Tools of the Trade
There are many tools helpful in evaluating lameness, hoof health, and overall horse condition. Using these tools to gather information about the equine will help the hoof care provider and the horse owner develop a plan for creating healthy strong hooves.
At every hoof care appointment, I assess various aspects of the equine which give clues to underlying risks to hoof health or apparent lameness. Farriers are often expected to deliver soundness and when this doesn't happen, can be blamed or fired for the horse remaining lame.
Sometimes there are environmental or systemic factors affecting hoof quality and causing lameness that are beyond the farrier's control.
EXAMPLE: It is Spring, the grass is lush and green, and the owner has run out of hay. The horse is turned out 24/7 on green grass, spring vaccinations are administered, the horse looks thin from the long winter so the vet recommends a Power Pack dewormer regime, and the hooves are a month overdue for a trim because it's been pouring rain every day for weeks....
The horse turns up Grade 5/5 severely lame. The vet is called out and finds the horse to have very long feet, bounding arterial digital pulse, heat at the coronary bands, and is laying down in the field. The vet recommends a new farrier because the feet look awful, and surely correct trimming or shoeing would have prevented this.
Scenarios such as this are why I may ask the horse owner questions that are seemingly unrelated to the hooves. Every environmental or systemic toxin affects hoof quality. Sudden complete changes in feed, supplements, and hay/grazing can cause laminitis, abscessing, or painful soles. Moving from a dry field with firm footing into a wet, deep paddock can cause thrush or white line disease. A retired horse suddenly used for a 3 day camping trip can cause mechanical stress to unconditioned hooves such as cracks, chips, and laminitis. Administering a cluster of vaccinations or a more powerful dewormer can cause rings to grow down in the hooves, or foot sensitivity.