why I chose to take this challenging course. The first is because I say ‘why’ a lot and another is because of a talk I attended by Jeff Thomasson at the Hoof Care Summit years ago. The challenges that I have gone through; what I have learned about assessing movement, defining the parts and coming up with questions, has been invaluable to my practice. The thought process alone has helped me put together improved shoeing protocols for my clientele..

I would recommend this course for anyone who constantly questions and re-evaluates their work. Someone who thinks 'good enough' isn’t and wants to make it better. This course will give you the tools to do that. This course will also teach you to articulate your thoughts better. We have all had situations where we know why we are implementing a certain shoeing protocol, but we don’t have the words to properly articulate it.

We as Farriers need to take ownership of our profession. We already know how to ask questions. This course will teach you how to answer them, and answer them professionally.

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How is the course structured?

The course is divided into two distinct sections.

We are mindful of the fact that the farriery profession is made up of a cross-section of individuals with varying educational backgrounds. Section 1 acts as a springboard that enables participants who have not had any involvement in formal education in a number of years to familiarise themselves with current learning methods and thus “ease into” academic work.

Section 1: Contemporary Study Skills

This section of the course includes the following topics:

  • Introduction to online learning
  • Learning styles and self-regulation of learning
  • Searching for information
  • Communication skills 
  • Academic writing
  • Presentation skills

Section 2: Applied Equine Locomotion

The course comprises of five modules

  • Module 1: Equine locomotor biomechanics and orthopaedics
  • Module 2: Critical evaluation of scientific literature
  • Module 3: Study design and equine locomotor assessment methods
  • Module 4: Data processing, analysis and presentation
  • Module 5: Research project
two ct scans of euine foot
Computed tomography images showing hoof deformation with a packer in the unloaded (grey) and the foot simulating trot (orange) as seen from behind (left) and the side (right)

Timetable for the 2020 intake

The course will be offered as a combination of online learning and weekend seminars. For the 2020 intake, the 6 residential weekends were held at the University of Pennsylvania, New Bolton Center.

The current USA cohort timetable is shown below (please note format: DD/MM/YYYY)

Module Starting date Residential days Deadline course work End date
Section 1:
Contemporary Study Skills 06/01/2020 11+12/01/2020 06/04/2020 08/05/2020
Section 2:
Equine locomotor biomechanics and orthopaedics 07/09/2020 26+27/09/2020 26/10/2020 13/11/2020
Critical evaluation of scientific literature 23/11/2020 05+06/12/2020 25/01/2021 12/02/2021
Study design and equine locomotor assessment methods 22/02/2021 06+07/03/2021 12/04/2021 23/04/2021
Data processing, analysis and presentation 27/09/2021 09+10/10/2021 08/11/2021 26/11/2021
Research project 06/12/2021 26+27/02/2022 28/03/2022 15/04/2022

How much study time is involved?

The course will run over a minimum of 24 months, with self-study tasks (‘homework’) in between sessions.

Section 1: Participants are expected to spend five hours of study a week

Section 2: Participants are expected to spend ten hours of study a week

“Study” does not only include the time sitting at a desk and working on the computer or reading scientific literature it also includes thinking “on the job”, discussing cases with fellow farriers, vets or other knowledgeable stakeholder as well as collecting data, e.g. taking photographs of horses’ feet or reflecting about what you could have done differently about the last horse while driving to the next horse can count as “study” time.


Each module will have homework associated with it that will be used for assessment.

These comprise participation in online discussions, describing cases, doing a literature search and review and finally a presentation and report of a research study of your choice.

Your studies will be supported at every stage by the staff teaching on each module as well as your personal academic tutor and the Learning Development Team.

Examples of previous graduates' research project titles:

  • The influence of horseshoes and substrates on mid stance hoof orientation- a dynamic assessment
  • Relationships of Internal and External Hoof Wall Morphology
  • An Investigation into the Equine Digital Cushion
  • The Effects of Horseshoe Type and Dimensions on Hoof Capsule Strain
  • Evaluation of limb length disparities in horses with asymmetrical hoof angles of the fore limbs
  • An examination of the relationship between equine horn tubule growth alignment at the dorsal hoof wall, and the articular and distal planes of the coffin bone.
  • The effects of various shoe clip applications on hoof wall expansion, and forces exerted on the hoof by the clips
  • The effects of shoe position of a Rolled-Rocker shoe on equine movement in trot
  • The effects of horseshoe placement on the hoof during stance, unrollment, stride length and speed. 
  • Limb Length Disparity of the Thoracic Limb and Hoof Angle Asymmetry
  • The Effects of Rockered Toe Horseshoes on Hoof Morphology Over Three Shoeing Cycles
  • The effects of front shoe surface modifications in the sport horse on the speed of breakover during the walk and trot on artificial and solid surfaces

Who will I be taught by?

Section 1 of the course, Contemporary Study Skills, will be taught by the Learning Development Team led by Veronica Brewster.

