Veterinarian / Farrier Relations
Stephen E. O'Grady, DVM, MRCVS
Reprinted with permission from the American Association of Equine Practitioners.
Why do we feel the veterinarian farrier relationship is so important? If we consider that a large percentage of the lameness cases presented to equine practitioners are localized to the foot or that the foot influences pathology in the limb above, we quickly see the importance of foot care. If we also consider that farriery will generally form part or all of the treatment of these lameness cases, a good working relationship between veterinarians and farriers becomes vital. Furthermore, the importance of routine hoof care in everyday equine practice as an aid to lameness prevention goes without saying and the combined input from both professions can only enhance overall hoof health and promote soundness. The anatomical/medical knowledge of the veterinarian combined with the technical/mechanical skills of the farrier knows no limits.
Good vet/farrier relations depend on the following three points and they are interrelated:
Respect has to be earned and it is based on both parties realizing their contribution to the foot and the overall health of the horse. It revolves around the individual’s interest, knowledge, skill and education with regards to podiatry/farriery.
Communication between the two professions is essential. The art of discussion – the ability to listen to each other, evaluate what is said and then contribute to the discussion in a useful practical manner. Both professionals need the ability to work together.
Education is key on both sides. Education promotes knowledge and understanding without which communication is ineffective. Veterinarians who treat performance horses should have an interest and a working knowledge of podiatry. It has to be realized that podiatry is only one of many facets of veterinary medicine whereas the farrier has his entire focus on the horse’s foot. Farriers need to have the education and skill level to maintain horses’ feet for all types of activity, and compliment the skills of veterinarians when the foot becomes affected by one of many diseases. For example, consider the veterinarian who specializes in reproduction and the farrier who has just completed six months of training – these two individuals are unable to communicate effectively and are thus poorly qualified to consult on farriery. How can we improve education for both professions? The AAEP/AFA short courses presented at veterinary schools are a promising start designed to introduce students to the basics of farriery , to emphasize the importance of the relationship between the two professions, and hopefully to inspire them to dig deeper into the complexities of equine podiatry. Hopefully, approved schools and more emphasis on apprenticeships for farrier training, advanced training in podiatry for both professions, more CE courses on podiatry, and more scientific papers in the literature on foot care may help to rectify current deficiencies. Many equine practices present vet/farrier seminars at their clinics to promote learning and foster cooperation between the professions. Additionally, many clinics hold monthly podiatry days where difficult foot cases are treated through the combined efforts of a veterinarian and farrier. These activities not only promote education and stimulate camaraderie between the two professions, but also provide a welcome service to the patient and client and function as a dynamic practice builder.
Stephen E. O’Grady, DVM