Everyone who owns horses knows that caring for them is time-intensive, frustrating at times and — between all the caretakers for your beloved Black Beauty — confusing.

For a lot of horse owners, you are not the only caretaker for your horse — you have a farrier, vet, trainer, chiropractor and massage therapist to name a few. Some days it seems like you take better care of your horse than yourself.

The best case for the horse is that all these parties have open lines of communication. For the horse to succeed in its job and enjoy its quality of life, the best policy is to put the horse first. As an owner, having both a vet and farrier who work together is the most important factor in maintaining or possibly rehabilitating your horse.

As a farrier, reach out to the veterinarians in your area. Get to know them. They are also great resources to have you in their dugout for new client recommendations. Ask questions when you are around the vet; call if you need to. Spend the extra time going over radiographs with the vet if you have the chance. As a farrier, we have our hands on the horses every 6-8 weeks and having a vet who backs you when communicating with owners is a tool every farrier should have in their wheelhouse.

I know more than most about how important it is to have a good relationship with your vet. Having someone to call in case of emergencies for farriers gives you confidence and security to be able to make recommendations based on what you see in the field.

The beauty of having a working relationship with the vet in your area is they can call you with questions as well. As a vet, they are required to know information about every part of the horse, in-depth. Although veterinary school is a long, grueling and demanding process, with so much to cover, the horse’s feet tend to not get as much attention as, we farriers, would like. Farriers spend decades furthering their education about the hoof. Vets have questions just as much as we do.

Owners, now it’s your turn. Your responsibility in this triangle of care is to communicate what you see. The best way to start is by educating yourself. When the farrier is around, and able, ask questions about what you see. When the vet is around, ask questions about what you are hearing. It is a job for us, but most importantly it’s our passion. We love sharing it with people who are interested in what we spend so much time and effort perfecting.

The number one call farriers get is, “My horse is lame.” Right off the bat, my mind goes to which leg? Is it missing a shoe? How lame is lame? Many farriers and vets use various scales when it comes to lameness in horses. The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), uses a universal scale to determine lameness.

AAEP Lameness Scale

Grade 0: Lameness not found under any circumstances.

Grade 1: Lameness is difficult to observe and is not consistently apparent regardless of circumstances.

Grade 2: Lameness is difficult to observe at a walk or trotting in a straight line but consistently apparent under certain circumstances.

Grade 3: Lameness is constantly observable at a trot under all circumstances.

Grade 4: Lameness is obvious at a walk.

Grade 5: Lameness produces minimal weight bearing in motion and/or at a rest or a complete inability to move.

As an owner, telling your vet and farrier that your horse is lame, using a scale like this one, helps us identify whether it is a minor issue like thrush or a major issue like a tendon tear. Technology offers new tools to allow owners an additional ability to give us as much information as possible. Try taking a video and texting it to us. Photos can sometimes be deceiving, so be sure to use as many angles in as good light as you can.

The owner, veterinarian and farrier are the three biggest care providers that your horse has. In this day and age, horses can rarely take care of themselves. It’s our job as animal lovers, horsemen and educators to be able to work together, to do what’s best for the horse in every way. That might mean trying something new, trying something someone else has experienced. If the horse walks away happier and healthier, that’s a good day of work in my book.