What is an Equine Podiatrist?
An Equine Podiatrist is a specialist in the equine foot who uses his or her knowledge to work closely with horse owners and veterinarians to improve equine foot health. This will include trimming the hooves, understanding pathologies and providing advice on how to manage the horse’s environment to maximise foot health. Equine Podiatrists do not fit shoes and are engaged by owners seeking help with lameness issues relating to the foot as well as a growing population of horse owners who simply prefer to keep their horses shoeless.
What are the benefits of using a Full member of the Equine Podiatry Association (UK)?
You will have a well-trained, regulated and insured hoof care specialist working with you and your horse. They also have access to the collective knowledge and resources of the association should your horse’s case turn out to be particularly complicated.
How long does it take to train to be an Equine Podiatrist?
Equine Podiatry Training Ltd runs a two-year, part time diploma level course which consists of 13 modules. Most modules require attendance in a classroom for several days, followed by guided self-study and homework. The course content has been carefully structured to ensure it will easily surpass the National Occupational Standard for Equine Barefoot Care which was published by LANTRA, the Government-licensed Sector Skills Council, in April 2010. The aim of the NOS is to ensure that in future, anyone practising in the field of non-farriery based hoofcare must demonstrate a minimum standard of education and proficiency. Currently, the EPT course is the only entry route to membership of the EPA(UK).
Is there a regulatory body that oversees equine podiatrists?
The Equine Podiatry Association (UK) regulates the activities of its full members. We expect our members to surpass the National Occupational Standard for Equine Barefoot Care. They are required to operate within our Code of Conduct at all times. The association does not regulate the activities of its Associate members.
Are Equine Podiatrists insured?
Yes, insurance is compulsory for full members of the EPA(UK). The association has a group insurance scheme which members may choose to use, although members are entitled to take out insurance with any provider whose cover reaches our minimum standard.
Do Equine Podiatrists have to complete Continual Professional Development (CPD)?
Full members of the Equine Podiatry Association (UK) have to undertake a minimum of 40 hours of CPD a year. A component of those CPD hours has to include core hoof care activities such as our collective trim days and peer shadowing but can also include learning more about related activities such as behaviour, bodywork, dentistry and anatomy.
Is there a national standard for barefoot hoofcare?
Yes the National Occupational Standard in Equine Barefoot Care was created in 2010 by LANTRA.
How does an equine podiatrist work? What is a consultation like?
An initial visit could take up to about two hours (subsequent visits won’t normally be as long). Your Equine Podiatrist (EP) will need a good firm surface to carry out gait analysis and will want to work somewhere clean and dry with room to get to each side of the horse. The horse should be comfortable and happy to stand in the chosen area. The horse should be presented with clean and dry feet and legs to enable your Equine Podiatrist to do their best job. The consultation will take a thorough look at your horse’s feet and how usable they are.
Your EP will take a history of the horse and will want to know about issues and concerns you might have, and what you want to achieve with your horse. Your EP will assess all the feet and take photos, so they have a record of where the hooves started. You’ll be asked to walk (and trot if sound enough) the horse a couple of times so your EP can assess his movement. Your EP will then proceed with the trim (if required), looking to balance and align the hoof, taking another set of photos post trim.
Because there are a lot of factors that can affect the health of your horse’s feet your EP will wish to discuss their workload, feed, turnout, foot care history and anything else that you think may be relevant. Your EP will leave you with a report of what they have found and the recommendations they have about how to improve the health of the hooves, as well as the levels of work they think that the horse is currently capable of.
Is a booted horse really barefoot?
That is entirely a matter of opinion. From an Equine Podiatry point of view, boots are used in two key ways: boots will enable a horse whose feet aren’t yet strong enough for a given job to be able to perform that job. For example, if a horse is kept in a soft paddock and needs to hack out on stony bridleways, then boots might be required because the feet don’t get enough time on a firm surface to develop the strength that they need.
Boots will enable a horse that has very weak feet to move comfortably so that the horse can start to recover the strength of those feet. Imagine that taking your horse out for a walk on a firm surface is equivalent to going to the gym and doing resistance training. The firm surface means that the hoof capsule has to expand and contract on loading and unloading of the horse’s weight. That repetitive cycle of loading and unloading is what improves the strength of the feet. But some horses with very weak feet will be trying to avoid pain and adjusting how they load they feet, which may cause the foot to develop incorrectly – for example a horse landing toe first to avoid heel pain will grow extra toe height whilst the heel structures will atrophy from lack of use. Boots provide enough protection so that the horse can move comfortably enough to develop their feet as we want them to.
Do barefoot horses have more abscesses?
There is no reason why a healthy horse transitioning to barefoot should have more abscesses than normal, that is why EPs utilise the usability scoring system, to reduce the risk of abscesses. Where there is an increased risk of abscessing is if the usability score is exceeded or if the horse has a history of chronic low level inflammation within the hoof.
Why go barefoot when I can ride as much as I like shod?
When you ride with shod hooves, you may diminish the opportunity to improve the strength of the hooves. Shod hooves distort less on loading and unloading of the horses weight compared to barefoot hooves (Hinterhofer et al 2006), and so whilst a barefoot or booted hoof will get stronger with appropriate movement, a shod hoof will not have the same opportunity to gain strength, and might even get weaker depending on the situation.
Why use an EP when farriers have 4 years of training?
EPs and farriers have a different focus to their training and work. An EP concentrates on the factors that influence the health of the hoof as well as looking at the shape of the hoof. EPs don’t have to learn how to shape and fit horseshoes, and therefore this part of the farrier training is not required for EPs.
Why is my horse sore without shoes?
A horse that is sore without shoes has feet that are less healthy than they should be. Often either because the structures within the hoof are weaker than they should be, or because there is some inflammation within the hoof which is making the hoof sore. Both of these issues are usually correctable with the right approach. The Equine Podiatry approach would be to use hoof boots to help the horse be instantly more comfortable whilst looking into the root cause of the soreness to improve the health of the feet long term.
How long does it take to improve the feet?
Every case is unique, but you would normally expect to see a significant improvement within 6 to 12 months after shoe removal. And with the correct management, diet and conditioning a gradual improvement year on year after that.
Why are certain feeds not recommended?
The health of the horse’s feet is intimately linked to the health of the horse’s gut, particularly the delicate hind-gut. Any food which causes upset in the gut, is likely to result in sore feet in the horse.
Can I go barefoot if my horse is stabled?
Yes many do perfectly well.
Hinterhofer, C & Weißbacher, N & Buchner, H.H.F. & Peham, Christian & Stanek, C. (2006). Motion analysis of hoof wall, sole and frog under cyclic load in vitro: Deformation of the equine hoof shod with regular horse shoe, straight bar shoe and bare hoof. Pferdeheilkunde. 22. 314-319. 10.21836/PEM20060311.