Virginia Therapeutic Farriery

Vet / Farrier Relations

Stephen E. O'Grady DVM, MRCVS

The Natural Angle asked us the following questions and the responses were published in their newsletter.

Question 1: When should a farrier call a vet or have the owner call? When should a vet call a farrier?

Farrier should call when:

1. Any unexplained lameness is observed when the horse is brought out to be shod

2. Any situation in which live tissue is exposed or blood is noted

  • a) sole punctured with hoof knife
  • b) bleeding quarter crack or infected toe crack
  • c) infected corn
  • d) extensive white line disease
  • e) canker

3. Puncture wound in sole or frog of foot a) horse found with nail in foot

4. Deep abscess

5. When radiographs are needed:

  • a) to assess sole depth
  • b) to assess conformation of foot, i.e. long toe/low heel syndrome, hoof pastern axis
  • c) suspected rotation
  • d) to determine the extent of white line disease
  • e) to rule out solar margin fractures that can mimic sole bruising

6. Limb abnormalities in foals, i.e. angular limb and flexural deformities

Veterinarian should call when:

1. The veterinarian feels that the present shoeing may be implicated as a cause of or a contributing factor in a given lameness. (This should generally be done without the owner's knowledge.)

2. Lameness or disease is localized to the foot and shoeing is part of the therapy

3. Hoof conformation needs to be corrected in order to prevent lameness

4. Extensive hoof wall defects resulting in lameness need to be repaired (especially if defect involves live tissue)

5. Farrier input is necessary on a particular problem such as building a shoe or brace to treat a problem above the foot

6. To have a cup of coffee

Question 2: How should consultation be conducted? What are common problems in consultations? How should the vet and farrier handle disagreements on proposed treatment? Consultation should be conducted in person with the case (horse) if possible, so diagnosis can be discussed and a treatment agreed upon.


  • 1. Lack of adequate discussion
  • 2. Resentment of either party by the other
  • 3. Disagreement over therapy
  • 4. Treatment by "fad" by either party instead of looking at individual case
  • 5. Level of skill
    • a) Farrier-extent of training = ability to build required shoe
      • i) experience
      • ii) practicality
      • iii) innovativeness
      • iv) lack of continuing education
    • b) Veterinarian
      • i) amount of lameness work performed
      • ii) familiarity with farrier profession and the newest concepts

6. Continuing education

  • a) Veterinarian-lack of attendance of veterinarians at meetings devoted to podiatry, i.e. Laminitis Symposium, AFA Convention, etc.
  • b) Farrier-lack of attendance at local farrier clinics, FPD clinics, etc.

7. Egos-both sides There must be a mutual PROFESSIONAL respect between the veterinarian and the farrier in order to have a successful vet/farrier relationship.


1. Disagreements should always be handled through discussion, if possible.

2. If the case cannot be competently handled by either the veterinarian or the farrier, that individual should refer the case to a party more experienced to handle the situation in question.

3. With most lameness or disease-related problems of the hoof, there is the medical aspect which makes the veterinarian responsible for the overall case and places him or her in charge.

Question 3: From your perspective, what (and when) are important steps necessary to get best radiographs? Reference points? Radiographs should always be top quality.

This requires:

1. Good foot preparation (without shoes)

2. Good x-ray cassettes & screens

3. Good radiographic techniques

Radiographs are useful for:

1. General foot conformation

2. Hoof/pastern axis

3. Long toe/low heel

4. Club foot

5. Flat feet to determine sole depth

6. Laminitis

7. White Line Disease

8. Heel lameness

9. Lameness localized to the foot without obvious diagnoses (fractures, foot bruising, Keratoma, osteomyelitis, etc)

10. etc., etc., etc.

Reference points:

1. wire embedded in surface of radiograph block

2. Wire on dorsal hoof wall

3. Thumb tack behind point of frog

4. Small screws at coronary band

5. Markers at heels, if necessary It should be noted that, for accuracy, the opposite foot from the one being radiographed should be placed on a block of equal height.