Equine lameness cases are an intersection where farriers and veterinarians should work together. In this team dynamic, each party thoroughly and professionally communicates to achieve the goal of the best possible outcome for the horse. Without this element, success could escape the veterinarian and farrier.
With some cases, the farrier may be alerted to a lameness issue, either by the client or through their own observations. The prudent farrier should encourage the client to call their veterinarian to schedule an examination and try to get a medical diagnosis. Dr. Sarah Reuss says beyond encouraging the client to schedule a vet visit, sending a quick message to that practitioner is a great way to build professional collaboration.
“Simple texting can make things easy,” says Reuss, a veterinarian and Equine Technical Manager with Boehringer Ingelheim. “We both might be in the middle of a busy day, so a quick text note that an owner is going to call my practice about their horse, along with a summary of what you saw is helpful.”
“We all know tone can go awry in a text”, so she advises both vet and farrier keep a matter-of-fact approach to the summary so no misinterpretation occurs. Hopefully both can find time for a phone call or face to face conversation to discuss in more detail.
Although difficult to schedule, both professions ideally can work together in these cases at the horse’s side. Reuss feels if the veterinarian and farrier can concentrate on speaking common languages of anatomy and function, they will avoid misunderstandings.
“I’m not a farrier, so it would be helpful to share what I see in terms of a diagnosis and communicate what goals I think we need to achieve in terms of unloading different structures or changing balance,” she says. “Then the farrier can relay their expertise to give their opinion on how they can accomplish that.”
Reuss adds that through this discussion, the veterinarian should defer to the farrier, allowing them to approach the solution with how they are most comfortable. She reminds veterinary colleagues that the farrier may come to the case with a history of working with the horse and an understanding of what has and hasn’t worked with that individual horse, owner or management previously.
She is fine with having conversations about the approach in front of the owner, even if there may be differing opinions during discussion. They key is to keep the discussion professional and the horse’s well-being as the primary focus.
“As long as we concentrate on the goal, I’m fine with having that conversation in front of the owner because I think clients need to see where we all should be on the horse healthcare team,” she says. “There usually is no right or wrong, black and white solution. Sometimes by being part of this dialogue, it also helps manage the client’s expectations for the outcome.”
That being said, if there is potential for a contentious exchange, then it would be best to have this conversation without the client.She encourages young veterinarians to begin a habit of including the farrier in exchanges about shared clients. “We generally don’t get much education on farriery in vet school, so early on it’s great to build good relationships and learn from each other. Just be sure to communicate directly with the farrier so that there is no chance for misinterpretation as messages move through owners or trainers.” At the end of the day, we all are more successful if the horse is sound and the owner is happy.
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