Jeff Ridley suspected something bad was going on before he even saw the horse.

"The client told me the horse was off, and an abscess that blew out at the coronary band about 3 weeks earlier," says the farrier from Leighton, Iowa. "The horse got better, but then got worse again. The 'abscess' broke out again and kept draining."

That didn't sound like a usual abscess to Ridley, the president of the American Association of Professional Farriers. He did an examination and saw that the abscess that had been described as blowing out at the coronary band had actually blown out about 1/2 inch above it.

"That was a red flag to me that there was more to this than an abscess, probably quittor," recalls Ridley. "That's not something a farrier can fix. It's an infection, in this case of the lateral cartilage, and it needs quick attention. If you don't get after it right away, you will very likely lose the horse. You need to get a vet involved now."

As frequently noted by American Farriers Journal readers, farriers and hoof trimmers see the vast majority of horses far more often than do equine veterinarians. A vet sees many horses - at best - once a year.

That means farriers are the equine professionals with the best chance of recognizing the red flags that might indicate the owner needs to call a veterinarian. Experienced farriers learn to watch for not only the warning signs that point to the "usual suspects" in the hoof or the feet, but those that point to other equine health problems as well.

Learn more about the red flags farriers notice in the September/October issue of American Farriers Journal