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The interaction that the equine foot constantly has with the environment naturally makes it susceptible to injury or trauma.
“We have to understand what is thought to be simple but complex anatomy of the hoof capsule and how it’s the protective barrier that prevents the exposure of sensitive structures,” Raul Bras explained in early March at North Carolina State University’s Equine Health Symposium. “As soon as it’s exposed, it’s prone to allow opportunistic bacteria invade, making those tissues susceptible to infection.”
Once an infection sets in, it can indicate its presence in a number of ways — lameness, swelling, heat, draining tracts, increased digital pulse and evidence of hoof injuries. The degree of these clinical signs would vary during your examination, based on the individual horse.
There are some clients who hold their own skills as a farrier and vet in high esteem. Many times they’ve already deduced the problem before the horse had been examined.
“A lot of people will call me and say, ‘There’s a lot of swelling on the pastern, the fetlock, the carpus, all the way up to the knee — so it must not be the foot,’” he says. “‘It must be something else. It must be a tendon.’ When there is a severe foot infection, it’s going to swell up to the shoulder if it’s not taken care of.”
There’s a process, though. Before beginning on any horse, the Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital veterinarian and farrier goes to work on…