I was going to blog about this last week, but events were still unfolding(!)...
I have a client whose horses I have done for some years now. She is a conscientious and dedicated owner, is fortunate enough to have her own land and has a great set-up where her horses live. Her horses have good feet and everything seemed to be going just fine.
Recently, as sometimes happens when you have horses, she has had a spate of bad luck for no obvious reason and 2 of the horses have had minor injuries - one a wire injury, one a neck injury. Both horses seemed to be recovering well, then the horse who had had the wire injury went very lame. She spoke to me about him, but of course the essential thing to do was to call the vet out.
This particular vet took a look at both horses and decided that they both needed shoes on. The owner, understandably upset and very reluctant to shoe the horses, wanted us to all discuss together what the problem and the best solution might be. We set a date to do this, but I live quite a way from her, and so wasn't going to be able to see the horses for a week or two.
In the meantime the lame horse became much worse and was in obvious pain. Again, the owner called the vet out and this time (unbeknown to me) the vet suggested that a local farrier should be asked to give a second opinion on the horses. She was still convinced that both horses needed shoes and that lack of shoes was causing their problems.
The owner, when we had spoken, was as confused as I was about the reasons for the vet's opinion - the horses had been doing well for years, there had been no changes in their hoofcare, diet or environment. Both had suffered specific injuries, and the assumption was that once those had healed, they would be fine again - certainly it hadn't been foot problems which caused the injuries, and they had always done well barefoot. Nevertheless, the vet's decision is law, pretty much, so of course the owner had to do as she advised.
When the farrier visited, it turned out that he was a farrier whom I've worked with before, and who is well up to speed about barefoot, so he had no problems at all with the fact that the horses didn't wear shoes :-) He was able to reassure the owner about both horses' feet and he also immediately identified the lame horse's problem - the wire injury had set up an infection and an abscess. The actual cause of the horse's sore heels wasn't (as the vet had believed) a mechanical problem of him carrying too much weight on his heels (!!) but that he had an infection. Once that was dealt with, he was perfectly sound and happy again.
The reason for telling this story is that, understandably, in the middle of all this the owner was in a quandary, as the vet was saying the horses needed shoes, and I was reminding her that they had always been fine barefoot. She didn't know who to believe, so I told her what I always say to owners in that sort of impossible position: Don't believe the experts, but do believe your horse. If an "expert" is telling you one thing, and your horse is telling you another, you should ALWAYS trust your horse - he is the real expert on his own feet.