ANVIL Interview with G.F. "Andy" Anderson, DVM & Bill Hackler

© Rob Edwards

published in ANVIL Magazine, May 1997

Part II of a Two-part Interview
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G.F. "Andy" Anderson
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Bill Hackler

ANVIL: Dr. Anderson, you were talking about the fact that you deal strictly with performance horses.

ANDY: The majority of our practice is jumpers and dressage horses.

ANVIL: The basic principles of shoeing are the same, whether you're shoeing a performance horse or any other horse, aren't they?

ANDY: But historically, the Western horse, the rodeo horses and the roping horses are the most poorly shod group of all the equine athletes. Historically, the hunters, jumpers and dressage horses are better shod. Those people are a lot more willing to pay, as a rule. Many of our clients are from ranch country. They come with their crippled horses and they're all short shod, all have underrun heels, shoes two sizes too small, badly fit.

I point all this out to them and they're ready to go home and fire their farrier. I say, þWait a minute. What does it cost you to have a horse shod up there in Osage County?' And the reply was $25. I point out that's what a $25 shoeing job looks like, and it isn't going to get any better. As long as you're only willing to pay $25, that's the best you can expect. I think it's important to tell them, because owners expect input about the way their horses are shod. Whether they're willing to pay for it or not is another story. And if they're not willing to pay enough, they just can't expect a world-class job.

ANVIL: You indicated that you thought for a performance horse, the shoeing cycle should be five weeks. You also mentioned that the horse needs to be ridden 20 minutes a day at a trot, every day. That's a bit counter to what many trainers do. They will work the horse one day and let it rest the next. You essentially disagree with that?

ANDY: Dr. Tracy Turner did two studies at the University of Florida a long time ago. He did a risk-factor analysis for navicular disease and tried to find things that navicular disease horses had in common that non-navicular horses didn't have. Then he tried to find things that the non-navicular horses had in common that the navicular-diseased horses didn't. One of the big finds was that 77% of the horses with navicular disease in his group had underrun heels. A very low percentage of the normal horses had underrun heels. So right there the light should go on.

In addition, he was trying to identify which horses got navicular disease by category. They weighed the horses and then calculated the surface area of the foot to determine if big horse/small foot was a major factor -- and we know small feet are a real liability. That has been accepted as a big factor in navicular disease. It turns out that another big factor is that horses used day in and day out 365 days a year -- for example, school horses that have to teach lessons every day of their lives and the ranch horses that have to work every day -- don't have nearly the incidence of navicular disease that the weekend warriors and the seasonal show horses do. Many horses go through the show season and then get their shoes pulled off and are turned out for the winter. That can be hard on horses.

So then you go back and you review Roy Poole's work on the pathogenesis of navicular disease. I don't want to oversimplify this, but Roy says that these horses work and perform and they do damage, but the body can repair that damage. However, the impetus for repair has to be there. So if you tear them up on the weekend and stand them in a stall through the week, you've taken away that impetus. Stress and concussion are the causes of remodeling and repair. So a horse stands in its stall and no repair occurs during the week, because there's no stress-training concussion. The next weekend you take him out and let him run and you do more damage. On the contrary, with the horse that works every day, the foot gets the message. It gets stress-trained concussion every single day. So the remodelling and repair processes are stimulated on a daily basis. That's an extremely simple explanation, but that's the way I believe it basically happens.

You've seen the old war horse, a real campaigner, who has never had a problem. He doesn't get sick. He has belly surgery, which has nothing to do with his feet. He goes in and gets operated on and has to stand in his stall for a long time to heal up, and then he's all out of shape. This horse winds up missing three to six months of work. You put him back to work and he's lame. And all you did was give him three to six months off. And he never comes back.

ANVIL: Years ago I used to shoe for a barn that had an interesting cross-section of horses. There were a lot of school horses and fancy show horses. And I noted over a period of time that it was the fancy show horses that had all the problems. It seemed nothing ever went wrong with the school horses. As you said, day after day, great feet, no problems, whereas the show horses had to have all kinds of contraptions on their feet.

ANDY: Bill and I have a 30-year old mare that we take care of, and she is one of the horses we're proudest of. She still goes to horse shows. She still wins! I've had this mare in my practice for almost 20 years and have never treated her for a lameness problem. To my knowledge, she's never had a shoe on. She's a hunter and teaches lessons every day. But she's also a show horse. So she works every single day of her life.

