top of page

How To Make It Happen; Evaluation, Strategy, Planning and Execution

Updated: Apr 21, 2020

2004 - 17th Annual Bluegrass Laminitis Symposium Notes

How To Make It Happen; Evaluation, Strategy, Planning and Execution

Written and presented January 2004 by R.F. (Ric) Redden, DVM

"Making It Happen" requires a farrier and a veterinarian to prepare themselves for the mission. Preparing for a professional career has an initial "crank up" period. Vets normally attend four years of college followed by four years of professional school. This intense period is very demanding and requires very serious discipline and dedication. Vet medicine is a much more complex field then most people understand. Simply staying current with new concepts and techniques requires constant continuing education.

Vet school prepares its graduates with a reliable means of thinking as a vet with an emphasis on small animal, food animal, equine, exotics, regulatory medicine, research and others. This base is a tremendous asset for anyone wishing to excel in any of these fields. Unfortunately, equine podiatry is not one of the areas of intense focus, so it leaves a major black hole in our profession.

One vet stated that he went to school four years and learned that the foot was a primary cause for most all leg problems. However, the professors never got around to teaching them how or why this was true nor what to do about it. Considering the intensity of the four-year program, it is no wonder there is not time to fit a single new subject into the curriculum. The best we can offer a vet student is an insight into the field of podiatry and the incentive to pursue this field after graduating.

Becoming focused on foot problems requires horsemanship skills, farrier skills, a passion for exploring the unknown and an enthusiasm for new ideas. Preparation comes with a price, and there are no shortcuts to a successful career. Vets must learn their way around a foot much the same way farriers do; on the job training. Training, shoeing and shoe making become quite easy once we have learned all we need to know about the basic formula. Understanding simple body language requires months to learn and years to develop. Without it, though, the thought process is stifled when under a horse for a routine exam.

Simply working with an accomplished farrier for several weeks is a great way for most vets to gain exposure to the basics, and develop the feel and insight required for the simplest routine exam. What we don't know is the kicker. This is where ego lives and efficiency doesn't exist.

Farriers on the other hand have a similar dilemma. The large majority of farriers throughout the United States, Canada, and most of the world (except Europe, Scandinavia and Japan) are self-taught or work as an apprentice for someone who was self taught. This is not entirely bad, but the learning curve is vertical many years and can plateau anywhere along the way depending on one's goals, appetite for challenge, business sense and dedication to the horse. Most farrier schools start at ground zero and are measured in weeks of study, not months or years. At best, there is nothing more than a quick glance at farrier science.

Clients have little knowledge about the foot as well. They are holding the shank waiting for their vet and farrier to get their horse's foot fixed with no clue of the education, experience or skill of either professional. Yes, one or both of them may have a great reputation in their respective profession, but how does this prepare them for the mission at hand? Extrapolating one's expertise from surgery, medicine, reproduction, small animal, etc. and applying it to the foot of the horse is high risk at best.

Shoeing and trimming top athletes for 10-15 years certainly doesn't teach the discipline of podiatry either. Unfortunately, many times neither party has a grasp on the subject. Therefore, controversy grows, there is gross miscommunication, and one profession begins to blame the other. This dilemma will only get worst if we fail to recognize the seat of the problem.

Education and training in the field of equine podiatry is the answer. From this point on, we must concentrate on how we can all become more knowledgeable and effective in the field of podiatry.

Let's examine the foot, and for a moment leave the hoof testers and the Carbocaine in the truck. Simply look at each foot from all angles, noticing the body posture and conformation, as well as what the horse is telling you about how he feels about the exam. The message he gives about what is wrong with his feet is loud and clear. Each foot will give you either subtle or strong messages concerning the unhealthy areas.