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Keeping horses walking straight is goal of equine podiatry center
By TIM THORNBERRY
Kentucky Correspondent

LEXINGTON, Ky. — The world of specialized medicine is nothing new to the human medical field, but take that concept into veterinarian medicine and specialists may be a bit harder to find. But there are exceptions, and one of those is the Equine Podiatry Center.

The combination veterinarian clinic and farrier business has been around for a little more than three years, but the team that makes up the business has decades of experience. Eric Parsons and Rob Spencer are the owners and operated separate businesses for nearly 20 years before bringing their efforts together along with Veterinarian Carrie Long to form a unique care facility devoted to the treatment and injuries of the equine hoof.

“This isn’t a clinic for everyday common injuries,” said Long. “We are a referral service and specialize in severe foot problems using some conventional methods and some specialized treatments but all in the team approach to care for the animals.”

The center was built around the concept that better care can be administered to animals through the combined knowledge and expertise of each team member creating a faster, more accurate treatment, which in many cases could save an animal’s life.

The facility is equipped with state of the art tools and technology including X-ray equipment, a pharmacy, long and short term hospitalization and rehabilitation areas and a fully functional farrier shop complete with all the equipment to fabricate anything necessary for the benefit of the horse’s foot. The operation has two trucks used for off-site care that are filled with all the tools necessary to build and place shoes along with their own X-ray equipment as well.

“We as farriers and veterinarians aren’t always on the same page when it comes to treating the same injury,” said Parsons. “Rob and I wanted a little more out of our professions; we wanted to push the bar so we brought in our own our veterinarian to move that along. This kind of approach isn’t for everyone but it has worked well for us.”

“Through history, farriers and veterinarians have typically been at odds with each other over equine foot care,” said Spencer. “Only in the last half-dozen years have we seen more vets specialize in foot care. After being in practice for 20 years, I became disillusioned by it and decided you either deal with it or do what we did. We knew Carrie and knew she was a bright young veterinarian so we asked her to come to work with us. We have learned from her and she has learned from us.”

You don’t have to go too far to see exactly the kind of difference the group has made in the lives of local horse owners and their horses. Behind the clinic lives a little pony by the name of Mary Lou.

The animal was brought to the clinic with a severe break in her left front leg and after unsuccessful attempts with stem cell and other treatments; the decision was made to amputate the leg.

Normally at this point, some animals would have been put down but thanks to the efforts of the two farriers, Long and many generous people in the community, Mary Lou was given a prosthetic leg and a new lease on life.

Thanks to a local prostheses specialist Mo Kenney, who specializes in human prosthetics, an artificial limb was made for Mary Lou and she now is quite comfortable leads a very normal life.

“Mary Lou is an exception rather than the rule, mostly because of the cost,” said Long. “This type of recovery could run into the tens of thousands of dollars but the situation with Mary Lou just fell into place because of a lot of nice people and she now serves as a shining example to other people about what can be done for their animals.”

Kim Breeding is a local owner of show quarter horses and a customer of the Center. She and husband Doug recently brought in Bingo 45 to have a crack in his hoof repaired.

“We’ve owned him for about three years and have won three championships with him,” she said. “People come from all over because of their knowledge here.”

Bingo’s injury was particularly difficult because the crack extended up into his soft tissue, an injury that could have cost him his career. Parsons and Spencer worked with the horse to provide treatment to the wound and carefully fit his foot with a specially padded shoe.

“This is like Air Jordans for him,” said Parsons to the Breedings. “He ought to be able to roll right along.”

Besides providing the best care possible for their patients, the team has dedicated themselves along with their facility to the ongoing educational needs of those in the industry.

“No matter where I go, I teach,” said Spencer. “I’m the travel guy and I’m on a plane to somewhere different every week. We give this knowledge away to anyone who wants it and we welcome anyone to our facility who wants to learn as well.”

Though the Center is located right in the heart of thoroughbred country, breeds of all kinds and from all walks of life make their way there thanks to the reputation the group has in the horse industry.

The Center’s website prominently displays these words, “Where veterinary medicine and farrier science come together to make a difference in the lives of our equine partners.”

It is by those words the three live and work by everyday.

To learn more about the Center, visit its website at www.equinepodiatrycenter.com or call 859-259-4663.

This farm news was published in the March 22, 2006 issue of Farm World.

3/22/2006