Getting the farrier involved with finding ways to balance a horse's joints is just as essential as balancing the foot, maintains Virginia Maxwell.
By balancing the foot and getting the symmetry that's needed all the way up the limb is critical, says the technical service veterinarian for Luitpold Animal Health, the manufacturers of the Adequan joint health product.
"I'm a stickler for confirmation and really want a well-bred horse," she says. "It's impossible for a farrier to undo bad confirmation. When we've got bad confirmation, we've got asymmetry or a joint that's overloaded on either a lateral or medial side. So a farrier can certainly help balance those things out."
An accomplished competitive rider over the years, she recalls seeing horses leaning on farriers.
"Most turned out to have really subtle joint problems," she says. "When the farrier had that hind limb up and was overloading the opposite limb for a long time, he was really stressing the joint in the same way a veterinarian would when he flexes the joint. That's a key signal that there's something going on inside the joint.
"So I think the farrier really understands the role that those subtle joint problems have in the beginning, even at a standstill."
She finds joint concerns in older horses definitely need help from farriers. "I don't like waiting 6 to 8 weeks for a trim and shoes," she adds. "I really like a 4 to 6 week window because I think the joints are going through a change. You wind up having a radical change backward, then a slow change forward and then a radical change. That's very hard on the limb. Keeping up with these changes is an important key."
An accomplished competitive rider, she's an advocate of not overloading a shoe.
"I'm not a big fan of big calks on a lot of jumping horses," she says. "I see huge calks, sometimes two sets on the lateral side and one on the medial side.
"With this setup, we're stopping the natural shearing force that the joint has when it turns, and it makes it much harder for the farrier to keep the horse sound. The fewer studs and calks that you need to use, the better for the limb."