“Throughout the centuries, Farriery has remained principally an empirical craft based on personal observations and individual interpretations rather than scientific evidence” (Van Heel et al 2004).
I have been fortunate to be a farrier for a large equine veterinarian practice that sees a heavy case load of lame horses. This clinic has had an MRI for about ten years which examines around 300 head of horses a year. The majority of these horses have very poor foot quality and conformation. It would not be uncommon for some of these high-end performance horses to be worth six figures.
All of these horses have the same abnormalities in foot structure. These abnormalities arise from balance leverages that cause hoof distortion and soft tissue compression which in turn affects bone, tendons and ligaments in the foot and leg. These foot conditions are chronic and evaluation of these feet reveal that no attempt beyond normal farriery has been used to manage these feet. It is apparent that most often the veterinarians attending these horses for lameness can’t recognize the biomechanical problems of the feet.
Research is needed that creates evaluation standards for both the veterinarian and farrier industries. Rehabilitating feet that are in distress can take a considerable amount of time and money. It is much easier and less expensive to maintain a healthy foot than to rehabilitate a damaged foot on a horse that might have an irreparable injury.
- Developing geographical markers for farriers and veterinarians that gauge internal anatomy.
- Standardizing a system for measuring balance.
- Radiograph indicators for healthy feet.
- Medical therapies to regenerate foot growth.
Pete Healey, APF 1
President, & CEO
Equine Podiatry Education Foundation