Life for the farrier is a constant tug of war.

A client phones to book a horse in for hoof care and I am told in conversation that the horse is 17 hands high, has an eight inch wide hoof, wears a seven foot six inch rug, weighs 450 kilos and has a four foot eight inch girth.

The next one has minis, their height is measured in centimetres not hands, so now I know how far my knees are off the ground and their vital statistics all seem to be metric.

Then someone is on the phone with a lameness issue, describing the horse’s legs as being the left front or right front or the left hind and the right hind, so before we can begin to understand each other, I have to ask the question, ‘are you standing looking at the horse or are you going the same way as the horse’ – it really makes a difference when resolving a lameness issue.

What happened to the standard where every horse and pony was described in hands high? Plus we have always described their legs as being the near fore, off fore, near hind and off hind, the near side being the side nearest the kerb whether it be a saddle horse or a carriage horse, and we should forget about following America, as our horses still speak Australian – their horses even have ankles where our horses still have fetlocks, plus only in America do they have aluminum race plates.

However like most older farriers I still measure a hoof in inches to cut a length of steel to make a shoe which now measures for example 12 centimetres wide.

In the normal leg (Pic 1) viewed externally, generally if the hoof pastern angle is parallel an x-ray will show that all the bones from the fetlock joint down, namely P1, P2 and P3, are all in alignment.

However, note that I said ‘generally’ because I often find that people talk of ‘P3 rotation’ in the case of a club foot where the front of the pedal bone is not parallel with the front of the hoof wall but P1, P2 and P3 are still aligned correctly. (Pic 2). It is not P3 rotation but simply a long toe and high heel – visible even in the x-ray.

Another x-ray often interpreted as having P3 rotation is when the heels are too high which forces the P2-P3 joint forwards and it appears that P3 has rotated at the tip. (Pic 3). However when the high heels are lowered correctly P1, P2 and P3 are all aligned correctly.

Yet another change in terminology seems to be describing the Side Bone on P3 as being ‘spurs’ and being ‘normal’, hence not considered as a reason for intermittent lameness. (Pic 4). In the days when horses were used as delivery cart horses and spent all day working on hard paved streets, they ended up with Side Bone from concussion on hard roads, as can still be seen throughout Europe on the carriage horses used for tourist duty on the cobbled streets.

We don’t usually see a lot of Side Bone now in our pleasure horses, but over the past six months I have seen four cases with obvious side bone in the x-rays which was not commented on in the search for a cause of intermittent lameness. Maybe it is just another old fashioned thing that the modern vets and farriers do not consider. Maybe this is all just being part of the 21st century, however in the quest to resolve any hoof related lameness, it is important to look at all the evidence, and to use correct terminology.