Improving your practice is something that every farrier can get behind.

A trio of farriers kicked off Thursday’s sessions of the International Hoof-Care Summit with business tips that promises to boost efficiency, save time and keep you healthy.

Mike DeLeonardo of Salinas, Calif.; Steve Prescott of Hardeeville, S.C.; and Bob Smith of the Pacific Coast Horseshoeing School in Plymouth, Calif., gathered 45 ideas to immediately raise your game.

As with most professions, the legal minefields in farriery are aplenty, and Smith offered some shrewd advice.

“We’ve always been told if you have a written prescription from a vet, you’re free, you’re clear,” Smith says. “That’s not true. If you do something that you know isn’t good for the horse, we’re hung out on a limb guys. You don’t have immunity from suit or blame, even if you have a written prescription from a vet.”

Rehabilitation Of Tendon Injuries

Tendon injuries are a common occurrence, yet recovery confounds the most patient horse owner.

Dr. Roland Thaler of Metamora Equine provided Summit attendees with a foundational understanding of tendon injury and repair, and how farriers play an integral role in the healing process.

“I think we need to work together,” the Michigan veterinarian says. “I’m not going to tell you how to shoe a horse. I’m going to tell you why we shoe horses a different way.”

Thaler stressed the importance of keeping the horse moving, depending on the severity of injury.

“If you stop exercising, the tendon starts to stiffen,” he says. “Rest causes more harm than good. The benefit of exercising is that it increases circulation.”

As the horse recuperates, the goal is to modify loading.

“Farriers are the most important part of tendon healing,” Thaler says. “The desire is low loading with frequency, and we increase loading as healing permits. We can change the foot simply by trimming it, and applying appliances like wedges.”

Hoof-Care Classrooms

Four equine experts shared their knowledge in hoof-care classrooms. Jeff Pauley, a Burnsville, N.C., farrier, presented “Shoeing For Specific Needs: Keeping Endurance Horses Going.” Dr. Amy Rucker of Midwest Equine in Columbia, Mo., presented the second part of her short course in reading radiographs; Dr. Chris Pardoe discussed “Are Fixation Techniques All They Are Cracked Up To Be?” and Dr. Raul Bras of Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Ky., leant his expertise in “Understanding The Therapeutic Needs Of The Performance Horse.”

“I try to do things as basic as possible,” Bras says. “If there is structure in the foot that’s not working properly, what I’m trying to do is come up with something that helps the foot function as a whole unit. I don’t get carried away with a lot of things. I try to look at the big picture to see if I can allow the foot to work properly.”

While it’s important to keep things simple, the veterinarian and farrier says it’s also important to be specific. Often, one person’s idea of a low-heeled foot does not always match what another might think.

“What do you mean low heel?” Bras asks. “Is it low-under? Is it collapsed? Is it crushed? They should be shoed differently. They have certain, different ways of approaching those cases.”

At the end of the day, veterinarians should encourage farriers to work within their comfort zones, he says.

“I don’t prescribe shoes,” Bras says. “I approach it this way: I prescribe principles. I tell them, ‘This is what I did, but this is what I want to achieve.’ You might have a way of getting there that is different than mine but you can still achieve the principle.”

Preparing For The World Stage

As farrier for the U.S. Olympic team, Steve Teichman has a rare perspective on competing in international events.

The Unionville, Pa., shoer detailed the mental preparation and decision-making process that he uses to help top equine athletes compete.

“You are forced to look at things with a more panoramic view of shoeing,” Teichman says. “This is about all of the people you work with: interacting with other farriers, grooms, who are absolutely the best girls and guys you work with, and the staff who collects information on the horses. These horses are not my regular clients. So the staff collects the history on these horses in a very short time.”

As the World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France, approach in August, time is getting short to achieve that preparation.

“You have to develop goals and deadlines,” Teichman says. “You want to head off any foot problems that we saw at the end of last year. You have a great opportunity to watch horses go, to watch them in training sessions. You have to be paying attention to the horses, knowing the sport. The most critical triangle for the shoer is the rider, trainer and groom. You have to be up to speed. When the hammer comes down, you have to be ready.”

Nailing To The Core

Amsterdam farrier Ronald Aalders examined several shoeing methods from a mechanical point of view. However, he urges shoers to concentrate on the horse’s center of rotation.

“The center of rotation is the only spot you should use for where you place the shoe,” he says. “If you move the shoe forward on the front foot, the horse will hollow the lumbar area. If you move the shoe back on the front foot, it will round the lumbar area. It does just the opposite behind.”

The center of rotation is the center of rotation of the coffin joint and it should approximately line up with the widest part of the foot. Finding the center of rotation is a simple technique, Aalders says.

“Basically, you measure along the coronary band the length from heel to toe,” he says. “Don’t fold the ruler. Then, multiply that distance by 0.666, two-thirds of an inch from back will mark the center of rotation.”

This Leg Is Off-Center, But Does It Matter?

Renate Weller of the Royal Veterinary College in Hatfield, England, analyzed the connection between foot conformation, movement and injury.

Weller discussed the interesting results of studies into conformation, injuries and performance.

Hoof-Care Roundtables

Summit attendees swapped ideas and strategies on a variety of roundtable discussions: “Building A Successful Mentor-Mentee Working Relationship,” moderated by Dave Farley of Coshocton, Ohio; “Navigating Show Barn Management,” led by Tim Shannon of Moreno Valley, Calif.; “Backyard Horses: The Challenges Presented By The Backbone Of The Industry,” with Patrick Quinn of Prince Frederick, Md.; Gary Werner of Smithtown, N.Y., led a discussion on “What Place Do Non-Metal Shoes Have In Your Practice?”

Parkesburg, Pa., farrier Daisy Bicking moderated a discussion on “Sharing Ideas For Acquiring New Clients”; “Footcare Strategies For High-Low Syndrome” was led by Travis Burns of Blacksburg, Va.; “Combating Misinformation Clients Find On The Internet,” with Rick Burten of Champaign, Ill.; and “How Are We Using Technology To Improve Our Work And Practices?” moderated by Scott Lampert of Lake Elmo, Minn.

As we enter the final day of the Summit, what was your most memorable moment? Share your comments below.