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Case Study

By peTer DAy DIpWCF the story of a horse that appeared at the forge door at the royal

veterinary College (rvC) one wet and cold January morning in 2006


A 9-year-old Chestnut Thoroughbred racehorse had lost form due to lameness and was brought to the forge at the royal Veterinary College for a second-opinion.


Thoroughbred horses have relatively small feet with thin walls and soles, making them susceptible to injury and trauma. hoof capsule distortion leads to misshapen feet, resulting in hoof cracks and flares; and they are also disposed to underrun and sheared heels. Foot balance and shape are fundamental to soundness, which is key to performance – essential in racehorses.


The horse shuffled through the door like an old man. I checked the book and confirmed the horse’s name with the groom. The booking said the horse was in for a set of front shoes. I asked how good a horse he was and the groom said that he had ‘had his moments … he came third at epsom in the rose Bowl’. I learned that he had been bought in the July 2005 Tattersalls sales. Further questioning revealed that the horse had not done much since. he had been run at newmarket in the october where he came ninth. he had subsequently been brought back into work at the beginning of January and was now lame. I got the impression that the groom thought he was wasting his time bringing the horse to me.


I examined the feet closely. They were migrating forward, the horn tubules at the heel were bent and underrun – collapsed – and the hoof pastern axis was broken. The horse was shifting his weight from side to side as I looked at him. I lifted the near fore and brushed the foot. Finding there was nothing much in the way of foot to work with, I went round to pick up the other front to find much the same. he was sore in the heels where the horn tubules had buckled and the tubules were sitting on the seat of corn, so I removed them to ease the seat of corn. I had decided to fit as broad a shoe as possible, seating out the corn area and the toe. I then balanced the foot and fitted carbon heel supports, which I had spent many years developing for this very type of case - the prevention of collapsed heels.

on finishing, I rebooked the horse with the groom to return after a four-week interval. A month later, the horse arrived with the same groom, saying that the horse had been ‘okay’. he tied him up and I inspected his feet. nothing much had changed except that he stood without shifting his weight from one foot to the other. I shod him the same way as I had four weeks previously and rebooked him with another four-week interval.

March arrived and so did the horse. The groom said that he (the horse) was happy and had been cantering over the past couple of weeks. I repeated the trimming and shoeing process

using steel shoes and heel supports, paying particular attention to the heels and booked him in for a visit in a month’s time.

In April, I was told that the horse had not only been working well, but that he had had been ‘flying’. The groom said that he had been asked to request aluminium shoes because ‘the boss wants to run him’. I duly plated him as requested, adding heel supports and looked forward to seeing him in May.

Four-weeks later at our next appointment, I asked how he had run. It seems he had run so well that he would run again at epsom in July. Again, we fitted aluminium shoes with heel supports. The horse looked well, his feet looked good and I wished him well.


That year he won the epsom rose Bowl at 40-1; I didn’t have a bet on, but I looked forward to hearing about it from the groom on his next visit. however, the horse didn’t return for his next shoeing appointment, so I followed him through the media and saw that he ran six times more, unplaced. I hope that in a small way I played my part in that he was able to get to full fitness through being sound, which was partly achieved by a combination of regular shoeing, trimming, attention to detail and heel supports.

Structure and Motion laboratory, equine referral hospital, royal Veterinary College, hawkshead lane, north Mymms, hatfield, hertfordshire Al9 7TA email: Forge | August 2015 15

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