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Coming up with an accurate diagnosis involves several components. It starts with a thorough history. Next, an overall physical examination of the horse is performed, looking for physical indications of problems such as poor conformation, asymmetry in the body, lumps, bumps, swellings, heat and the strength of the digital pulse.
Next, watch the horse move in a straight line, then in circles over different surfaces in hand, at a walk and trot. Typically horses with soft tissue problems will be worse on soft surfaces, while bone and joint issues show up on hard ground. The horse should also be observed under saddle at all three gaits, and, if possible, doing other activities such as jumping or dressage movements.
“Tests,” which may include hoof testers, flexion tests, wedge tests, nerve blocks, radiographs, ultrasound and MRI (the gold standard), are performed at different times throughout the exam. The process is like making a cake. It takes several ingredients carefully put together before you have a final product.
One test that is directly linked to farriery is the wedge test. I talked to Dr. Tracy Turner from Anoka Equine Veterinary Services, in Elk River, Minn. Turner uses the test regularly in his work-ups. The results enable him to advise his clients on possible shoeing changes.
Items that can be used as the wedge in these tests include a hoof-knife handle…