Have you ever considered getting x-rays taken of a sound horse’s feet? Crazy thought, isn’t it? Why would anyone want to waste money when there isn’t anything wrong?

A lot of farriers have a good eye and can keep a horse on the right track. However, getting annual x-rays will make their job a lot easier and eliminate any guess work. Most injuries seem to be repetitive strain injuries, just like the straw that broke the camel’s back. So if a horse is developing an issue, it will usually stay sound for quite a while before a lameness happens. But when it does, you will have a serious issue and it will usually require therapeutic work from both your vet and farrier.

Preventive measures are cheap insurance for anything you do. If you can notice on the x-rays that something isn’t right, such as a long toe, thin soles, negative palmer angle, navicular syndrome, cyst, bone spur, etc., you can correct it immediately before it becomes an issue. If you have ever had a horse that had a serious hoof problem, the ability to go back in time to catch it early would be priceless.

One of my favorite things about working at a vet clinic is getting to see before and after x-rays on horses that I’m shoeing. If a horse needs therapeutic shoeing, we need to know what’s going on so we can help immediately. By looking at an x-ray, a clear plan can be made and greatly helps our chances of success.

In these situations, it can be cheaper to get x-rays the first time instead of guessing what the horse needs, possibly guessing wrong, wasting the price of a shoeing, and letting the horse suffer for five weeks.

Another thing I have found can get you into trouble is that assuming that the problem was completely fixed after the first treatment. Most of the time, yes, we get really close. But an x-ray taken after shoeing will confirm exactly how we did.

Recently a really nice four-year-old barrel horse was under-performing and I recommended getting radiographs taken of the hind feet. She was sore on a hind leg, “AKA the forgotten limb,” and it wasn’t the hocks or stifles; the outside of the hoof looked to be in relatively good shape, too. What we found was a negative palmar angle, meaning the coffin bone was flat or pointed up instead of slightly pointing down. That can throw off the entire limb, putting excessive strain on everything, including tendons, ligaments and the bony column. We fixed the negative palmar angle and she felt immediately better, and won at a major barrel futurity the next week. Had that negative palmar angle not been addressed, an injury such as a cyst or trauma to a tendon or ligament would have eventually occurred.

Here’s to working proactively instead of reactively by taking preventive measures with our equine athletes.

God Bless America