April 12, 2008

A Code of Practice for Equine Hoofcare has been agreed and is now ready for consultation in Britain.

The code was instigated by the National Equine Welfare Council in 2006, and agreed between registered farriers, veterinary surgeons, welfare agencies and industry professionals. It addresses barefoot trimming, addressing the philosophy of shoeing and barefoot trimming, regulation, education, and research, and the provision of farriery and barefoot trimming services.

The closing date for responses is April 30. The Code is open for comment and support to anyone with an interest in the subject. A list of organisations and consultees will be made available when the consultation is complete.

The code notes that the majority of horses require some attention to their hooves every four to eight weeks, occasionally more often. "The exact period depends on the individual animal taking into account their conformation, rate of horn growth, environment in which they are kept, workload required of them and any abnormalities they may have."

It also states that "Owners and keepers of horses have a duty of care to ensure proper hoof management, showing regard for the need for protection from injury and treatment of disease. There is a significant probability of suffering associated with pain and lameness if care is neglected."

The code says that owners and keepers of horses are permitted to carry out simple maintenance of unshod feet, and that there should be no pain or lameness during or following trimming, and either no or minimal alteration of gait following trimming.

"There should be negligible adjustment of the shape of the foot and associated lower limb conformation following trimming. This trimming corresponds to minimal removal of excess horn, including loose and damaged horn from the walls of the foot and frog. Trimming may also be carried out in an emergency to relieve suffering where a portion of hoof has become dislodged from the wall of the foot."

Under the provisions of the Farriers Registration Act 1975, shoeing may only be legally undertaken in Great Britain by registered farriers, apprentices working under them or veterinary surgeons. Such farriers must be registered with the Farriers Registration Council. Registration follows an approved apprenticeship, completed course of study and practical and theoretical examination.

Other individuals may trim horses' feet for reward without the provisions of the Farriers Registration Act. Such persons are not to be classed as Farriers but should have received adequate training to ensure trimmed horses are protected from pain and suffering.

The code recommends that treatment for lameness be carried out by or require the involvement of a veterinary surgeon to comply with the provisions of The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966. This is for welfare reasons because diagnosis is required in most cases. "For example, even severely overgrown and misshapen hooves often require radiography for proper assessment prior to trimming; The management of diseased and overgrown feet frequently involves the control of pain, part of which will involve the prescription of appropriate medication; and the diagnosis and treatment of related systemic disease needs to be addressed where relevant."

With regard to barefoot horses, the code says that foot soreness can vary in some horses, especially during the adaptive period "and will require careful management, including the use of protective boots and limited workload to ensure there is no pain or suffering." The adaptive period is that which following shoe removal allows the foot to assume natural hardness and resilience permitting usage without shoes (and may take many months).