Hoof Care

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The topic of having horses go barefoot vs. shod has been discussed at several American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) Annual Conventions and always generates some very informative dialog while raising many important questions. I must say from the onset that I favour horses being maintained without shoes when possible, but it depends on multiple factors.

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The importance of a good farrier is well understood by knowledgeable horse owners who reap the benefits of diligent, routine care. In this article, Certified Journeyman Farrier Sean Elliott provides some great tips for promoting hoof health and explains some pitfalls to avoid.

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Is your farrier certified with the American Farrier’s Association (AFA)? Did he or she serve an extensive apprenticeship at the beginning of their career? Does your farrier pursue additional education?

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Regenerative medicine covers a suite of different technologies that enhance the horse’s natural healing process and help them heal faster. Equine veterinarians have been using regenerative medicine for the past decade to treat joint disease and soft tissue injuries; however, it’s new to many horse owners and only equine veterinarians specializing in sports medicine tend to offer the technologies.

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The word laminitis elicits fear among horse owners because many associate it with the end of the horse’s career, and sometimes the horse’s life. Laminitis is a catastrophic syndrome that should always be treated as an emergency; however, recent research and new techniques used to treat this condition now make it possible to save horses that might have died. A diagnosis of laminitis is no longer a death sentence.

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We ask a lot of our four-legged friends as today’s horses compete throughout most of the year. Whatever the horse’s primary job — from dressage to trail riding and reining to show jumping, the feet are the most common source of lameness. With the advent of preventative drugs such as Legend®, Adequan®, and Pentosan EQ™ we can improve the longevity of our horses’ athletic use, but unfortunately injuries still occur.

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Prevention is key to avoiding hoof issues - During her daily field visits to farms and acreages around the Saskatoon area, equine veterinary specialist Dr. Kate Robinson sees a wide range of hoof issues in horses – many of them preventable with a consistent daily hoof care regimen.

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Podiatry in equine veterinary practice is gaining increasing attention. We continue to learn more about the function and biomechanics of the horse’s foot, and develop new and innovative strategies to alter those biomechanics and mitigate problems that lead to lameness in the foot. To achieve a successful outcome, equine podiatry requires a team approach and great cooperation between the owner, the veterinarian, and the farrier. Although a relatively small part of the horse’s body, the foot plays a very important role in soundness. It is simply amazing to consider all of the functions that are occurring in this structure in order to support a horse’s size and weight. It can be even more overwhelming when we start to consider how small changes to the biomechanics of the foot can change the function of the foot, and result in lameness issues for the horse down the road. One of the most common hoof deformities, which develops as a result of a change in the healthy balance and biomechanics in the horse’s foot, is the club foot.

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When you have finally found the perfect horse to take you to the winner’s circle, it’s tough to realize that he or she might be getting old. Many horses are now competing well into their late teens and early twenties, especially in certain disciplines such as dressage or show jumping where it takes many years of training to reach an elite level of competition. However, from a veterinary perspective, horses are considered geriatric as they reach the age of 15 to 20 years, which is when their physiological functions start to decline. The management of these horses becomes crucial to keep them competing at their best.

If you’re lucky, you and your horse see your farrier once every six weeks or so, and these visits involve a simple trim or standard shoeing. If your horse has always been sound and performed well, it is likely that regular, routine care by a qualified farrier is more than sufficient to keep his feet in tip-top shape.

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