Pictured Above: Farrier shop at the Equine Veterinary Medical Center in Doha, Qatar.

Farrier Takeaways

  • Working as a team with veterinarians, farriers and other specialists while mutually respecting each other’s strengths results in a better outcome for horses.
  • Strong shoemaking skills make a difference in consistently and
    accurately shoeing difficult cases.
  • Take care when applying caudal extension shoes on young foals. When fit too long and left on too long, they can result in capsule detachment.

After 29 years of running and instructing farriery at the Kentucky Horseshoeing School, I decided to take a sabbatical in January 2018. I believe that everything happens as part of a grand plan and as fate would have it, I accepted a job as the head of podiatry within the newly opened Equine Veterinary Medical Center (EVMC) in Doha, Qatar.

The hospital building is adjoined with a veterinary medical laboratory and equine research center and is situated on the grounds of the state-owned Al Shaqab equine facility. Interestingly, this is the same place that our good friend Burney Chapman used to come to work on foundered horses for the Emir of Qatar in the late ’80s and early ’90s, although Burney would not recognize it now.

My official title is chief of orthopedic podiatry and my work scope is two-fold. First, I am responsible for the therapeutic footcare of all cases that come into the hospital. The typical case will involve working with veterinary doctors, lameness diagnostic imaging specialists, and other clinical staff to assist with sedation or nerve blocking, if necessary. For example, if there is a metabolic component to the lameness, like endocrinopathic laminitis, the patient will first be seen by a doctor from the medical department to get an overall physical examination and blood work before the lameness doctor would conduct a lameness examination. After consultation with the lameness veterinarian and evaluating any images, we decide on a treatment plan.

I am also responsible for any problem-horses that need therapeutic footcare within the Al Shaqab horse farm population. There are, on average, about 750 horses of a variety of breeds here at any time. All horses are owned by one of the three equine departments that make up Al Shaqab. There are about 180 warmbloods in the Equine Education Department (EED) that are used for dressage and jumping; about 75 Uruguayan endurance horses in the Endurance Department and about 500 Arabian mares, stallions and young stock in the Breed and Show Department. Four staff farriers are hired to maintain the feet but they are not formally trained; anything other than typical footcare is a problem for them. Like most horse populations, there are about 10-15% that need more than basic trimming or shoeing. I work with the staff farriers to improve their work standard by shoeing the problem horses in each department with them. Often, I end up shoeing the horses and they help.

A Typical Day

My typical day starts out at 5:30 a.m. I check in with the staff farriers at the various departments and we discuss and schedule any horse that we need to do together. I usually begin my rounds by checking in at the Emiri stable where the most valuable mares and stallions are. I need to get there before turn out at 6 a.m. There are several laminitic cases that I check their pulses and see how they are getting on.


Having the opportunity to work with board certified veterinarians of a variety of specialties has been very advantageous to me as a farrier …


Unless there is a big endurance race coming up, I usually check on the two farriers over at the EED next and see which horse is having issues. Then I head over to the endurance farrier shop to make sure all is good. I usually make it to my forge at the hospital by 6:45-7 a.m. to check emails and look at the hospital caseload for the day. We have a quick meeting at 7:30 a.m. to discuss the day’s schedule with the hospital’s clinical staff and then off I go.

Lame Horses in Qatar

Since this region is very dry and hot, the lameness cases we see here are a bit different than in a humid, wet environment like central Kentucky, where I lived for the last 35 years.

Having the opportunity to work with board certified veterinarians of a variety of specialties has been very advantageous to me as a farrier in that my ability to assess lameness and to look at pathology has improved significantly. In addition, having a qualified and seasoned farrier on staff has provided the veterinarians a greater understanding of the horse’s foot and its intricacies. Overall, working as a team whereby each specialty mutually respects each other’s strengths has resulted in a whole bunch of horses having a better quality of life.

On one day at the Emiri stable, I look at a chronically laminitic pregnant mare. The cause of her laminitis was metabolic in nature, specifically endocrine related. She became extremely lame over the last 2 days. She was 4.5 out of 5 on the American Association of Equine Practitioner lameness grading scale on one foot and grade 3.5-4 on the other. She was having an acute laminitic episode. Her radiographs had shown that her coffin bone was descending and rotating since the previous radiographs of 6 months prior. She had approximately 25% bone resorption of P3 and 2-4 mm of epidermal sole depth, as determined from latero-medial radiographs. There was no abscessation in the foot.

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A 4-mm gap between the heart bar and the frog was filled with Glu Shu.

