Harry Werner, an equine veterinarian from North Granby, Conn., and past president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, believes that a thorough equine foot examination in lameness cases should begin long before you pick up the horse’s foot.

“The foot I’ve been told was affected may be the last thing I pick up,” Werner told attendees at the seventh annual International Hoof-Care Summit in Cincinnati, Ohio, on February 3. “I don’t want to go in with a preset notion of what the problem is. I’m going to look at the whole horse.”

Werner, who also delivered the Burney Chapman Memorial Lecture sponsored by Life Date Labs, Inc., says his system has evolved over 37 years. He credits many other veterinarians and farriers with contributing to its development. He notes that he’s been using the same pair of hoof testers for years and still considers them to be a very valuable asset.

“I’d rather lose my digital X-ray machine than my hoof testers,” he said. “It would be a big mistake to grab the digital X-ray machine before you grabbed your hoof testers.”

Other points Werner made regarding his presentation included:

   “Keep a record of what you do and see. How you do it is less important than that you do it.”
o    “When I examine a horse, I start with a big view. I’m thinking about that horse and focusing on him before I even arrive at the barn.”
o    “Think about the intended use of the horse. Obviously all these horses are doing vastly different jobs, have vastly different needs as well as some similar needs. This has implications on how you handle any lameness.”
o    “If this horse is new to you ask about the horse’s history. Try to pin people down and get as much information as you can.”
o    “I never ask what is the problem. I ask them to describe the problem. If you ask a lot of horse owners what it the problem, you’ll be there forever. A lot of horse owners will give you 100 diagnosis.”
o    “In an ideal world, I don’t want to do a lameness exam within 72 hours of the last administration of a non-steroidal (drug).
   “It’s important for us to use all of our senses and out sense of hearing is important. In some cases, if you shut your eyes and never saw the horse, your sense of hearing can tell you a horse does not have a normal or synchronized gait.”
o    “Pay attention to posture and gait. And it’s important to remember, there’s life above the coronet.”

More on Werner’s examination method will appear in the March 2010 issue of American Farriers Journal.

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