Radiographs are an incredibly important medium that can be helpful in the evaluation of the equine foot. Yet, they easily can be misleading.

If a horse isn’t bearing weight well because it’s in pain, or simply shifts its weight when the image is taken, a radiograph might not provide an accurate picture of what is taking place inside the foot.

“As a farrier, it pays to be there when the horse is sore,” explains equine veterinarian Laura Pylman of Mid-Michigan Equine Services in Laingsburg, Mich. “It’s really common that they’re not bearing weight on the leg that well. The vet is taking radiographs and maybe the horse isn’t holding still. Maybe the owner’s not helping. It’s January, it’s freezing and they say good enough. Then, they look at the X-ray and it looks like the horse is way off. It might not be as off as it looks, just because the positioning was off.”

If a farrier can’t be there when the images are taken, there are landmarks you can look for to determine the quality of the radiographs.

“Your coffin bone should be pretty clear,” she says. “You don’t want to see a lot of shadows on it. If the machine is turned a little bit, you’ll see shadows. Anytime you don’t see a nice, clear coffin bone, it means the image is off.”

For more tips on how to determine whether you have good radiographs, pick up a copy of the March issue of American Farriers Journal.