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Double S aluminum heart-bar shoe in which the foot-bearing surface of the shoe had been ground away to “float” the toe region.

I trimmed the heels close to the widest part of heels and fit her with a Double S aluminum heart-bar shoe in which the foot-bearing surface of the shoe had been ground away to “float” the toe region of the foot from first nail hole to first nail hole. I do this to relieve any ground forces that push up on the toe wall that facilitate leverages on the laminae in this area. I built up the ground bearing surface of the shoe with Glu Shu Shufix polyurethane adhesive to wedge the heels to a physiological amount to lessen the tension of the deep digital flexor tendon. I glued the shoe on the foot using Glu Shu Shufit acrylic glue. I fit the heart bar such that there was about a 4-mm gap between the heart bar and the frog (Figures 1 and 2). I then filled the gap and the medial and lateral sulci (commissures) with Glu Shu Shufill, pink, silicone hoof packing (A25 shore hardness). The horse responded well to the treatment protocol and left the shop showing a 2.5 lameness grade, which was much improved. Because her movement is minimized and, she lives in a small sand paddock, the polyurethane wedges will last for 30 days without any problem. She became much better within a day or two.

A Foal without Navicular Bones

One of my cases was a foal with no navicular bones in her hind feet. When I first saw her, she was in extreme pain and could barely walk. She had a combination of issues going on, so I had to prioritize the problems. She had deformed coffin bones, no navicular bones, very warped hoof capsules and severe tendon laxity of both hind legs in which the fetlocks descended axially (inward) upon weight bearing.

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CT scan of a foal with no navicular bones.

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Caudal extension shoes for the foal with no navicular bones.

In order to get her to stand and load her limbs unassisted, the first step was to apply caudal extension shoes (Figures 3 and 4). A word of caution when applying caudal extension shoes on young foals as they result in huge leverages on the small developing feet. When fit too long and left on too long, they can result in capsule detachment. Because this filly had no foot depth and no recognizable form to the bottom of her foot, I had to first build supportive “rails” on the sides of her feet in order to get her soles off the ground and to have something to glue to. I did this for two shoeing cycles of 3 weeks each.

My next goal was to remove all deformed hoof and rebuild the wall in order to realign the horn tubules to begin to grow new wall in a better direction. I felt that if we could get this done, we could hopefully re-establish better arterial blood perfusion and have a chance of growing enough solid horn to provide protection to the sensitive structures and an internal frame that would allow the coffin bone to grow and develop in a more symmetrical and normal shape. On a 2-week-old foal, one has to be very careful about how much foot can be removed. I had to do it over a couple of shoeing periods, but not until I was able to get her a bit more comfortable with standing.

My end goal is for this foal to have a foot that can be turned out barefoot. I am hopeful that she will be able to grow a quasi-normal foot with enough mass to do this. My concern is that we may have to keep shoes on her with some degree of caudal extension because of the lack of a navicular bone, as it will never grow. In my experience with feet that have sloughed their capsules or feet that have had severe injury and loss of significant amount of hoof, the capsule can grow a surprisingly functional foot in time. I am hoping that the young age of this filly will give us additional advantage.

Back to Shoeing Basics

One main difference from teaching basic shoeing methodology to mostly therapeutic footcare is the application of a huge variety of therapeutic shoes, plastics, urethanes and glues. However, the elements of farrier science that I have developed by teaching fundamental skills has made me more successful in doing therapeutic farriery. Accurate foot preparation and shoemaking skills that I’ve developed through years of teaching primary farrier education and doing clinics has benefited my ability to be successful in the therapeutic shoeing arena.

LEARN MORE

Listen to the AFJ Podcast interview with Mitch Taylor at
americanfarriers.com/0719

While not many of my students will end up as a podiatrist at a hospital for their career, the situations and cases I have dealt with over the last 18 months have cemented in me that we have to master the basics and keep an open mind (and a healthy skepticism) in this growing trade. So little of it is backed up or confirmed by science, and it is rife with anecdotal-based information.

As I resume teaching primary farrier education at the Kentucky Horseshoeing School after this experience, I am doing so with increased knowledge and mastery of modern materials that I will incorporate into the corresponding section of our curriculum. I now have a much better grasp of the uses and misuses of modern materials. The experience also solidified the importance of strong shoemaking skills. Ultimately, it was my shoemaking skills that have made a huge difference in my ability to consistently and accurately shoe the cases presented to me with success. Focusing on developing those basic skills will always serve a farrier well.


See some of the therapeutic shoes Mitch has worked on in the photo gallery below.

 

July/August 2019 Issue Contents