During the 2013 International Hoof-Care Summit, farrier Simon Curtis and veterinarian John Reilly made the point that farriers could learn a lot about record-keeping from veterinarians (just in case you’re wondering, they also had plenty of suggestions about things vets could learn from farriers). In essence, they say, veterinarians write down everything, while many farriers write down almost nothing.

The two English presenters stress that keeping good records leads to better farriery, in part, by allowing a medical and treatment history of horses’ hoof care.

Shared Records As A Benefit

We have an interesting case study coming up in the December issue of American Farriers Journal that does a good job of illustrating how beneficial it can be to have good records regarding the care of a horse’s feet, particularly when treating a serious injury.

The horse in the study suffered a fractured navicular bone on a left front foot. When veterinarian Kristina Grewal and farrier Monique Craig began to work together on the horse at Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Center in Los Olivos, Calif., they were able to take advantage of good records and images that documented not only the horse’s injury, but how that injury had responded to various treatments that had been already been tried.

“We were fortunate to have pre-existing quality data,” the authors write, “We were able to  assess any underlying hoof abnormalities from the initial injury through previous treatments, not just the start of our treatment.”

Those images and records, in effect, helped establish a baseline for the horse. By comparing those earlier records with new images they took during their own course of treatment, they were able to pursue an evidence-based approach to treating the injury. They could document  and measure changes in the palmer angles, sole depth and other aspects.

The records also let them know what other approaches had been tried with limited or no success, helping keep them from going down a treatment path that someone else had already discovered was a dead end.

Records And The Law

Grewal and Craig clearly benefited from the availability of these earlier records. California law makes it easy for veterinarians to gain access to such records — so long as the owner consents. Most state laws make it pretty clear that an owner has a right to their animal’s veterinary records. But this got me wondering how horseshoers feel about their records in the less-regulated field of hoof care. Think about the following scenario.

You’ve been shoeing a particular horse for several years and have always documented things such as shoe size and use, hoof angles, toe lengths, as well as any lamenesses or other hoof problems and how your treated them. But when a minor lameness persists, the client decides to change farriers. The client knows you keep good records, and wants you to provide the new shoer with copies. Perhaps he or she even asks you to meet with the new farrier as a “professional courtesy.”

How to you respond? Do you think of your records as proprietary information? Does your client, as the owner of the horse, have a right to them? Are you aware of any law in your state that would either require you to share these records or protects you from having to do so?

Share your thoughts through the comments section.