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The Veterinarian – Farrier Relationship

By Antonio Cruz DVM, MVM, MSc, DrMedVet

We welcome the opportunity to participate in this forum as we embark into strengthening the relationships between farriers and veterinarians. Different to North America, most veterinary schools in Europe enjoy a podiatry Department, staffed with competent farriers who teach veterinary students the principles of the art of horse shoeing. Education of the history of veterinary medicine is important as it helps us understand where we come from and how we got here. Veterinarians and farriers have common origins and have shared a common path longer than not.

Veterinary medicine from its origins was intimately linked to foot care. In ancient Greece, the practice of medicine had its roots in mythology and wizardry (which by the way we still experience today!) and veterinary and human medicine were often performed by the same individuals. Every God needed a doctor to cure its wounds and ailments. The legendary centaur (half horse, half man) Chiron, initiated comparative medicine and had famous and accomplished disciples. Chiron gives origin to the words ?chirurgie? and ?surgery?. Apollo was the God of health and disease and his son Aesculap (Paton and Martin logo?s meaning) was educated by Chiron and became one of the most famous surgeons and doctors.

Later on Aristotle, described laminitis, tetanus, colic and many other ailments. But it was not until the Romans, that the word ?veterinarium? was used to describe those who took care of the working animals, feet included! For a long time in the Roman Empire, veterinarians had social ?immunity? due to their importance and their main role was to serve the army and agriculture.

During this time, the care of horse?s feet was considered an important task as they identified the importance of horses in transportation and war. While in ancient Greece, veterinary medicine was rather linked to human medicine, during the Roman Empire, the veterinarian was rather associated with agriculture. As civilizations progressed, the role of the horse not only as a transport animal but importantly as an instrument of war, raised its status, and so did the status of veterinarians. During the Bizantine empire, veterinary medicine experienced great progress, but it was really during the Arab empire in the Iberian (today Spain and Portugal) peninsula, that veterinary medicine underwent its greatest advances. This was arguably due to the reverence that Arab culture had for the horse (and still does!). During this time, veterinarians and farriers continued to blend in. Foot care was a fundamental task of ?alb?itares?, Spanish word derived of Arabic used to designate veterinarians.

There are very important veterinary textbooks that derive from this time, and it was Ibn Jakoub in 695 a.c. that wrote the main book on equitation and farriery. Another writer, Abon Zakaria, wrote the first lameness treaty. The advances of veterinary medicine, including the art of farriery, were disseminated through Spain and Europe, until the arab empire abandoned the European continent. For a while veterinary medicine in Spain was the most advanced of all due to the arab influence which quickly spread north of the Pyrenees. Spanish equine ?alb?itares? (veterinarians) travelled to the Americas and brought their knowledge through the writings of Juan Su?rez de Peralta in 1580. The first Veterinary School in the Americas was founded in Mexico in 1853 and the rest?is history.

Partly because of this history, and throughout my veterinary education in Spain and my dad?s (also a veterinarian) teachings I have come to greatly respect the work that farriers do as an integral part of what I do as a veterinarian and surgery specialist. As an example, I can recall while I was in Glasgow, finishing my degree and doing an internship at the University?s Equine Hospital, I was exposed to the wonderful work of the Ferrie brothers, world renowned farriers and several-time world champions. Alan and Jim would come every Tuesday to our equine
hospital to shoe horses in need of some regular or therapeutic shoes. As an intern I had the job of bringing horses to them, hold them, jog them or whatever was needed, but most importantly I had the job of listening and learning from them and from my mentor, Dr. Graham Munroe. One cannot remember all the details of every single case and a few anecdotes remain. But what has stayed with me throughout the years is the superb team that veterinarians and farriers can form by staying humble, open to ideas and collaboration and sharing experiences with each other. The main winner is none other than the horse, which at the end of the day is what really matters. This is why I welcome very much the opportunity to contribute to the effort of the WCFA to build bridges between veterinarians and farriers in BC. I do not know much, but what I know I hope it is of use.

Antonio Cruz DVM, MVM, MSc, DrMedVet
Diplomate American College of Veterinary Surgeons
Diplomate European College of Veterinary Surgeons
Paton and Martin Veterinary Services
25930 40th Ave, Aldergrove British Columbia