unison, and eased respectfully
around him with exaggerated
slowness. The owner watched
them fiercely as they passed.
I finished the call and walked
up to the horse’s left side.
“Wait!” the owner barked. “He
needs some groundwork before
you can touch his legs.”
I waited while she performed
a series of bizarre movements
with the limping Klaus, feeding
him cookies every so often and
muttering commands in German.
Two women walked up and
watched the show.
“She’s using Gert
Besserwisser’s methods,” one
said reverently. “But he’d move
much more willingly o; the
forehand if she’d just let Brett
“You’re so right,” said the other.
“His angles are definitely o;, and
it’s really a;ecting his impulsion.
Brett is a firm believer in getting
them to precisely 52 degrees.
When he hoof-tested Klaus
yesterday, he could tell right away
the angles were the problem.”
The woman joined her friends.
“I’ve been trying to get my vet to
understand that, but he loves my
current farrier. What can you do!”
“We could say that he threw
a shoe and Brett just happened
to be at the barn so he shod him.
Then we wouldn’t get in trouble!”
All three giggled.
A Sliver of Hope
I wasn’t sure what disturbed
me more: the universal belief in
Brett’s magic angles, or grown
women who felt the need to play
deceptive schoolgirl games with
the vet. I cleared my throat. The
owner turned to me.
“Don’t you feel that his angles
are o; ?”
I smiled and assured her that
I’d give her a full report when
I’d completed my evaluation,
and I took Klaus’s vitals, which
were normal. I marched to the
dreaded right side and began
palpating the sore leg, noting
heat and swelling in the lower
limb but no soreness. The digital
pulses were increased, and there
was also heat in the foot.
Klaus was immaculately shod
in handmade concave shoes, and
his feet were perfectly balanced.
I hoof-tested the sole, hoof walls,
and each nail without a response,
but the big horse winced when I
got to the frog.
I set the testers down and ran
my fingers over the foot. There
was a slight swelling in the heels,
and when I took my hand away,
my fingers were damp with a
yellow, odorless fluid.
I looked closer and saw a bead
of moisture collected deep in the
sulcus of the frog. I gently pared
away some of the frog, and my
knife scraped against something
hard. Klaus jerked his foot,
prompting another lecture from
Soon, I was working a piece
of wood free from Klaus’s foot,
and was flushing out the hole.
The wood had run parallel to
the sole, so it was unlikely that
any vital structures had been
penetrated, but to be safe, I ran
some contrast material into the
wound and X-rayed the hoof.
All was well. I gave Klaus an
antibiotic shot, packed the hole
with medication and bandaged
I held up the wood for the
owner to see.
“So what did you think of his
angles?” she asked.
“His angles are fine.” I said.
“We’re lucky this didn’t go any
farther into his foot.”
“Don’t you think that Brett
should shoe him?”
“I’d stick with your current
farrier. I bet he’d have found the
splinter in the frog!”
She shrugged. “Yes, but if the
angles had been correct, Klaus
probably wouldn’t have picked
up the wood in the first place.” HI
COURTNEY S. DIEHL, DVM, has
been an equine veterinarian since
2000. She resides in Steamboat
Springs, Colo., where she is in private
practice. Her first book, Horse Vet,
Chronicles of a Mobile Veterinarian,
was published in 2014.
I wasn’t sure what disturbed me more:
the universal belief in Brett’s magic
angles, or grown women who felt the
need to play deceptive schoolgirl games
with the vet.