If you didn't already notice by the slew of laminitis-related stories surfacing on TheHorse.com's news feed, I recently returned from the biennial International Laminitis Conference. I listened to two-and-a-half days worth of exciting (yes, I swear, founder can be fascinating!) presentations on current research and educational topics and mingled with some of the world's foremost laminitis gurus.

Successful laminitis treatment hinges on collaboration and communication between veterinarian and farrier.

Photo: Courtesy Daisy Bicking

Many of these faces were familiar, as I attended the conference in 2011 and have kept in communication with a number of them. One thing that surprised me, however, was the large farrier population in attendance. These shoers shelled out good money to spend their weekend sitting in on (often, very scientific) seminars, but each one I talked to was doing it for the best interest of the horse. They had encountered one, or perhaps many, puzzling laminitis cases during their careers and wanted to know how to better handle the next one, educate their clients, and work with vets for the best possible outcome.

This is where--above any veterinary conference I've attended in the past--I witnessed a truly team atmosphere and approach to horse care. The veterinarians didn't criticize the farriers for wanting to be more hands-on in these horses' care, and the farriers weren't afraid to ask for the vets' advice. In the past I've seen some very uncomfortable vet vs. farrier arguments on hoof care, but I didn't leave the laminitis conference feeling this way.

Farrier Daisy Bicking helps rehab laminitic horses on her home farm so they receive the 24/7 care they need to recover.

Photo: Courtesy Daisy Bicking

Take, for instance, a presentation by farrier Daisy Bicking on how to rehabilitate horses that have foundered due to equine metabolic syndrome (EMS). She spoke about how success hinges on teamwork among the farrier, veterinarian, and owner.

"Success in rehabilitating the foundered EMS horse is based on a strict protocol to control laminitis triggers and by working as a team with the veterinarian and caretakers," she said during her talk.

She acknowledged, however, that this process isn't always as easy and straightforward as it seems. Often, the veterinarian happily gives her free rein to monitor the affected horse's care and help educate the client. Other times the treating veterinarian takes the lead. She said she doesn't mind being as involved or uninvolved as necessary, as long as the horse is being cared for properly and there's open communication among all parties.

Personally though, I find what she does for the horse and the owner both admirable and important. On her five-acre Daisy Haven Farm, in Parkesburg, Penn., she rehabs horses recovering from laminitis so they get the 24/7 care they need. The nutrition and management these animals require to survive laminitis can be challenging for even the most well-intentioned owner to handle.

Bicking has onsite at her farmette the specialized bedding/footing, custom-made low-carbohydrate feed, drylots, and personnel required to facilitate horses' healing process. Here, the horses' treating veterinarians can stop in frequently to take serial radiographs and monitor their patients' progress. Once an animal is stable enough to send on its way, Bicking helps educate the owner on continuing care (e.g., how to construct their own drylots) and checks in on them as needed.

I'm lucky to live in an area surrounded by top-notch equine clinics as well as to have a farrier who doesn't hesitate to call up any of the nearby sport horse vets or podiatrists to brainstorm how to handle ugly radiographs or tough cases (and they've happily obliged). But I realize this isn't always the norm. Hopefully, it's heading in that direction though, and events like the laminitis conference that bring together veterinarians and farriers in a forward-thinking environment will only contribute to the horse health care team.

What laminitis or other hoof disease topics would you like to read more about? Chances are I heard about it at the conference!