The UK’s first campaign has been launched to bring farriers and vets to work as a team with horse owners to keep horses sound.

Vet Stuart Thorne left, and farrier John Blake.

The campaign, “Keep One Step Ahead”, has been developed by members of independent veterinary group XLEquine, working with World Horse Welfare (WHW).

Speaking at the launch at WHW’s Hall Farm Rescue and Rehoming Centre in Norfolk, vet Stuart Thorne said although vets, farriers and horse owners each had a significant role in hoof health care, working together was far more effective.

Dr Thorne of Fellowes Farm Equine Clinic, an XLEquine practice, said: “The aim of the campaign is to promote close collaboration so the horses in our care receive the best treatment.

“The old adage ‘No foot no horse’ remains as true as ever; however, through owner education and farrier collaboration the aim of the campaign is to change this to ‘know foot, know horse’.”

The launch included an information booklet for owners called “Keep one step ahead”. Member practices will also be running seminars for farriers as well as practical training workshops for horse owners from the XLEquine EquineSkills programme.

Dr Thorne highlighted the complex structure of the horse’s foot and the impact of ridden work.

“Even during regular exercise and jumping, it is quite incredible it doesn’t break more often,” he said.

Vet Chris Lehrbach, of XLEquine practice Chapelfield Veterinary Partnership, said horses were not naturally designed to be ridden or to live and work on many of the surfaces their owners expected and many of the problems were due to their management and what was asked of them.

“We know the list of conditions that make up the vast majority of lameness is extensive, but many of these can be avoided by careful management and collaboration with the farrier,” Dr Lehrbach said.

Advances in diagnostic imaging have been a real eye opener on the causes of lameness and has enabled vets and farriers to put this knowledge towards developing solutions, both remedial and preventative, that maximise equine welfare and positive outcomes.”

Farrier John Blake, of Breckland Farriers has worked with WHW for nearly 30 years and said he had seen a huge range of conditions during that time.

“As farriers we often need information from the vet – the more we get, the better judgement we can make,” he said.

Technological advances are helping us greatly; I can get x-rays sent over from the vet to my iPhone or to my client in an instant. However, the key to good communication and collaboration is still to speak to people.”

During his demonstration, Mr Blake explained modern farriery uses practical engineering solutions to create shoe designs for remedial work and correction.

“As we learn more about the hoof, farriers are having to come up with engineering solutions that our predecessors were not able to,” he said.

Also launched at the event was a WHW educational film for horse owners, highlighting practical tips and information.

The charity has put hoof care at the forefront of a new educational initiative: a series of short and easy-to-follow online films aimed at owners who are diligent about good welfare practices. The clip is available at

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