ANVIL: You got into an interesting discussion of laminitis cases today. You made two statements that I thought were very interesting: First, no two founder cases are the same, and second, we all need to remember the quote from Hippocrates, used as part of the physician's oath, þFirst, do no harm.' It goes back to the idea that þleast is best.'

ANDY: Sometimes, yes.

ANVIL: You also mentioned that with your foundered cases, you have found that they're best kept outside on the turf, and you discussed the psychological aspects of that, too.

ANDY: If we're talking about the chronic horse -- you know, ailments that are not life threatening -- he can stay in the stall. He's standing up. A chronic laminitis horse gets sore every once in awhile and he may have to miss some horse shows when he's having an exacerbation of laminitis. But his life is not threatened, and he is not going to die.

The horses I'm talking about are those that are life threatened, are lying down and have pressure sores on them. I don't know if we can come up with a better surface for horses to lie on that would help. We know that forcing these horses to exercise is bad. However, we can put them outside where they can get some fresh air and sunshine. If they want to lie down, I sure let them do that. They just seem to do a lot better outside than in a small stall.

ANVIL: In my experience, I've found that the percentage of sick horses largely are the ones that are in barns. I think sometimes we do horses a disservice by putting them in barns and maybe taking too much care of them.

ANDY: I try to teach by example. If you come over to my place any time of the year, my horses live outdoors and I don't own grain. I've never bought a sack of grain in 20 years and I don't plan to start. I'm now on about the fourth or fifth generation of my horses that have never seen grain. That's the way I manage my horses -- they live outdoors, I ride them, I show them. But the only time they've ever spent a night under a roof is when they are at a horse show. And they never see grain.

ANVIL: Do you feed a combination of oat hay and alfalfa?

ANDY: We don't have oat hay in our part of the country. We have prairie hay in Oklahoma; that's our grass hay. I put free choice grass hay up for my horses 24 hours a day, which is the way Mother Nature intended it to be. They graze 24 hours a day and twice a day I give them alfalfa. The amount depends upon their condition. We have some horses that if they just see the alfalfa over the fence, they get fat. With other horses, the alfalfa keeps them looking good. It's individual.

ANVIL: Bill, in this same vein, do you often tell people to just let their horses go barefoot as the best course of building up their feet?

BILL: If the horse isn't doing a whole lot and is just in pasture most of the time, I'd say yes. But most of my clients use their horses, so we end up putting shoes on them.

ANVIL: Do you think it's good for a show horse to have its shoes pulled off and be turned out for the winter?

BILL: No, I don't because their hooves are weakened in a short time that way. You've got a foot that you've had a shoe on for so many months and then you pull it off and put him out in the pasture. The foot spreads out, busts the wall off, whatever. If you're going to bring him back and put shoes back on him anyway, there's no sense making my job harder in the spring by having to start the process all over again. I'd rather have that foot shod the whole year.

ANVIL: I'm sure you shoe with plenty of support so the horse is not going to contract his heels over a period of time.

BILL: Years ago I used to tell people, yes, just pull your horse's shoes off and let its feet spread out. But it didn't do much good over a short period of time. There's no reason to do it with a show horse. I think you do the horse more harm and cause yourself more trouble, and it's a lot more work whenever you have to put the shoes back on.

ANDY: Laying off these horses for the winter is a bad plan, in my opinion. Take them out and trail ride them or something. Horses need to be worked year þround, I feel, for optimum health.

ANVIL: How do you get time to work all of your horses? You compete on pretty high levels. Do you concentrate on one or two?

ANDY: I don't own a lot of horses. I'll have one or two horses that I ride. I have a big lighted arena, and I ride in the evenings and at night a lot.

ANVIL: So your feeling is that these animals need to keep moving all the time just as they do in nature. You also mentioned that when you're taking radiographs for a laminitic situation, you want them for two major reasons: one, to determine rotation, and the other to determine if there is demineralization.

ANDY: That's not only on the acute horse; it's on the chronic horse, too. The acute horse won't have had time to demineralize.

ANVIL: Do you see a lot of remineralization over a period of time, provided that the situation is corrected and stabilized?

