horse soundness

Any horse owner who has managed a clinical condition associated with their horse’s feet knows firsthand the influence farriers* and veterinarians can have on a successful outcome. The collaborative work of the owner, farrier, and veterinarian cannot be underestimated or trivialized because it can dictate soundness and overall health, particularly in the performance horse. Consequently, selecting the right farrier and/or veterinarian to invite to the horse’s care team is a vital step toward reaching this ­collaboration.

I recommend that horse owners consider the following when choosing farriers and veterinarians to work on their horses:

  • Each farrier and veterinarian has his or her own professional style and personality. Horse owners must ensure that they and their horse agree with that style and can form a professionally successful relationship.
  • Horse owners must critically assess whether farriers and veterinarians can meet their needs and expectations. These include but are not limited to cost, availability, experience, expertise, and customer service.
  • Horse owners must have confidence in their farriers’ and veterinarians’ abilities. This is most important when professional disagreements arise.
  • Hoof care and farriery philosophies and technology have evolved over the years. Farriers and veterinarians must be familiar with the progressive nature of the industry and recognize the current trends and research.
  • Horse owners must be aware that while they are objectively scrutinizing ­veterinarians or farriers, these professionals are equally scrutinizing their decision to work for the horse owners.

As an equine veterinarian practicing in the Northeast, I have had the fortune to work alongside some extremely talented farriers and committed horse owners. While many of these individuals have directly influenced my professional development, I believe that I have reciprocated, providing education for them, as well.

While no veterinarian or farrier can boast 100% success when treating equine hoof-related conditions, having a strong teamwork approach that incorporates owner, farrier, and veterinarian has undoubtedly improved my success in treating clinical cases and preventing other ailments. The relationship between horse owner, farrier, and veterinarian is similar to a marriage. These marriages can remain strong with open communication channels, professional growth, and mutual appreciation. Occasionally, “divorces” occur; however, stronger developed relationships withstand the trying times.

Every horse owner is tasked with building a team to work on his or her horse. While there are a multitude of contributors required for this team, the farrier and veterinarian are crucial for optimizing the horse’s health and performance. Developing a strong collaborative bond between horse owner, farrier, and veterinarian will positively influence the horse ownership experience and improve the animal’s athletic success.

Editor’s Note: *Please note that “farrier” in this article refers to farriers, blacksmiths, barefoot trimmers, etc.

This Across the Fence column was originally published in the May 2017 issue of The Horse: Your Guide to Equine Health Care.