Vets put the focus on footwork

WE recently held a client meeting at our Whorral Bank surgery entitled No Foot, No Horse.

It was a well-attended meeting and, surprisingly, the sun shone so we were able to hold much of the meeting outside.

Farrier Graeme Moran DipWCF spoke about foot balance and how the assessment of a horse’s gait and shoeing to accommodate it’s foot fall can greatly enhance their balance.

He demonstrated how sympathetic shoeing can alleviate some potential problems as a horse becomes tired during work, which is often when most gait abnormalities can lead to problems.

The example he used was when horses ‘speedy cut’, ie the feet move too closely together, and as a horse starts to tire, this can become more pronounced with the possibility of injury from the horse hitting itself.

He made shoes to compensate for this and explained about the importance of the hoof-pastern axis and how crucial it is to balance the feet correctly.

I spoke about the anatomy of the foot, using fresh and prepared specimens. A bit gruesome I know, but I wanted to show how the pedal bone within the hoof capsule is held in position by thousands of laminal leaves.

It is amazing to think that a horse’s weight is suspended on these small bones within the hoof and not surprising that this can go wrong from time to time.

We also used Piccolo Pete as demonstration horse, although the old adage ‘never work with children and animals’ is probably true.

I demonstrated the value of nerve blocks, a similar procedure to the dentist putting local anaesthetic in to the nerve of your tooth, and you can use these as an important tool to try to localise the region causing the lameness.

Piccolo Pete had lost a shoe so it was obvious why he was lame, but I was pleasantly surprised when I put the needle in his leg and he didn’t move, until I tried to attach the syringe of local anaesthetic when he proceeded to demonstrate just how agile he can be.

Anyway, the nerve block worked and he trotted sound on his front leg, but was lame on a hind leg.

Thankfully that was due to a corn which Graeme pared out. We X-rayed his feet and this clearly showed the major problems with most thoroughbreds — thin soles. We discussed this and then X-rayed him again once Graeme had shod him to demonstrate the difference.

We had a discussion about the choice of shoes he had made. The event prompted lots of questions and discussion and hopefully the people attending found it useful and informative. The buffet was certainly well received.

We are planning another similar meeting on March 31, dealing with laminitis, so if you’re interested in attending please contact the surgery on 01670 512275 for further details.

SALLY BOOTH

Director and Senior Vet