Farriers Walk Fine Line in Dealing with Hoof Abscesses

Shoers, veterinarians, share thoughts on a touchy subject

A horse you’re supposed to shoe has an abscess in its hoof or sole that’s already erupted and draining. What are you going to do?

Most farriers know the stock answer. Taking care of the abscess — any abscess — lies in the veterinarian’s domain and is probably clearly defined by their Veterinary Practices Act or other regulations. Farriers should stay clear — unless a vet is overseeing their work.

But the real answer is sometimes different than the stock one. Even some vets will admit that they don’t really want to make a barn call just to treat a simple abscess. And many horse owners would much rather pay a farrier to take care of the problem — figuring that the shoer will charge less to do the job.

But that can leave the farrier walking a fine line. Does he or she want to start digging into sensitive tissue and discover that what seemed to be a simple abscess is actually a much more serious problem? Or what if a more serious problem is caused by less-than-skillful knife work? There are liability issues involved as well as the aforementioned legal issues.

So, what’s the protocol? Here’s what some farriers and veterinarians had to say about how they see the lines.

A Working Agreement

Jeff Pauley of Burnsville, N.C., who served as the farrier for the U.S. Endurance Team in the 2006 World Equestrian Games, has a working agreement on treating abscesses with Ann Stuart, DVM, of the Appalachian…

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Toby Raymond

Toby Raymond is a horse owner and freelance writer who lives in Vermont. She is a frequent contributor to American Farriers Journal.

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