Friday, 13 March 2015

Oh the hypocrisy!

I've been sent an interesting article by a friend who is a vet and who knows all too well how effectively taking a horse barefoot can rehabilitate its hooves.

The article was a ding-dong between rival vets about the benefits or otherwise of remedial farriery as a way of improving soundness in horses with DDFT injuries and apparently included the following:

" certainly the cheapest option. 

Providing the horse has good solar depth and hoof quality and is well-balanced this is a valid option. Obtaining these prerequisites in clinical cases is rare. 

As a result horses treated this way tend to remain more lame than when treated with remedial farriery."

This statement is being spouted by someone who purports to be scientifically trained (and who should, in theory at least, recognise the importance of evidence-based treatment over superstition and tradition).

The author might as well have written "the earth is flat", "the moon is made of green cheese" or "horses can't work on roads without shoes". All of the quotes in italics have one thing in common - they are what those of us in the real world call Old Wives' Tales - superstitions and beliefs that have grown up with no basis in fact.

Of course, those of us in the real world know its often risky to try and sound knowledgeable about subjects which you have no experience of. Sadly, this doesn't seem to have troubled the author either.
What would you expect of a statement by a veterinary professional in a scientific journal? At the very least you would expect it to be evidence-based and supported by objective proof of some kind. Unfortunately this one is factually incorrect, cites no evidence whatsoever and is not even based on comparative studies.

Lets look at it in a bit more detail.

"Providing the horse has good solar depth and hoof quality and is well-balanced this is a valid option. Obtaining these prerequisites in clinical cases is rare."

In other words, a horse with good concavity and a healthy, well-balanced foot is unlikely to be lame. Just think about that for a moment - and consider the implications. If the author has realised this, isn't it incumbent on him or her to perhaps follow this astonishing idea up?

Apparently not - its easier to dismiss it (though wouldn't it be interesting to know what proportion of lame horses are presented in shoes or recently trimmed?).

"horses treated this way tend to remain more lame than when treated with remedial farriery"

Really? And the statistics for this are where exactly?

Of course, if the author means that ripping the shoes off an already lame horse doesn't miraculously make it sound then they are right - but even the most cursory glance at the internet reveals that this is very far from what most people mean by taking a horse barefoot.

I am confident that the author has no experience of hoof rehabilitation because most of the horses we see here for rehab - who have frequently had remedial farriery with little or no improvement - have gone back to work at the same level or higher than before they went lame and remain in consistent work over the long term.
No-one expects vets to be infallible but making statements like this is ill-judged and foolish. Worse, assuming that owners turn to barefoot simply as a means of saving money makes the author sound not only patronising but frankly ignorant - and will only erode owners' confidence in a profession which they should be able to trust. Thank goodness that some vets are now educating themselves in a more open-minded way. 


Sarah Jones said...

Barefoot is NOT cheapest. I spend far more money and time keeping my horse barefoot than I did when he just had shoes slapped on every 8 weeks. But it is so worth it to me to spend that extra time and money because his hooves are healthier. He's a working horse for 8 months out of the year and without healthy hooves he can't do his job!

Anonymous said...

Barefoot takes time and a commitment to good nutrition and exercise, and most horse owners, and therefore most vets, are in a hurry. Slapping on shoes is faster, and it keeps horseshoers in business - lot of money moving around there. Even if shoes make a sore horse "sound", all it's doing is treating symptoms and concealing the underlying problem.

Nic Barker said...

Totally agree folks. There is increasing evidence supporting barefoot, particularly when done thoughtfully as rehab but none for remedial farriery - certainly none comparing the 2 directly, which IME would show up farriery as a very poor alternative.

BruceA said...

NOOO Nic, you just don't understand :-). We have to DO something, use our tools, use large words and obfuscating language and charge the client a great deal of money.
This whole "working with nature" and "creating the right conditions for healing" will never work. "This is the way we have always done it" is a good motto and we'll stick to that thanks, and if you think you have proven something with your 100+ well documented cases then we'll just get abusive and personal and call you nasty names.

Oh dear....for a moment here I thought I was a farrier ;-)

Angela L said...

Too funny Bruce! Let's not forget if something should go wrong while the horse is barefoot like an abscess or a stone bruise, etc., then it will automatically be because the horse is not wearing shoes. Horses that wear shoes NEVER get abscesses or bruises. LOL Ok, I'm done because I'm about to fall off my chair laughing! Educated barefoot is definitely the way to go. I have learned so much about anatomy, function, balance and movement since taking my horses barefoot it's phenomenal.

Issy said...

Going barefoot with my first horse cost even more than his previous £90 every 2 to 3 weeks and shoes ringing loose after 10 days to 2 weeks - meaning he could never be entered even for a dressage show, never mind a sponsored ride or cross country, as I never knew if the feet would be up to it.

With Nic's help, he became shoe free, then after a few years, did 10 mile sponsored rides, and affiliated eventing shoefree (he was 20 by then so we only did the low level event - actually he was fine on the 90 or 100cms or even more, but the rider wasn't...).

Subsequent horses - I've saved a fortune!. I now have 5 shoe free, ages ranging from 4 years to 33 (or is he 34 this year), doing any amount of hacking, dressage, clinics etc. They would happily event shoe free as well, and probably will when we get around to it.

So in the long run (after the human has learnt enough) yes its cheaper. With a shoe damaged horse the shoefree option can be more expensive in the initial months or years....

And people still assume we cant do road work... roads are the best conditioning tool out!