ANDY: That's a good question, and to be honest with you, once these horses recover and are doing well, we radiograph very few of them. So I really can't answer that. Theoretically they should, but I don't know that from experience. We don't radiograph horses that are doing well; we only radiograph ones that are doing poorly.

ANVIL: You mentioned in your lecture that þIf it's dead, devitalized or undermined, it needs to go.' You were talking about the repair of traumatic hoof injuries. You have some very interesting graphic presentations of that, and you did some incredible debriding on certain parts of the foot. I've seen feet where the coronary band was essentially gone on one side of the foot and yet, when treated properly, in time that coronary band reappears and generates hoof wall. How does it know how to do that?

ANDY: Amazing, isn't it? The tissue undergoes what is called metaplasia. How does that granulation tissue turn into coronet band? One of life's mysteries. But again, that's one of these, þFirst, do [the patient] no harm.'

ANVIL: You also mentioned that thorough debriding cuts down dramatically on the healing time. Is that a function of allowing air to get to the surface of the wound?

ANDY: The body has to get rid of all that trash. And I think the quicker you get rid of the trash, the better. Wounds go through a degenerative phase -- maybe you've noticed that wounds look worse for a few days after they occur -- and then they begin to look better. When they are looking worse, they're going through their degenerative phase and the body is getting rid of the dead tissue.

Dead tissue is like a foreign body, like a piece of dead bone. The wound will never heal with a piece of dead bone in it. The body doesn't recognize it; it's foreign. So you have this inflammatory response. The body is trying to slough it off and get rid of it. The natural defense mechanisms, antibodies -- white blood cells, et cetera, don't come into play in dead stuff, because there's no circulation. So you have this perfect environment for bacteria to grow. It never made sense to me to put antibiotics on top of rotting tissue. Get rid of it! Starve those bacteria. Don't give them a big hunk of dead meat to eat on. That's where I see practitioners fall down on the job sometimes -- they just won't jump in there and eradicate it.

ANVIL: Andy, you've been very active in many organizations, including the AFA-AAEP Liaison Committee. You've chaired that committee, haven't you?

ANDY: Yes, I have. This committee was formed to promote better relations between farriers and veterinarians, and the committee's function and purpose are now actually expanded. We're into educating veterinary students as to some of the basics of farriery. We're into teaching these students to develop some respect for the farriery profession. We have also recently gone into educating the public in terms of the importance of farrier science to their horse's overall health picture. So the Liaison Committee has expanded its responsibilities and purposes.

ANVIL: Do you think it's been successful in its efforts?

ANDY: Yes, I do. Through joint efforts of the AFA and the AAEP, we put on many programs at various veterinary schools where we have equine practitioners and farriers getting together to provide hands-on exposure to farriery. It's been very well received at the veterinary schools.

ANVIL: Bill, how long have you been a member of the American Farriers Association?

BILL: From the time they had the convention in Lubbock -- I guess about seven years.

ANVIL: So you can appreciate the professional interaction you have with Dr. Anderson.

BILL: Oh, absolutely. I think it's essential to strengthen the vet/farrier relationship. He adds to my business and I feel I add to his. Not monetarily, but in expertise, input and feedback. Andy has also helped me with my customers. We all know that often, customers look to the veterinarian with a lot more respect at times than they do the farrier. It's just the way it is, and I don't mean that in a disparaging way. So Andy gets to tell them, þWell, your horse needs this or that, needs a longer shoe,' or whatever. If their horses are pulling shoes off, Andy can tell them to get rid of their hog wire fence. He can do that a lot easier than I can. In that respect, it has given more credibility and respect to my end of the business.

ANVIL: When Bill is working at the clinic, does he fall under the clinic's insurance?

ANDY: No, Bill is not an employee. He's an independent contractor.

ANVIL: A question was brought up at a clinic I attended recently. You have a situation where there is a foundered horse and it needs to get resected. The farrier and the vet cannot be there at the same time. So the veterinarian has prescribed a resection. The farrier does the resection but for some reason, things go badly and the horse has to be euthanized. The owner wants to sue someone. What happens with regard to insurance?

ANDY: I have a hard time commenting on that because that situation could not possibly happen in our practice. I know there aren't any absolutes in the world, but that situation just could not happen at our clinic. I wouldn't ever put Bill in that situation. I would definitely be there if the situation were that serious. Bill would never be on board to take care of a situation that serious, nor would I ever ask him to be. A veterinarian who puts his farrier in that dilemma in my opinion is ducking responsibility and just looking for a train wreck.

