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, as they were when we hosted national forums on natural hoof care (2003) and the Strasser trim (2002).

Of course, leadership in equine podiatry requires more than just the provision of continuing education. Research is equally important in evolving new means for treatment or a greater understanding of the subject. Recently, Kirker-Head and co-authors including 2 Tufts veterinary students have published two scientific papers characterizing the veterinary-farrier relationship at all Veterinary Teaching Hospitals in the USA and at 41 Private Equine Surgical Practices. Kirker-Head and Jenner have also recently published 2 papers describing a new surgical technique for treating equine navicular disease, another debilitating lameness of the hoof, both in-vivo and in-vitro.

Finally, with Dean Deborah Kochevar’s support and leadership, Dr. Virginia Rentko, the new director of the Hospital for Large Animals is initiating a search for a world-class podiatrist to build on the already substantial clinical podiatry capabilities of our existing large animal clinicians and visiting staff.  Simultaneously, dedicated floor space and equipment is being set aside for the HLA’s new Podiatry Center, which will service the clinical needs of our region’s unsound and healthy horses alike. If you’d like to find out more about helping Tufts maintain its leadership role in equine podiatry, please contact Shelley Rodman in our Office of Development and Alumni Relations at (508) 839-7907.

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