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Saturday, September 16, 2006

Carbon-Fibre Heel "Patch" Developed for Underrun Heels at Royal Veterinary College Structure and Motion Laboratory

Carbon fiber heel patches developed at the Royal Veterinary College in England are designed to assist the growth of heel quarters.

It looks like a black potato chip and weighs about the same, but researchers at England's Royal Veterinary College believe that this tiny patch will, when applied correctly, aid horses with underrun heels by redirecting the horn tubule growth from the coronet.

I first heard about the "Heel Support" at the "Maximizing Equine Performance" conference in England this spring. I've been staring at the handful of samples I brought back ever since. Farrier Peter Day at the RVC helped develop the product, and claims that it can stengthen the wall by 40%. Before you scoff, remember that this is the RVC, home of Alan Wilson's Structure and Locomotion Laboratory, where they have any number of ways to test tensile strength of a product or the wall. Wilson's own farrier (and PhD candidate) Chris Pardoe showed me the product.

From a press release about the product: "The prevalence (of collapsed heels) is so high in Thoroughbreds (reportedly affecting between 52% and 97%) that it can lull individuals into thinking that the condition is a normal hoof variation rather than a serious pathological deviation. Despite its prevalence the condition is notoriously difficult to prevent or treat."

Last week I discussed the product with Frank Dugan from Vettec; his company's urethane-based adhesives are used to adhere the patch to the heel below the coronet--placement and adhesion would seem to be key components to success. Frank said that the product's marketing group does not yet have a USA distributor but he was enthusiastic. Since the "chips" are almost weightless, shipping from the UK might not be too expensive.

Marketing is currently through VetCell, the firm that is also marketing the RVC's bone-marrow stem-cell therapy for tendon injuries. The British racehorse Chancellor recently made a victorious comeback to the track wearing the patches; his foot is shown in the photo. No, I can't explain the steel shoes, perhaps they use a thicker training plate in the UK?

If the sea gulls haven't stolen the samples, I will send some to interested farriers or vets to try. Please contact Fran at the Hoofcare Publishing office during business hours: 978 281 3222.


Heidi Danis Meyer said...

A note about prevention of under run heels. They were not born that way, it is created by incorrect trimming and successive shoeing of the pathological hoof. For more info please look at
I have successfully "cure" this condition on over 10 TB's that were fresh off the track and are now sound with healthy feet and BAREFOOT as they were intended to be. Please check out the site ;)

Amy said...

Is there a website to find out more about this product?

Fran Jurga said...

Hi Amy, the web site is but there isn't anything about it on the site yet. Still an interesting site if you want to learn about stem cell therapy for tendon injuries, though. The heel supports are in the early stages of marketing. The contact person at VetCell is David Mountford. Maybe you'll become the USA importer!

Fran Jurga said...

Hi Heidi, and thanks for posting. That is great that you have had good luck in helping rehab some of these collapsed heels after the horses are through racing. I am certainly familiar with Pete Ramey's web site, but thanks for the reminder. With luck, products like these heel patches can prevent these heel problems as well as treat them and extend a racehorse's useful life. Many racehorses do respond to therapy after they are retired, thanks for helping them. I rode one today, in fact. One theory I have is that they race at a relativley young age and the hoof hopefully still has enough elasticity to remodel to a healthier shape after the horse retires.