“Why do we believe what we believe?” It is a question simple to understand, but complex in its answer. Texas A&M professor emeritus and past American Association of Equine Practitioners president Bill Moyer posed this question to attendees of the Northeast Association of Equine Practitioners in late September.  

According to the equine veterinarian, much of what we “believe” about the art and science of farriery is based on personal observation and experience. He’s not knocking personal experience — he sees value to it. Still those experiences and how we share them with one another tend to dominate what many farriers understand about the horse and their role with it.

Moyer outlined his definition of peer-reviewed research. Certainly more research set to his standards would benefit farriery, but Moyer also pointed to the challenges of this: lack of research dollars, and expert and technical staff being two significant reasons.

In the absence of more research, marketing has become the dominant player in influencing what many farriers believe. According to Moyer, marketing has such a strong influence that it has eroded common sense. What we think we know often becomes cloudy because of this influence.

Moyer’s advice: be vigilant and question what you are told. Whether it is a statement in a trade show booth, product ad, magazine article or video demonstration, he provided suggestions on analyzing the validity of what is stated. A few of his warnings stood out to me:

  • “Be impressed with articles/presentations that discuss the risks and failures of a given procedure or application.”
  • “What are the complications/risk beyond not working?”
  • "How many times did the product/technique not live up to expectations (no change or worse)?”

I think whenever evaluating a concept or product, these are fair and important considerations. In everyday life, marketing tends to hide these in the fine print or government-mandated statements read at a speed few auctioneers can match.

 Specific to the discussion of footcare, maybe presenters should provide disclaimers to presentations or products? For example, if a farrier will present a shoeing solution to a hoof-care problem, should this or any other presentation of its type include that this will not work on every horse in every situation or that this may not benefit the horse in subsequent uses? Maybe the most important disclaimer to share is that are times a solution or idea used in a successful case had nothing to do with why the horse improved.