Thursday, 21 March 2019

Vet Learning Day

My vet's office held a client appreciation learning day last month and I went for a few hours to watch the teeth and hoof presentations.

The oral health presentation didn't tell me much that I didn't know but it did confirm for me that I will always get my vet to float my horse's teeth rather than the questionable "equine dentists" that travel around (I got taken in by one of these a few years ago despite trying to do my due diligence, they do talk a good game, but I know better now). My vet did the presentation herself and she is clearly up to date with recent research about impact of different types of tools on the health of the tooth and that's something I appreciate.

Presentation was set up in the cattle handling side of the clinic

The foot presentation was very interesting to me. I never did catch the presenter's name but he is a farrier from Florida. As well as working on many competitive horses, he is also the farrier that a few veterinary hospitals refer to for corrective shoeing so he has seen a lot.

I'm in Alberta, so of course cowboy hats were aplenty

He went over a lot during his presentation but these are the points I wrote down that really struck me as new or interesting:

  • No bone in back 1/3 of hoof
  • Hoof wall is malleable, it distorts
  • Heel and toe should be same angle
  • Only finite number of fibers in wall around foot, so any distortion takes fibers away from the heel
  • String line from cannon bone should hit foot at ground level
  • Shoeing is a process, not an event (i.e. takes more than one cycle)
  • Finger width back from tip of frog should be the center of the hoof
  • Shape of foot should be the same at the coronary band and the bottom of the hoof, otherwise there is distortion
  • Hind feet and front feet are generally different shapes (look at photo of front shoe vs back shoe)
Top is hind shoe, bottom is front shoe
  • Navicular is a created problem (horses aren't born with it)
  • Hoof, pastern and shoulder should all be same angle
  • Frog doesn't distort so it is a good reference for straightness and symmetry of foot
  • Natural balance shoe (shoe with corners) causes collateral ligament damage
  • Rocker in shoe is helpful for horse with a "broken back hoof-pastern angle" - gives immediate relief but eventually want to improve shape of hoof
  • Heart bar shoe good for horse with distorted feet and under-run heels
  • Interference can be caused by bad shoeing
  • Front of hoof should be at least 3.25" long from coronary band to ground (because the bone structures etc. need at least that much room)
  • Can't straighten a crooked leg in an adult horse, only when they are very young (talking about windswept horses)
  • A rasp will last about 1 week for a full time farrier
  • It is most cost and time effective to use pre-made shoes rather than making them from scratch
  • Be wary of farriers trained using a 6 week program as it means they can't see cause and effect of shoeing the same horse over multiple cycles. 

At the end of the presentation he did some Q&A and I asked him about his thoughts regarding barefoot vs. shod. His answer was one that I had never considered before. He said that barefoot was fine, but when you have hoof problems that you are correcting with a trim, a barefoot horse will wear down their hoof to "get their problems back" but when you trim and stick a shoe on, the problem stays fixed for 5-6 weeks. You have a much better chance of creating lasting change to the foot when you use shoes. While obviously a bit simplified that was one of the most intelligent and concise answers I have ever heard about the shoes/barefoot debate. I plan to keep Kachina barefoot for the time being as it is working for us but it will give me a better way to assess in the future if we need to add shoes. He also said that he thinks it is fine to shoe only up front or only on the hinds depending on the horse's needs. 

After the talk portion he then did a quick demo trim on one of the vet's own horses.

The crowd watching

Midway through, right feet trimmed, left not touched yet

Overall it was a really good learning day and I'm glad I went! Does your vet or farrier ever put on presentations like this?


  1. My vet clinic does quite a few of these client nights, and I always try to attend them when I can. I always pick up some new information, and might even win something! And of course there was the leg dissection that was put on by my farriers. I loved that opportunity!

  2. oooh that's super interesting! i'd love to attend something similar, but it's hard to make time. my vet held a lecture on dewormers last week and i really wanted to go (bc i know like... nothing about dewormers lol), but again it just didn't work out. maybe next time!

    1. There's a vet in my area who works for one of the veterinary pharmaceutical companies who does a fantastic talk on deworming! Basically, get fecal egg counts done before and after reworking to find out what kind of shredder your horse is and then deworm accordingly. And picking poo is the best deterrent to parasites!

    2. Not reworking - deworming! I changed it three times and it still didn't take - damn you autocorrect!

  3. Interesting. My endurance mare was barefoot, well she still is now retired, for most of her competitions and did fine. My new guy has bad feet and shoes have been working wonders to bring them around. I think you just need to be flexible with everything and do what is best in that moment.

  4. That sounds fascinating! So many good insights - I wish he traveled here! I'm bookmarking this.