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Monday, May 12, 2008

Carbon-Fibre Hoof Supports Put Event Horse Back on Course

Vetcell’s Carbon Fibre Hoof Support Patches (HSP), have helped a flat-footed event horse in Great Britain, the company tell us. The HSP is a simple and affordable way to support and treat collapsed heels in competitive horses.

The patch was developed and patented by Peter Day DipWCF, farrier at the Royal Veterinary College in England and the RVC’s locomotor research group, two years ago.

According to Vetcell, Millie Tonks, competitor and British Eventing accredited trainer, was concerned when her seven-year-old thoroughbred x warmblood event mare became short-striding and uncomfortable when the ground became firmer during the early part of last year’s eventing season. The mare had previously suffered with collapsed heels and an intermittent lameness but radiographs had not revealed any specific problems.

Millie recalls: ”The mare was going really well at the beginning of the 2007 season and was being consistently placed. But when the ground started to get a little firm she became less extravagant with her jumping and was clearly not comfortable although she wasn’t actually lame.”

Millie’s vet, Susannah Reynoldson at Isle Valley Equine Clinic in Somerset continues: “The horse has typical flat Thoroughbred feet and had very little horn growth. She was tender in both feet and not truly comfortable in her stride. I had recently read about the HSP and thought it was worth a try. The results have been impressive.”

The HSP is a carbon fibre/resin composite sheet which is applied by the farrier to the hoof wall, using epoxy-type adhesive. Tests show that it increases the bending strength of the hoof wall by up to 40 percent, allowing the tubules within the heel to retain their strength, rather than collapsing, as the hoof grows, according to Vetcell. The goal is to prevent over-deformation of the compromised foot and thereby helps to maintain soundness.

Collapsed or under-run heels are one of the most important and common foot abnormalities faced by owners and trainers. The prevalence is so high in Thoroughbreds (reportedly affecting the majority of the breed in Britain) that it can lull individuals into thinking that the condition is a normal hoof variation rather than a serious pathological deviation.

The collapse of the heel is believed to contribute to many foot-related problems such as navicular syndrome, chronic heel pain (bruising), coffin joint synovitis, quarter cracks, heel cracks, and gait interference problems.

Despite its prevalence the condition often goes unaddressed until the horse actually becomes lame.

For further information please contact VetCell by email:

Note: No, I don't know why the horse is nailed in the toe and yes, I agree, that this foot could use carbon-fibre support for its entire circumference. Barefoot advocates will say that this horse could be helped with a layup and rehab hoofcare, and that is true, but the owner was obviously determined to compete the horse. 

Question: What do you think is the effect of selective reinforcement of specific points on the circumference of a weakened foot? I want to see these patches on some horses and see what other applications people come up with for this interesting material.


Anonymous said...

I hope that this photo shows a foot at the end of the shoeing cycle, and not freshly shod -- too much toe, no heel support. Fran, you're right. the front of the patch ends pretty close to the point where a lot of quarter cracks start, and thus is actually a stress concentrator. The patch needs to extend much further onto the dorsal hoof wall.

Anonymous said...

Why not address the CAUSE of these heels breaking down as appose to just covering them up with band-aids?

There would be a lot more healthy hooved animals out there.

I agree, this hoof looks bad, long toe, long heels. No wonder this heel broke down.

Cheryl said...

I agree that Barefoot hoofcare could put these feet right, and isn't it the horse who suffers for the competitive aspirations of humans? The writing on the wall is that these feet WILL deteriorate further no matter what bandaids are applied if left in this forward foot syndrome state while competition continues.
In this climate of breakdowns and tragedy of Event and race horses, I have yet to see one mention of the condition of the horse's feet as a contributing factor.

Anonymous said...

All the hoof support patch does is increase the hoof wall bending strength without compromising the function of the heels .T/B'S have inherently week heels due to human intervention .These supports are proving popular among those who advocate the bare foot aproach

Anonymous said...

I am not a ferrier and thus don't feel totally confident in my opinion. However, to me, the horse appears to have a slight broken 'back' hoof-pastern axis which hasn't been addressed. Basically, it's a dorsoplamar inbalance (It may also have a mediolateral inbalance too.) This inbalance will place undue pressure in various parts of the foot and will make the horse appear 'short'. I have a feeling that this piece of equipment only appears to 'support' the heel in the short term. However, nothing can compensate for incorrect farriery and the inbalance should be addressed first.