This veterinarian and farrier team relies on digital radiographs to eliminate guesswork in achieving soundness.

If you travel to a new state, new city or even a new part of town, chances are you will rely on your phone’s GPS to assist in getting you where you need to go. Why? Because no one enjoys being lost, wasting time, making a mistake and having to start over. Having clear directions makes any journey easier.

Which is why veterinarian Reese Hand steers his clients into taking routine radiographs of their horse’s feet. It’s a clear direction, in black and white, of where a horse’s foot care needs to go.

“It’s important to realize that every horse has different feet,” says Hand, co-owner of Equine Sports Medicine and Surgery in Weatherford, Texas. “There’s no cookie cutter foot—each structure varies. Then you go into different disciplines—barrel horses, race horses, jumpers, cutters, rope horses—every one of those horses do different things: sliding, turning quick, working laterally, or working off their hind end. Every discipline puts different stresses on their feet.”

Those differences make diagnostics and treatment unique to each animal. One thing, however, is universal: soundness goes from the ground up. As the old adage goes—no hoof, no horse.

Hand says that nearly every new client, or client with a new horse, asks his opinion on how their farrier is doing.
“I always tell those clients, when they ask about their horse’s feet, that the X-ray is the deciding factor [on answering that question],” Hand says. “It’s black and white, literally. It can’t lie; It’s not subjective; it’s not opinionated. And for us, it gives us direction when it comes to shoeing and overall soundness of the horse.”

Hand appreciates how Lee Olsen—an American Farrier’s Association Certified Journeyman Farrier who owns and operates Olsen Equine, a multi farrier practice in Brock, Texas—is always looking to set a horse up for the most success through its feet.

“If you brought a new horse to him, I guarantee the first words out of Lee’s mouth would be, ‘do you have X-rays?’” Hand says. “And that’s a farrier who cares and wants to start out on the right track. I tip my hat to the farriers who do that. That’s where that farrier can really make a difference.”

Olsen uses his education and experience to do what is best for each horse. But he knows he can navigate a horse’s foot best if he can see it from the inside, out.

“A lot of farriers have a great eye and come close to an ideal shoeing,” Olsen says. “But there is no way to see exactly what’s in that hoof capsule without the X-ray. That is where before and after shoeing X-rays can truly be life-changing for the simple fact that so many times we see an issue on an X-ray that we cannot see without them.”

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