I spent part of last week in Orlando, attending the American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention. The annual gathering drew just under 2,500 equine vets. Most of the foot and lower limb sessions dealt primarily with various practices for advanced imaging diagnostics, especially use of MRI. You can read highlights from the papers presented at the gathering in the January/February 2017 edition of American Farriers Journal.

During a roundtable discussion regarding lamenesses in sport horses there was a quick word from a vet regarding effectiveness. Vets have many options available today, and advancements in technology have improved these tools even more so. But speaking specifically on MRIs one vet said it is a diagnostic tool that he will resort to less commonly. The issue isn’t necessarily with the owner concern over cost, which can be a problem, but more so with what he’s seeing.

“MRIs oftentimes can open a can of worms,” he believes. “Sometimes you will see so many lesions, you won’t know what is clinical and what’s not.”

I can see how this can be a problem, especially when handling a high volume of sport horse cases. This vet will go to them more as a last resort, but prefers to review his other diagnostics processes before, and examining how specific he was.

But for others, could there be too much reliance on technology that reveals too much. An MRI is only effective to the extent of the person who is reading it. And in those cases, how does the course of treatment affect what the farrier needs to do?

During a casual conversation, I had asked a sport horse farrier with more than 35 years of experience with these horses. Knowing he doesn’t perform diagnostics, but works with a lot of vets in lameness cases, I was curious for his read. He took it in a direction that I didn’t expect.

Advanced diagnostic tools have changed everything, but he feels that the problem isn’t, and won’t continue to be, “seeing too much." Instead, in his opinion, it is too little horse sense. Much like other aspects of the horse industry, he sees fewer vets with his degree of horsemanship. But he held that the good horse docs he learned from years ago could determine more about lamenesses just by watching a horse than they would need from technology.

Criticism of horsemanship is a completely different subject than using an MRI or ultrasound, but isn’t a new complaint. Declining horsemanship among all aspects of the equine industry is a common complaint I hear from seasoned farriers. The reasons for this are multiple, including the urbanization of the country, not enough time to invest learning the horse, fewer horses and lack of experience spent with horses (especially in youth).

So what’s the solution? I’d be curious to read your responses posted below.  Or do you see it as a problem at all? Among vets? Other farriers? Owners? Trainers?  Or is the more important question about how those with horsemanship can create an opportunity from this?

By the way, a lack of horsemanship isn’t a problem with the vet who brought up the point regarding MRIs. And I suppose that’s in part why he’s looking at so much more when diagnosing the horse’s lameness.