ANVIL: So that is a situation where it's mandatory that you work as a team. You mentioned that Grant Moon changed your way of looking at things, Bill, with regard to your shoeing practice. How did Grant come to your clinic in the first place?

BILL: Andy met him in Brazil. Before he met Grant, he had never heard of him. But once Andy saw his work, he decided we needed to have him in our area to teach us the same things he was doing. He came to the clinic the first time because Andy's horse was lame. We couldn't get him to land flat -- and that was our only goal.

ANDY: I told Grant about the horse on the plane back from Brazil and Grant replied that he knew nothing about coffin joint disease, but he said, þI'll bet I can help him land flat.' That started the whole five-year partnership. He told me if I'd buy him a plane ticket, he'd come up every month to work with me. So each month I'd gather a bunch of my clients' lame horses to see what he thought about them. I decided to invite the local farriers, hoping that somebody would take Grant's teaching to heart. To be honest with you, I didn't think it would be Bill. Bill was my age, and I figured instead it would be some hungry buck that would embrace what Grant had to offer.

All these farriers in our area, mind you, had the same exposure. And Grant came every five weeks for five years. We did these little clinics. Eventually most of the local farriers dropped out to where there were only two or three farriers who attended religiously. For some reason, Bill grabbed it and caught on. He was the one who stepped up when Grant moved back to England.

ANVIL: Bill, I understand that you also learned something about pricing structure from Grant.

BILL: Grant didn't mind charging at all. Once I got my work up to par, I started charging accordingly. Grant said you can raise your prices 10%, and with that you're not going to lose 10% of your business. You'll lose some, but you're not going to lose 10%. So you're doing less horses and you're making more money. It was quite valuable to discover that. Every year I go up on my prices because all my barns have always gone up every year on their prices -- the training bills go up; the feed goes up; board goes up. There's no sense in me sitting back, so I go up as well.

ANVIL: Do you look at your farrier career as pre-Grant Moon and post-Grant Moon?

BILL: Oh, absolutely. It was a dramatic change. I just jumped in with both feet. I didn't just take a few horses and try Grant's methods on them. I started doing every one I had the way Grant had shown me. Whether the clients liked it or not, that's the way I shod their horses. I had a lot of input from my clients, then, as to how well this method of shoeing worked. It was all very successful. All of my horse's feet got better, and I don't have nearly the lameness problems I once had -- other than from stupid mistakes I've made, such as cutting one too short.

ANDY: What I noticed was that Bill's enthusiasm for his work in farriery took this quantum leap. That was so much fun to watch. Grant just really puts that enthusiasm into everyone, and into what they're doing. As an added benefit, the veterinarians and farriers in our area traditionally hadn't gotten along very well and saw themselves as adversaries instead of colleagues. Everybody knew who Grant Moon was -- all these guys idolized him. He'd come to the hospital and we'd work together as equals. I'd ask Grant his opinion and he'd ask me my opinion.

These guys who came to the clinics we held stood there and thought, þHe's working with this veterinarian and he acts as though his opinion matters. And here's this veterinarian and he's asking for the farrier's opinion! I think it was the first time any of the farriers in our particular area had ever seen that kind of relationship work. And these guys didn't bring their best cases to the clinic; they brought their worst cases. They saw what happened when you had an equine practitioner and a really good farrier working together. They watched these problems that they'd been fighting for years on some of these horses just go away. That was a big eye opener for all of us. Grant showed us first hand that here's what we have to do to get the two professions to put their heads together and cooperate for the common good of the equine. It's good for the horse, good for the farrier, for the vet, and for the owner as well. Everyone wins!

BILL: Although Grant is much younger than I am, he wasn't intimidating to me at all. He seemed older, more mature than his years -- a very good teacher. His personality is so conducive to teaching, he just disarmed everybody right off the bat. And he's so enthusiastic about the work. He loves to show you and wants you to do it just as well, and to know exactly how to do it, too.

ANVIL: It's been a pleasure talking with you both today. You're an inspiration to farriers and veterinarians, as well as horse owners, to show what can be accomplished with cooperation between the two professions.

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