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I solemnly swear….

Continuing with Dr. Thomas Teskey’s – Breaking Traditions: A Veterinary Medical and Ethical Perspective On the Modern Day Usage of Steel Horseshoes

I understand this now, and I can no longer keep it to myself, for I took The Veterinarian’s Oath oath nine years ago:

Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health, the relief of animal suffering, the conservation of livestock resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge.

I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics.

I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.
(Adopted by the American Veterinary Medical Association House of Delegates, July, l969)

A word (or more) about integrity and strength of conviction:

To begin, this is just “facts of life” kind of stuff, and here’s a fact that you can count on: I will not ever ask you to consider shoeing your horse with steel. I have conviction in my belief about this and it is unwavering. If I was to cheat by saying, “Well, this time I guess…OK, go ahead and nail shoes on”, or, “Gee, I guess this horse can’t do it….” I would be compromising my very keen sense of integrity. I do not sit on the fence or beat around the bush on this issue. Steel shoes cause harm to horses, and I simply can’t abide that. Some folks can advocate both shoeing and going barefoot, but I cannot. I have read and understood the Veterinary Oath.

Some additional thoughts and feelings:

Many folks aren’t eager or accustomed to expressing their views about what they’ve learned to be true, let alone professing them in a way that shows absolute conviction, so it’s no wonder that some of these same folks find it distasteful or rude or egotistical when someone else proclaims that they are possessors of the truth. Some folks will suggest that, “we should all just try to get along”, or “you’re entitled to your opinion, and you should respect mine”, or “it’s a big tent, room for everybody!”, or even, “we’ll just agree to disagree”.

Once in awhile, you’ll run across somebody with absolute conviction and rock-solid integrity, practicing what he believes in, because those beliefs are what keep him strong. Such a person may be unpopular, disliked, and even ridiculed, because he is likely to call attention to those who are wavering, misinformed or don’t quite have the knowledge or understand the information presented. I know this happens, from experience, and it’s often due to such adverse reactions from others that a person with strong convictions about a new way of thinking and a different way of doing who is willing to speak out and try to convince others is more and more a rarity in our world.

I’m keenly aware of how I impress some people as a “know-it-all”, or seem to be “it’s my way or no way” sort of guy, but that’s not true. I do disdain shoeing horses, and that is a practice near and dear to a lot of people. I call into question the things they’ve spent their entire lives working on. Naturally, they’re likely to have an initial, negative reaction, but often, when I get the opportunity to go beyond the initial reaction and enter into an in-depth exchange with these same men and women, I encourage them, sometimes rather forcefully, to examine their beliefs and their practices based on them. It can be a painful process. I’ve had friends and other people who have put shoes on horses for decades who break down and sob when the truth of what they have been doing hits them. This is real and it is powerful. I know: I was on the receiving end of the same process not too long ago. I am extremely grateful to have come in to this knowledge of the horse’s hoof.

Being a farrier is hard work. I shod at least a few horses of my own every few weeks during my younger years, so I can relate to the pain and strain that comes with the tasks and the skills it requires: the careful attention to detail, the ability to work well with your hands, working around a naturally shy but powerful animal and a caring attitude. But when “the rubber meets the road”, no matter how hard you’ve studied to learn how to shoe a horse, no matter how hard and demanding the work is, no matter how much money you’ve spent getting that education, no matter how traditional the practice is, none of these things, and nothing beyond these things makes shoeing a horse the right thing to do. When something is wrong, it’s wrong. Steel hurts horse’s feet, period.

Gradually more farriers are realizing that we have better options. Some already encourage people to let their horses go barefoot “as much as possible”, but they and the owners are still not fully convinced or educated and they go along with the conventional wisdom that horses need shoes nailed to their feet for “protection” or “support” when they are participating in activities like jumping and dressage, competitive trail rides, and other demanding sports or use. But we now know that any kind of shoe nailed to a hoof damages that hoof. Every time, all of the time, one-hundred percent of the time, every minute that steel contacts a horse’s foot, damage is being done. Steel shoes do not protect hooves, and hooves certainly don’t need “support”, even if there was some way to get it from shoes, which there isn’t. In fact, the more extreme of a horse sport you participate in, the more important it is for your horse to have natural, hard-working, properly-functioning feet…think about it.

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