I’ve always worked closely with my veterinarians and farriers to help keep my horses healthy and sound. After all, they know a heck of a lot more than I do about the ins and outs of horse health and soundness! And for the past five years, I’ve been encouraging readers to do the same through my job here at The Horse.

But something that I’ve been writing about for years--but hadn’t had personal experience with--is working with both a veterinarian and a farrier at the same time and having the two communicate about a specific health problem. Of course, that all changed when now 20-year-old Dorado had a laminitic episode last year. Through that experience, I’ve learned about the importance of the horse owner-veterinarian-farrier team when managing some equine health conditions.

Shortly after the veterinarian arrived when Dorado first presented with pain in his feet, she pulled a set of X rays to see what was going on inside and immediately asked for my farrier’s phone number so she could touch base with him and send him the images. Right off the bat, she stressed the importance of everyone being on the same page as we did our best to manage whatever was going to happen with Dorado’s hooves.

Two days after the initial episode my farrier arrived at the barn to work on another horse and came over to take a look at Dorado. He watched him walk (still quite painfully) and told me that he’d spoken with the vet and looked over the X rays. He said it was obvious, on the images, that Dorado had suffered a laminitic episode, but he thought it’d be manageable with some rest and therapeutic shoeing.

A day or so later, the veterinarian arrived for a recheck and pulled another set of X rays. She wasn’t quite as happy with what she saw—she worried that his coffin bone might have begun to sink. So off the images went again, this time to both my farrier and a veterinary podiatrist at the clinic (and, as it were, a good friend of my farrier’s). The podiatrist agreed to see Dorado at the clinic the next day to take a closer look at his feet.

Dorado’s venogram was mostly normal, a good thing following a laminitic episode.

Photo: Courtesy Adam Spradling

At the clinic the podiatrist performed a venogram, which showed him if there were any changes to the blood flow in Dorado’s hooves. Fortunately, he found nothing significant, meaning Dorado’s blood was still flowing in his feet. Next, he gave Dorado’s hooves a gentle trim—just to take off a few chips and edges, as he was nearly due for a regularly schedule reset—and temporarily applied therapeutic shoes; he didn’t want to glue them on permanently if Dorado didn’t seem to be comfortable in them, so he wrapped them on so we could evaluate the response for a few days. He updated the veterinarian on what he’d done, and she came to take a look at the progress and Dorado’s comfort level two days later. Meanwhile, I kept my farrier apprised of how things were going.

Dorado’s initial therapuetic shoes.

Photo: Erica Larson

Dorado loved the therapeutic shoes, so we went back to the clinic a week later to have them applied permanently. The podiatrist sent us home with instructions to leave them on for five to six weeks and to have our regular farrier give him a call to discuss how to progress at the next shoeing.

After the initial therapeutic shoeing, the podiatrist was satisfied with Dorado’s progress and turn his care back over to our regular farrier. The veterinarian continued to monitor Dorado but less frequently as his condition improved. In the meantime, our regular farrier began slowly transitioning him from therapeutic shoes to more normal ones. In fact, at our last appointment, Dorado got a normal full set of nail-on shoes with a very subtle rocker action … I’d never been so excited for a $150 farrier bill in my life!

Dorado’s finally back in nail-on shoes thanks to his health care team’s hard work.

Photo: Erica Larson

I couldn’t have been more pleased with the outcome of Dorado’s case, and I’m confident that the open communication lines between all the interested parties contributed to the success. Even currently, although Dorado is happy and sound, our regular veterinarian (who was out of town while the laminitic episode took place) and farrier are working together to try to improve the quality of his hooves with the ultimate goal of transitioning him to barefoot; I admit that I’m slightly terrified at this proposition, but I’m game for at least trying it and seeing how it goes.

Have your veterinarian and farrier worked together to manage or treat a health issue? I’d love to hear about your experiences!