Vet Student/Farrier Courses

The importance of podiatry in equine practice and to the overall well-being (especially soundness) of the horse is well known. Treatment and prevention of lameness involving the distal limb centers around a thorough knowledge of hoof care. Due to the crowded curriculum during veterinary school, it was felt the veterinary student might not be exposed to sufficient podiatry (farriery) to be well-versed in this subject upon entering equine practice after graduation. It was for this reason that the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) decided to initiate a veterinarian/farrier short course that could be given at veterinary schools across the country to students interested in equine practice.

This venture became a joint project between the AAEP and the American Farriers Association (AFA). An experienced equine practitioner with an interest in podiatry and a Certified Journeyman Farrier travel to a particular veterinary school to present a veterinarian/farrier short course. The veterinarian presents the medical aspects of podiatry, while the farrier presents the technical aspects of farriery. The objectives of the course are to promote an interest in podiatry among students, present a brief orientation of the equine foot, teach basic farriery principles, and demonstrate the close working relationship necessary between a veterinarian and a farrier. There are sixteen courses given yearly, eight in the spring and eight in the fall. They are sponsored by the AAEP, the AFA, and Purina Mills.

The course, usually held on a weekend, consists of lectures, a demonstration, and a hands-on lab for the students. The lectures are divided equally between the veterinarian and the farrier. The veterinarian covers anatomy, physiology, and form and function of the foot, while the farrier covers hoof preparation, shoeing, and biomechanics of the foot. Following the lectures, a demonstration takes place where a live horse's forefeet are trimmed and shod according to the principles outlined in the morning lectures.

Other topics are taught such as restraint (if necessary), how to hold the foot (fore and hind), and pulling a shoe (different methods), along with alternative methods of trimming and applying a shoe. The demonstration can also be tailored to the particular interests of the given students; for example, a pair of shoes could be glued on, therapeutic shoes for a lameness case could be made and applied, or a disease process involving the foot could be appropriately treated.

The rest of the afternoon is for a lab, where students--using cadaver limbs--practice basic farriery such as pulling a shoe, trimming a foot, and applying a shoe. Farriers from the local AFA chapter are encouraged to attend the morning lectures and participate in the lab, where they teach and guide the students through the various techniques. The lab simulates many of the tasks students will encounter in equine practice.

It is hoped that the vet/farrier student short course will stimulate more interest in podiatry for some students to the point they pursue the subject further. With this in mind, the AAEP is considering starting an in-depth podiatry course to be held annually at a university or equine clinic. The course would accommodate students who attended a vet/farrier short course and wanted to study more advanced farriery techniques.

As the veterinarian is responsible for the overall health care of the horse--including the feet--it is easy to see why an extensive knowledge of podiatry and a good working relationship with a farrier would play a vital role in maintaining soundness. With positive surveys from the students and student advisors, it appears the vet/farrier short course is playing a part in filling the void in podiatry education at veterinary schools.

About the Author

Stephen E. O'Grady, DVM, MRCVS

Stephen E. O'Grady, DVM, MRCVS, was a professional farrier for 10 years prior to obtaining his degree in veterinary medicine. He learned farriery through a formal apprenticeship under Hall of Fame farrier Joseph M. Pierce of West Chester, Penn. After graduating from veterinary school, O'Grady did an internship in Capetown, South Africa. Then he joined Dan Flynn, VMD, at Georgetown Equine Hospital in Charlottesville, Va., as an associate for five years. Since that time, he has operated a private practice in Virginia and South Africa, with a large portion of the practice devoted to equine podiatry. He has published numerous articles and lectured extensively on equine foot problems. His web site is

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