Horse man Norman has nailed his place among the world's elite
A 53-year-old student is on course to become one of only four people in the world to receive a little known qualification.
When Norman Johnson graduates from the University of Central Lancashire he will join just three other PhD qualified experts in farriery - equine hoof care.
Norman, who has worked with horses since the age of 26, got the idea for doing the PhD while he was studying for a DipHE and BSc (Hons) degree in farrier science at the University Centre at Myerscough College.
His love of horses developed through 15 years working at the racing yards in Newmarket, servicing around 200 horses for a number of high-profile racing trainers.
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He also worked with dressage and eventing horses, as well as polo ponies and soon discovered that shooing, or farriery, was an area that he wanted to specialise in.
After his degree Norman discovered he could go on to get a PhD and jumped at the chance. He said: " I didn't originally think about doing a PhD but, having done well with the course at Myerscough and having enjoyed the experience, I was hooked on the idea of doing more research into farriery as a subject.
“I was aware that it is very unusual for farriery to be studied at this level but it seemed very much like something I needed to do."
Norm,an, who originally hails from St Helens, added: "The hoof capsule of the horse is a very intricate, if not amazing piece of engineering. It carries half a ton of horse at speeds over 40mph and therefore is subject to huge stresses.
"It deforms elastically at every stride, but any slight imbalance can cause plastic deformation because of its repetitive nature resulting in potentially severe damage to the hoof over time.
"The farrier industry is crying out for some injection of science, and with this particular course of study I feel that I may hopefully be able to make a positive difference to the sector in the future with the work I am doing.
"My hope is with the completion of the PhD I will be to try to help educate and more importantly inspire others to become involved in research which is such a desperately needed area of the profession."
Norman hopes to follow in the footsteps of renowned farrier Dr Simon Curtis, who also studied at UCLan and is one of just three specialists currently world wide known to have a PhD in the area.
Mick Cottam, assistant principal for higher education at Myerscough College and University Centre, said: "As a major provider of farriery courses in the UK, Myerscough plays a key role in training the next generation of farriers, to ensure standards within the industry remain as high as they can be.’
‘"Despite being an ancient craft, farriery is constantly evolving, and remains a vitally important part of the equine industry.
"Norman’s research is sector leading and along with similar work undertaken by Myerscough fellow, Dr Simon Curtis, will ensure equine science remains a key part of the industry’s thinking. We wish him all the best in his work."