Putting Equine Podiatrists in Their "Right Minds"

While most people don't consider equine podiatry an artistic profession, Ric Redden, DVM, owner of the International Equine Podiatry Center and organizer/chief instructor of the first In-Depth Equine Podiatry Course going on this week, heartily disagrees. "We're trying to teach these students (which include some veterinarians and farriers who have been practicing for decades) how to use the right sides of their brains (commonly thought to be the creative side), to reach out beyond customary realms," he says. The clinic, which is geared toward veterinarian/farrier teams, runs from July 22-26, and the next one is Aug. 5-9.

Redden considers this course, Equine Podiatry 101, to be an educational starting point for both farriers and hoof-specialty veterinarians. "The whole horse is covered (researched and taught) down to the coronary band throughout the world, and there it basically stops," he says. "Podiatry training varies so widely, and these two- to six-week courses just get you started. Vet schools have so much information for people to learn that they can't cover the foot well. I envision a formal school going forward from this point (in the future) with college-level education, ending in certification with training that's based on physics and geometry. Put all that into focus, and you have a standard by which you can measure podiatry practice."

The attendees, six veterinarian/farrier teams from around the country, certainly feel they're getting their money's worth. The planned 40-hour, five-day course will be closer to a 48-hour course, Redden estimates, with breaks and lunch hours growing shorter as participants keep working on horses and radiographs to extend their understanding. Two veterinarians and a farrier even spent a few extra hours on their own yesterday practicing the venogram technique (a method of imaging blood flow within the hoof) on all four hooves of a previously slaughter-bound mare. "We just want to treat our cases better and fine-tune the things we already do," said Amy Rucker, DVM, head of ambulatory services and an instructor at the University of Missouri's College of Veterinary Medicine. "This mare's been very patient with us," she laughed. Redden added that the mare, Honey Pie, will make Dalton (his son) a nice riding horse.

Veterinarian/Farrier Working Relationships

"Both (veterinarian and farrier) have equally important jobs for this (hoof) care to be effective for the horse," said farrier Dave Hall of Piqua, Ohio. Unfortunately, veterinarians and farriers don't always work together on serious cases that need that teamwork. "I would say that 90% of veterinarians don't go over foot X rays with the shoers (who will be implementing shoeing treatment for horses with foot problems)," said farrier Clark Beckstead of Santa Barbara, Calif. This was the reason for Redden's strong suggestion that veterinarians and farriers who work together attend the course together.

"The best thing about this course is bringing together vets and farriers who are interested in equine podiatry, then taking it another step," said Richard Mansmann, VMD, PhD, of Apex, NC, a member of the International Equine Veterinarians Hall of Fame. "These people have enough expertise to ask the right questions, and are getting great mentorship and guidance."

Better Radiographs

"I busted my heel into 12 pieces some time ago, and you wouldn't believe all the X rays they had to have before even starting on me," said Beckstead. "Why should our treatment of horses be any different? These horses are worth more than I am," he said with a laugh.

"This is a very intense course that's designed to teach people how to get the most information from X rays (by taking more consistent X rays and better interpreting them)," Redden said. "Rather than looking for what's wrong with the foot, what are the right things? What parts are totally normal? Once you see those, then the bad parts stand out and that's all you have to worry about fixing. If you look for just the bad parts, then you miss the whole picture of the foot."

"We're learning to envision what's inside the hoof, even drawing pictures of what's inside," said Hall. "We're here to learn more; as this (therapeutic shoeing) becomes a larger part of our businesses, we need to know the current techniques to offer better service to our customers."

Everyone agreed that X rays are essential for both diagnosing and treating serious hoof problems. "Ric and I learned years ago that you need to draw the shoe you want on the X ray, and have a total blueprint of what you want to do with the foot," said farrier and assistant instructor Danny Dunson of Sparta, Tenn.

"The biggest thing I have learned this week is to draw absolutely no conclusions until I see the facts on the X ray," said Hall. "It's a hard thing to do when you see a lot of feet; you see patterns and might think you know what's going on in a similar foot, but you have to have the facts."

"There are billions of dollars lost annually just to foot problems," stated Redden. "My goal is to stimulate interest and learning in podiatry among everyone--owners, veterinarians, farriers, academia--even insurance companies."

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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