Ginger was a horse and was lame, with sore feet and wonky legs.
Jason was an experienced farrier, skilled and adept at scrutinising X-rays, analysing gait and working out what to do next.
I’ve treated lots of horses over my veterinary career, but I don’t have much experience in the field of corrective farriery. I hoped Jason would pass on some of his knowledge during my time with him and Ginger. I would ask interesting, and incisive questions as two cameras captured all the action.
At least, that was the plan.
Jason, Ginger and I were to be part of a VT about the work of skilled farriers for the series Autumn on the Farm- a spin off from Channel 5’s Springtime on the Farm, that began back in 2016- which aired for the first time last week.
My role was not really as a vet, but as an interested and slightly knowledgeable interlocutor; and I was excited to be involved.
I’d spoken with Jason the previous day, to discuss the case and explain what would be involved. Early on a Sunday, he was happy to chat and his boundless enthusiasm boomed down my phone. I couldn’t wait to meet him and learn about his work.
Of course, Jason didn’t disappoint. He was born and bred with horses and had worked with them for most of his life. “If I’m honest, I prefer horses to people,” he confided shortly after we met, on a lovely livery just outside Harrogate.
Then we met Ginger. I confessed to Jason that it had been a while since I’d scrutinised the nuances of the lower limb of an equine.
Politely, he explained the wonky angles, laterally displaced joints, pigeon toes and boxy hooves, while Zara and Jacob focused and pull-focused from all angles with their cameras.
Everything was captured on film, but it was a normal and natural conversation and I hung on Jason’s every word of wisdom.
Navicular disease or, more accurately, navicular syndrome was to blame. The pressure from flexor tendons on an important bone in the hoof was either the cause or the consequence of the abnormal lower limb conformation and we watched the effect of this as Ginger stood, then walked and finally (with coercion) trotted up.
And then the work began: trimming, paring, dressing and balancing up the unbalanced with knives and rasps. Within minutes, the hoof was much more shapely. Next was the new shoe. Bespoke and perfectly sculptured for the foot, the shoe fitted as snuggly as Cinderella’s.
Next (inserted between the shoe and sole) came soft, cushioning plastic wedges, to raise the heel and remove pressure from the digital flexor tendons. The stressed navicular bone would surely soon feel more comfortable. I watched and imagined the relief, similar to wearing heel wedges in running shoes to ease an injured Achilles tendon.
Ginger behaved impeccably, as if he knew that Jason was helping and appreciated his caring attention. The final pièce de resistance was the insertion of a cushioning gel, squirted in via a special gun. It was amber and clear with flashy silvery bits and suffused the surface of the sole, filling the gap and offering extra soft cushioning. It looked comfy and snazzy.
As we let the gluey gel set and trotted Ginger up and down to see how much he had improved, I thanked Jason for the fascinating insight into his specialist world.
“I wish I’d met you twenty-five years ago,” I confessed, “when I was just starting out as a vet. You might just have changed my career!”