All the staff involved in delivering this section of the course are experienced in supporting vocational learners with little or no experience of post-16 education or with long gaps since undertaking formal education. They are also trained to support students with diagnosed/undiagnosed Specific Learning Differences (SpLD) such as dyslexia/dyspraxia.

Section 2 of the course, is led by Dr. Thilo Pfau and Amy Barstow with support from the Structure and Motion Lab, the Equine Referral Hospital and the anatomy and epidemiology departments.

Dr Thilo Pfau is Senior Lecturer in Bioengineering and has over 10 years experience in researching animal biomechanics. His current research focuses on the quantitative asssessment of lameness in horses. Amy Barstow is a vet and Assistant Lecturer in Clinical Skills who is completing a PhD in the effect of different shoeing techniques on equine biomechanics. Additional teaching and support will be provided by other RVC staff including clinicians, pathologists, epidemiologists and statisticians as needed.

The RVC’s Structure and Motion lab is the most extensive facility in the world dedicated to animal locomotor biomechanics with the horse at its centre. The RVC's clinical facilities combined with the expertise of the equine group provides the ideal ground for the programme in equine locomotor research.

Access to resources

The participants will have access to the RVC library (residential as well as online) resources, allowing access to relevant books, journals and other publications. Online search facilities provide access to multiple databases including CAB, PubMed, Web of Science, WildPro and Cochrane. All students off-campus can access electronic journals, eBooks and databases via the Virtual Learning Environment, RVC Learn.

A joint Helpdesk operates during opening hours, offering library and first-line IT support, audio- visual and classroom support services, user education programmes and a bookshop. On-site IT support is available 8am to 6pm (UK time) Monday to Friday, with an off-site out of hours’ service (NorMAN) also provided.

RVC Learn, a Moodle-based Virtual Learning Environment, is used at the RVC to enable students to access course materials online.

For students to be able to successfully complete this course they need practical experience in advanced hoof care and academic capability. 

Students need to demonstrate their academic ability to work at FHEQ level 5 before starting the course. This will be achieved by a combination of previous experiential learning and the successful completion of a bridging module on contemporary study skills, section 1 of the course. Admission will be open to all farriers who can demonstrate the necessary experience in advanced foot care and can provide evidence of reflective practice.


To apply for the Grad Dip ELR, you must be a trained foot-care professional with at least 2 years post-qualification experience which includes the management of more advanced hoof care cases. 

3d model of equine foot
3D model of a shod foot with packer comparing hoof deformation in walk (white) and trot (blue)

You will need to provide:

  • Evidence of your farriery or hoof care qualifications and/or training. If from outside the UK, this must be similar in standard to UK DipWCF* (NB: it is still possible to undertake the course without an equivalent qualification; please refer to Portfolio section below). 
  • A portfolio documenting the type of advanced cases that you manage (see section below)
  • A personal statement outlining why you want to undertake the course
  • Evidence of Continuing Professional Development (CPD), for example conferences or workshops attended, in the relevant section of the application form
  • A supporting letter from a veterinarian whom you have previously worked with on advanced hoof care cases

You may also wish to provide details of your previous presentations, demonstrations or publications in the relevant section of the application form.

*Qualifications considered equivalent to the DipWCF include: Worshipful Company of Farriers RSS (Registered Shoeing Smith) pre-October 1979, The Army Class II, BII, CMF and American Farriers Association CJF (Certified Journeyman Farrier) as per Farrier Registration Council regulations.


The portfolio does not need to be exhaustive but must demonstrate that you have experience of managing more advanced hoof care cases. Cases may include (but are not restricted to): laminitis, poor performance or lameness management, post-surgery management.

If you hold a relevant/equivalent farriery qualification:  Provide, in a brief portfolio, information on at least one advanced hoof care case you have been involved with. Pictures are encouraged.
If you do not hold an equivalent farriery qualification: Provide a portfolio pertaining to a minimum of three advanced hoof care cases you have been involved with. Each case should include a description and pictures alongside to demonstrate your approach to the case. 

English Language Requirements

  • IELTS (Academic) score of 7.0 or above with minimum 6.5 in each component

All applicants must have an acceptable English Language qualification. Please see our English Language Requirements page for a list of qualifications we accept as alternatives.

Residential Days

Students must be able to attend the residential days in person and are responsible for fulfilling all visa requirements if applicable. Students will be responsible for their own travel and accommodation arrangements.

Tuition Fees

Fees are to be confirmed for the 2022 intake.

The tuition fees below are for the full-length of the course for Grad Dip in ELR (US-based) starting January 2020

Course UK/EU Tuition Fees International Fees
Graduate Diploma ELR 4,800 4,800
Contemporary Study Skills module 1,430 1,430
USA Grad Dip ELR including CSS module 6,230 6,230

Tuition fee amounts are subject to increase each academic year, please be aware of this when making your calculations and planning how much money you will require.

Funding Options

Helena Kennedy Foundation

The Foundation exists to overcome social injustice by providing financial bursaries, mentoring and support to disadvantaged students from the further and adult education sectors, enabling them to complete their studies in higher education and move on successfully into employment or further studies.

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