Bill Moyer, DVM, professor of sports medicine and head of the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences at Texas A&M University, and the current AAEP vice president, began his discussion during the "Putting Science into Farriery" session at the 2008 Convention of the American Association of Equine Practitioners by describing the state of farriery in the 1960s. Corrective shoeing recommendations were for the most part anecdotal (i.e., based on personal experiences and not research), most ambulatory farrier services used cold shoeing as gas forges were just coming out, there were no farrier associations or publications in the United States, and horses tended to work for a living, he recalled. There was a lack of standardized terms and language used to describe farriery concepts, and diagnostic tools were limited to hoof testers, nerve blocks, and plain film radiographs.

"Nobody I knew whispered to horses; the guys I knew yelled at them," he said amid audience chuckles.

Negative changes from then till now include dramatic differences in most horses' environments and the industry as a whole, he said. "Let's face it, today's horse lives in an apartment," he explained. "They work less, they're less fit, fatter, and not as tough. They're groomed every day and often blanketed, and they might get ridden. As a result of all this, the feet are weaker. And there's a greater emphasis on judge and sale appeal instead of performance and the longevity of careers. Horses are kept in solitary confinement (stalls), and they often turn into sociopaths. Common sense is being replaced with marketing, and there's a major overreliance on drugs; I see coffin joints being injected all the time. And some veterinarians are depending more on technology and less on good hands-on exams, nerve blocks, and farriery. We have to bend over and get dirty to work on lame horses."

Positive changes he noted include "huge advances in diagnostic imaging, an explosive knowledge base, easier access to information, better educational opportunities, new and improved products, research literature (although not nearly enough), much improved understanding of diagnostic anesthesia effects and technique, and farriers and veterinarians working together."

In the future Moyer predicted more use of glue-on shoes, more new shoeing materials from metals to composites, a move to more group/corporate farriery and veterinary operations, more partnering between veterinarians and farriers, and more computer modeling/epidemiology research (less live animal research).

"There has never been a better time (for farriers and veterinarians) to partner and learn," he concluded. "The smart ones will be prepared to be wrong and learn from it, embracing their experience as a teacher."

About the Author

Christy M. West

Christy West has a BS in Equine Science from the University of Kentucky, and an MS in Agricultural Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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