Disease Du Jour: Vet and Farrier Cooperation 

In this episode, Dr. Ingrid Wolff offers strategies for collaborating effectively with farriers to improve patient care.
Horse hoof being trimmed by farrier, vets and farriers can work together to improve healing outcomes.
Veterinarians can improve healing outcomes for horses with hoof conditions by working closely with farriers. | Getty Images

In this episode, Ingrid Wolff, DVM, of Armitas Equine Veterinary Service, in Santa Ynez, California, discussed veterinarian-farrier cooperation. Wolff had a successful farrier practice before becoming an equine veterinarian, and she continues to focus on podiatry in her veterinary practice. During the episode, she discussed conditions a veterinarian might want to closely involve a farrier to manage and offered suggestions for collaborating effectively.  

Conditions That Require Vet-Farrier Cooperation 

Wolff said laminitis is a great example of a condition that can benefit from vet-farrier cooperation. “What the horse needs in terms of foot care in the acute stages changes over time as they move into the more chronic stages of the disease,” she said.  

Wolff advised that it’s important for the vet to open communication with the farrier and provide them with radiographs. Better yet, vets and farriers can work together to take before-and-after shoeing application radiographs.  

“As a veterinarian with a laminitic patient, if we don’t involve the farrier, we’re only helping our patient a fraction of what we could be, and that would be a gross disservice to our patients,” she said.  

Wolff said negative plantar angled horses can also benefit from the vet and farrier working together. She explained farriers have knowledge of special trimming and shoeing techniques that can improve patient comfort in these cases.  

Logistics of Vets Working With Farriers 

Wolff said when working on a case together, the vet and farrier should both be there in person for at least the initial appointment. Afterward, they can usually communicate sufficiently through phone calls and text messages, though this can be case-dependent.  

Wolff advised vets to give farriers their cellphone numbers and allow them to text questions, share photos, and call them when needed.  

“Texting radiographs of your patient to your farrier makes a big difference,” Wolff said. “That way, they can have quick access to the radiographs right in front of them when they’re in front of the horse.” 

Wolff also advised vets and farriers to keep each other updated as the case progresses. 

Helping Farriers Understand the Veterinary Side of Hoof Care 

Wolff urged veterinarians to help farriers better understand the veterinary side of hoof care. One way to do this is by informing farriers about upcoming continuing education opportunities, many of which they can audit without a veterinary degree. She said many local and regional veterinary medicine associations and farrier clubs host DVM/farrier lectures, and vets should inform farriers of these events, especially if the farrier is new to the area.  

“It took a long time for me as a farrier to realize those lectures and events were open to me, and I always learned so much every time I went,” Wolff said.  

Wolff also mentioned the National Alliance of Equine Practitioners, which is a new organization that has both farrier and veterinarian members. The organization offers continuing education courses and a symposium where both vets and farriers are welcome. 

Advice for Working Effectively With Farriers 

Wolff said communication is key when vets are working with farriers and that veterinarians need to be the leaders in opening the dialogue. She said vets should find out what the farrier knows about the horse, if any factors prevent the farrier from meeting the horse’s needs, and what the veterinarian can assist with, such as providing sedation or helping the farrier decipher radiographs.  

When veterinarians and farriers work together, they might experience some tense moments and feel as if they are stepping on each other’s toes. Wolff reminded veterinarians, “the three letters behind our names do not give us license to condescend to anyone, any time. Exercising diplomacy in these difficult moments will pay off. A phone call and not being in a hurry is sometimes all it takes to foster that positive teamwork.” 

Wolff said it’s important to remember farriers see the horses in their care every six to eight weeks, so they can often see subtleties that vets examining the horse only once or twice a year might not. They look at feet every single day, and they can usually detect even the slightest changes that vets might miss.  

Wolff also noted that farriers might learn about a horse’s lameness before the vet does. “It’s quite common that owners and trainers will open up and discuss lameness issues that they may not have discussed with their veterinarian yet for fear that they’re asking ‘stupid questions’ but are comfortable asking their farrier,” she said.  

She advised veterinarians to introduce themselves to new farriers in the area and offer to help them in any way they can. She also said vets should learn to pull a shoe without tearing the hoof wall off, and if they don’t know how, they should ask a farrier to teach them and offer to pay for their time.  

Veterinarians can further assist farriers by educating owners on safe working environments and offering to help with ornery horses. “These small gestures go a really long way in a profession where the work is extremely physical, even on a good day,” Wolff said. “These are easy ways to build trust and professionalism, and farriers will respond to this for sure.” She urged veterinarians to treat farriers like the colleagues they are and reiterated the importance of effective communication.  

About Dr. Ingrid Wolff 

Ingrid Wolff, DVM, grew up in the Santa Ynez Valley in California. She attended Santa Barbara City College and U.C. Santa Barbara, where she completed a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology. While applying to veterinary school, Wolff moved to southeastern Idaho to attend Victory Mountain Forge Farrier School and work on a large horse and cow-calf operation. 

Wolff returned to the Santa Ynez Valley and had a successful farrier practice until vet school acceptance. She is a 2013 graduate from the Ross School of Veterinary Medicine, St. Kitts, West Indies. She was an American Association of Equine Practitioners Winner’s Circle Scholarship recipient and the American Veterinary Medical Foundation’s Pfizer Animal Health Veterinary Student Scholarship recipient. 

Wolff was a Student Representative for Platinum Performance and was the on-campus farrier for the horse and donkey herds. Additionally, she authored a grant to allow purchase of farrier tools for student use on the school herds and to learn about podiatry. Wolff participated in externships at Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Center, Rood & Riddle, and the California Animal and Food Safety Laboratory. Post-graduation, Wolff interned at Mission Equine Hospital in San Juan Capistrano, California. 

Wolff opened Armitas Equine Veterinary Service in September 2015, with an emphasis on podiatry, lameness, and general wellness care. She has nearly 20 years farrier experience and takes her extensive background of knowledge and horse health into veterinary practice daily.  

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