Achieving Excellence in Equine Podiatry

Dr. Carl Kirker-Head

Equine podiatry requires collaboration between farriers and veterinarians, says Tufts' Dr. Carl Kirker-Head

If there’s ever a disease that requires the veterinarian’s medical and surgical expertise and the farrier’s anatomical and functional knowledge of the hoof for a successful outcome, it is laminitis. In years past, the two professions often worked in a vacuum, neither one fully engaging the other in the interest of the patient. That situation is now very different, in no small way due to the sustained efforts of a few dedicated educators and practitioners from both professions, along with the gentle encouragement of academic institutions like Tufts University‘s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine.

Since the early 1990’s Dr. Kirker-Head and the Hospital for Large Animals have hosted annual continuing education podiatry forums, frequently in conjunction with the Southern New England Farriers Association. The subject matter is always interesting. Tufts can lay claim to the only comprehensive forum addressing the farriery needs of the draft horse (2004). Most recently (2010), Dr. Ric Redden – a recognized leader in evolving podiatry techniques for managing laminitis – presented a day seminar on shoeing modalities for problem cases. And like any entity exploring the boundaries of knowledge, one should expect topics to sometimes be controversial Continue reading

Clinical Case Review

Laminitis and Metabolic Syndrome

Image 1, Hospital for Large Animals at Tufts University

Image 1: View of the Hoof Wall and Coffin Bone. Image Copyright Tufts University.


While veterinary investigators from around the world improve our understanding of the causes of laminitis and its effective  management, the disease remains one of the most debilitating for horses as well as the most frustrating for clients, attending veterinarians and farriers alike. In a USDA study (pdf) specifically looking at laminitis in the U.S. horse population, 46% of owners perceived that their horses became laminitis because of introduction to lush pasture. Another 27% felt that the laminitis was secondary to feed problems, obesity pregnancy or injury. Less-common causes included diarrhea, grain overload and retained placenta.
The most common theme is thus related to feed management and body condition of the animals involved.  

The following two cases, presented to Tufts’ Hospital for Large Animals, represent one of the underlying conditions we see that predispose horses to laminitis, Equine Metabolic Syndrome. They also illustrate the strategies we use and the principles we follow to optimize long-term outcome. Continue reading