One of the things that keeps reoccurring over and over when shoeing horses is that every horse needs it’s own individual solution. Even if you have two horses that seem to have the same problem – let’s take a giant flat-footed warmblood with low heels – depending on the age, discipline and environment, you will end up with very different shoeing solutions.
As farriers, we cannot often affect the environment or usage of the horse, and we certainly cannot turn back time and make them younger. But we are fortunate to have an extremely wide range of tools and materials to choose from. While many aspects of farriery have not changed since the first bronze horseshoes were nailed on around 500AD, there have been a lot of developments and research to improve the trade. This relates to not only horseshoes, but blacksmith tools, trimming techniques, remedial shoes, packing material and pads, foal limb deviation corrections, to name just a few.
Here at Horses First, we found that 3D printing was a technique very uniquely suited to providing solutions for the individual. Basically you can print anything that you can draw, and you have a wide selection of rigid and flexible plastic-type materials at your disposal. The very first items that came to Horses First were for extremely specific use cases:
1) A 27 year old mare with thin soles, negative palmar angle, navicular syndrome and arthritis. We printed her a very soft, thick silicone wedge pad with frog support. The material is extremely durable and reduces the impact of her steps dramatically. She now trots and canters much more eagerly, and is no longer stiff in the mornings when being turned out. Her hooves have improved a lot – she now has mass and solidity in her soles, and after two shoeing rounds with these pads, I believe the wedges can be left out next time since the palmar angle starts to be good.
2. A miniature horse with around 9×0 size hooves and very thin hoof walls. I have custom made her shoes from steel and aluminium, since the available factory made shoes are too large and the nailholes are too coarse (too far in). I have managed to nail them on, but with such thin hoof walls and such tiny legs, it is not a nice process for anyone. Below you can see the first version of one of her 3D printed shoes together with snowpad. Nowadays she uses only glued-on plastic shoes with some tiny studs for grip. The glue lasts about 5-6 weeks (the shoes themselves last longer), and I feel a lot better about her trotting on hard surfaces like asphalt with the slightly softer plastic compared to steel or aluminium.