By Rebecca Scott

Recently I was called to a pony. The new owner wanted me to look at her feet and trim her. The pony – unbeknownst to the new owner – was laminitic and foundering. The former owner had reportedly said that the horse had gone laminitic some months ago, but was now well on the road to recovery. So the new owner thought things were hunky dory.

When I saw the pony I suggested that it might have rotated its pedal bones. “No,” the new owner told me. “I’ve got the X-Rays and they don’t show any rotation.” Great, I thought.  “Can I have a look?” So the radiographs were produced and sure enough… rotation in all four feet. It didn’t take radiographs to show that. It was obvious just looking at the feet. But like so many owners, this lady didn’t know what she was looking at.

So I gave the pony a laminitis trim which relieved the hoof walls all round, and put it in boots and pads.  And although it was still very sore, everybody could see that she was more comfortable. Her heart rate was 60bpm so I suggested that the woman consult a vet. The horse looked like a Cushings pony to me. But I wanted the vet to make that call!

So the next day the lady dutifully called a local vet. And I phone up later in the day to see how the consult had gone. Well, it went badly! For me. But worse IMO for the pony.

The vet took one look at the trim and didn’t like it. Not only did the vet not approve of the pony walking on her soles and frog, but she wanted the pony out of the boots and pads since the owner wasn’t at the property 24/7 to monitor it. “They might rub”, she warned. Further, the vet gave the lady the names and numbers of two farriers to put shoes on the pony. The next day the laminitic pony was shod.

And I can’t really blame the lady. She knew very little about horses. And vets are the recognised authority when it comes to animal health. So naturally, she’s going to trust the vet ahead of a barefoot trimmer. The really annoying thing is that vets trust and refer to farriers but NOT to barefoot trimmers. And the barefoot trimmers KNOW how to effectively rehab many of the acute and chronic founder cases which are so widespread in spring and autumn. (Diet, exercise and hoofcare).

So it was so refreshing to discover at the recent Bowker Lectures in Seymour (organised by the Victorian-based College of Equine Podio-Therapy) that there were at least six vets present, all of whom totally embraced barefoot hoof care ahead of traditional farriery. One – Prof Bob Bowker – has devoted his professional life to hoof research at Michigan State University.  Another, Dr Alina Luff is a graduate of the Diploma of Equine Podio-Therapy and incorporates barefoot hoofcare into her own practice in WA.  Another, Dr Abbey Parkes is also a graduate of the diploma course and has now quit vetting to focus entirely on barefoot trimming in Northern NSW. And Dr Neal Valk is a Tennessee-based veterinary surgeon who has turned his practice over to the provision natural hoofcare.

I think it’s the first time ever in Australia that we’ve had so many vets in one place all on the same page as the trimmers. Maybe the tide in barefoot hoofcare in Australia is starting to turn?

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