I have worked with and conversed with many individuals in the equine world, and never once have I found anyone who has been 100% right, 100% of the time. In times gone by, it was not uncommon for vets to bang heads with other health providers involved in the care of the same horse, such as farriers, physiotherapists or dentists.
In my experience, it wasn’t necessarily just the vet that instigated the disagreement regarding how an owner should proceed with their horse, as farriers would dispute hoof care and physios would differ on management programs and the fallout was a confused owner and an unhappy horse. Thus, in the best interest of the horse, it is important that everyone is open-minded, communicative and works together as a team.
As an owner, you should take a proactive role and encourage a good relationship between all healthcare providers, and not be responsible for, or propagate, any bad blood between them. For example, if the horse is lame and the vet believes the lameness comes from the foot, don’t say to the farrier: “The vet said it is footsore, so it must be your fault.” Similarly, the vet should refrain from making those sorts of comments, and if he or she inadvertently does, then don’t be so quick to pass on the negative comments, but rather exercise some tact in the interest of better relationships.
The benefit of a harmonious relationship is evident in a case I saw recently where I was able to work as a team with the farrier and the outcome was great for everyone. The patient was a three-year-old thoroughbred gelding that was 2/5 lame in his left front leg, and I was able to localise the lameness to the foot. The farrier was consulted and he took over the management of the lameness, although I stayed in close contact with the owners to follow the horse’s progress.
The lameness improved under the farrier’s care initially but returned about a week or so later. An abscess or an under-run sole due to an infection was suspected, but with pain around the whole foot, the farrier could not isolate an area on the sole to dig into and relieve the pressure. Despite daily bathing of the foot and hot poultices applied, the horse remained lame with no sign of an abscess tracking out of the foot.