Farriers' Roundtable

Where should you draw the line in trying to save crippled horses?

Q. Where should you draw the line in trying to save crippled horses?

— Oregon Farrier

A: The short answer is “never.” Realistically, there are a number of factors that play into the actual decision. I don’t give up on crippled horses until they are either put down or move out of my practice.

However, there is a caveat to my philosophy. If the horse is in distress and has lost its quality of life, I am all for euthanasia. These can be tough cases as many owners seek to continue treatment past the proverbial point of no return. For example, a 26-year-old laminitic horse that has significant damage to its coffin bone (e.g. radiographically, it isn’t there anymore) is probably not going to be one that makes a remarkable turn around. That’s just being realistic.

While I don’t believe lame horses should be given up on, that’s not saying all lameness can be resolved with current technology. I merely mean that we shouldn’t stop trying. I’ll continue to try different shoeing modalities as long as the owner’s budget will allow.

And, much to my wife’s dismay, sometimes I continue to try new treatments even after the budget is exhausted. I call this research, but my wife calls it wasted time and lost money.

Important factors must always be considered from the start. This includes the degree of lameness, the horse’s quality of life, the owner’s willingness and ability to follow aftercare instructions, the owner’s budget and commitment to scheduling…

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