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Vet and farrier: the importance of teamwork

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What can help your approach

  • Developing a good relationship and excellent communication with your local farriers is key. Where possible, discuss pathology and share images (with consent) with each client’s farrier as routine. Farriers understand the practicalities of what is and isn’t possible for different horses’ feet. Collaborate with them and learn together.

  • Arrange farriery CPD events at your clinic as part of an educational and social opportunity for farriers. Likewise, encourage colleagues to attend farrier-related CPD.

  • Remember to thank farriers for their input, skills and dedication to achieving the best outcome for our clients.

I am the proud owner of two Hanoverians - 21-year-old semi-retired Henry and 12-year-old Betty. Both are kept on full livery due to work commitments. A full livery service has its conveniences, but it also means that I can rarely be with my horses when the vet or the farrier comes, so communication via other routes is really important.

Over the years, I have observed that many equine vets are very reluctant to recommend a farrier or comment on shoeing, but they do seem to always ask me who is shoeing the horse. I am not a farrier, and I do not know how my horse should be shod or what the ideal weight bearing axis/toe-heel length is. I also realise that my vet is not a farrier, but they do have the necessary equipment to be able to visualise internal structures within the hoof and consider any pathological processes that may affect the type of shoe or trimming style required.

However, I have felt frustrated with the lack of communication between my previous farriers and vets and the consequent inability to ensure that these two skills meet in the middle to achieve the best possible outcome for my horses.

I have felt frustrated with the lack of communication between my farriers and vets

There was a period of time where Betty constantly removed her own shoes in the field, to the extent that there was no hoof left to nail a shoe onto. During this time I had to leave the area and, therefore, change farrier. Since then, she has never lost a shoe. I have no idea whether this is due to differences in the farriers’ techniques, or whether it is simply due to the change in the ground.

Unfortunately, Betty then suffered a severe episode of lameness following farriery. She could not walk for days, then remained lame for about five weeks. My vet’s initial suspicion was that it was related to the shoeing - ‘nail bind’ or similar - but the horse didn’t seem to improve with conservative management. The farrier remained adamant that it was definitely not related to his shoeing.

Following nerve blocks and x-rays, which failed to reveal any significant abnormalities, I remained unclear as to what the problem could be, which I found frustrating. The farrier and vet did not communicate during this period of time or share the radiographic images, which, again, I found frustrating. Thankfully the situation did improve over time, and the problem has not recurred.

However, a few years later, my riding instructor was concerned that Betty’s heels were very low, which led to me seeking advice from my vet again. Foot balance radiographs revealed a flattened pedal bone within the hoof capsule, with a long toe and low heel height. In this case, the vet used their own ‘remedial farrier’, but, to my knowledge, they did not see the radiographs. This made no sense to me. It was difficult to know how she should be shod because her history of shoe removal made us question whether heel wedges should be beneficial. I didn’t know how to proceed. I just needed somebody to tell me what to do for the best.

More recently, I’m pleased to report that my vet has repeated Betty’s foot radiographs with the farrier present, and we were able to enjoy a joint discussion about how best to trim her foot shape and apply her shoes. We have had no lameness issues recently, and I feel we are now working as an effective team.

This vital team has previously felt so disjointed, and I’m sure I’m not the only owner to feel like this. So, let’s spread the word on how a more cohesive vet-farrier-owner team can be achieved to get the best results for our horses’ feet.

Do you want to get involved?

If you know a client who might be interested in writing for us, please contact us at vet.clientview{at}bmj.com. Any contributions will be assessed by the column’s veterinary coordinator, Zoe Belshaw.

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