Did you know horse owners rely on farriers second only to their veterinarians? Horse owners seek out answers from their veterinarians 80 percent of the time, and from their farriers 65 percent of the time.1 Farriers are a wealth of horse health information for owners, and the frequency in which you see your clients’ horses is a great benefit, especially when it comes to detecting equine joint disease.

When everyday wear and tear causes damage to a horse’s joint, that change can happen slowly and subtly. Equine joint disease starts subclinically at a molecular level and then progresses, presenting as pain, lameness and visible inflammation.2 If inflammation is not controlled, it can result in cartilage degradation before being diagnosed as osteoarthritis – a permanent condition. Early detection is key in stopping this cascade of events.3

Horse owners might not pick up on those slight changes, especially if they see the horse every day. On the other hand, when it comes to joint issues, a veterinarian will likely see the horse only once or twice a year for routine health checks or when the horse is lame and the damage may have already occurred.

Farriers see a horse frequently, but infrequently enough to detect the subtle changes. It’s the sweet spot to detect subtle changes so the owner can be proactive when it comes to joint health. With a trained eye, farriers often watch a horse move, detect differences in how the horse is standing, notice the horse’s response when picking up the limbs, and have the opportunity to run hands down the legs. You can feel the slightest heat or mild swellings. The opportunity to detect subtle joint inflammation lies in noticing the differences from one farrier appointment to the next.

The dialogue between the horse owner and the farrier can also help spot potential problems. Be deliberate about asking if there have been any changes in the horse’s movement, or if the horse has been off, and make notes. Just having those conversations can help spot subtle changes in horse health.

As you recognize changes in horse health, recommend to the horse owner or trainer to seek veterinary guidance or assistance. You’re already considering the changes in the hoof and leg from the last time you trimmed that horse, but consider the uniqueness of your frequency of seeing that horse. Take the time to communicate your findings about more than the foot to the horse owner or trainer.  

As skilled tradesmen, farriers are an essential part of the equine industry, trusted by horse owners. The old adage “no hoof, no horse” could be revised to say “no farrier, no horse.” Thank you to all the farriers for your commitment to horse health.

For more information about joint health, visit www.unbridleyourpotential.com.

©2018 Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc. EQU-0426-JH0218.

1Information Sources for and Providers of Equine Health Care, 2015. APHIS Veterinary Services. Accessed Jan. 17, 2018 at https://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/nahms/equine/downloads/equine15/Equine15_is_InfmSources.pdf.

2Carmona JU, Prades M. Pathophysiology of osteoarthritis. Compendium Equine. 2009;4:28- 40. 

3McIlwraith CW. Traumatic joint disease. Orthopaedic Research Center, Colorado State University Website. Accessed Jan. 17, 2018 at http://csu-cvmbs.colostate.edu/academics/clinsci/equine-orthopaedic-research-center/orthopaedic-topics/Pages/traumatic-joint-disease.aspx#legend.