Laminitic Horse Takes First Steps in 3-D-Printed Shoes

Laminitic Horse Takes First Steps in 3-D-Printed Shoes

The team of 3-D printing experts from CSIRO worked with horse podiatrists to scan Holly's hoof and design the "horse-thotic" which aims to support the hoof and encourage it to heal, while making Holly comfortable.

Photo: Courtesy CSIRO

Horse veterinarians and scientists at Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) gave a surprise Christmas gift to 10-year-old mare, Holly, who suffers from a chronic hoof disease: She recently took the first steps in her new 3-D printed titanium shoes custom-designed to fit her hoof.

The team of 3-D printing experts from CSIRO worked with horse podiatrists to scan Holly's hoof and design the "horse-thotic" which aims to support the hoof and encourage it to heal, while making Holly comfortable.

Holly has spent three years suffering from laminitis. Laminitis affects the attachment between the hoof and bone, causing pain and inflammation. Veterinarian and farrier, Luke Wells-Smith, BVSc, from the Equine Podiatry and Lameness Centre in New South Wales, said his team saw the 3-D-printed shoe CSIRO built for a racehorse earlier this year and started to think about using 3D printing to rehabilitate lame horses. 

"The new shoes will work to redistribute weight away from the painful areas of the laminitic foot and give Holly, and horses like her, the chance to recover," Wells-Smith said. "Many attempts have been made in the past to cure laminitis but it's the 3-D scanning and design part of this process that is so exciting to us."

CSIRO's 3-D printing expert John Barnes said scanning the hoof could help produce a shoe that is the "perfect fit" for horses with these complicated hoof diseases and giving the animal a good chance for rehabilitation.

"We know that 3-D printing has the potential to create so many advanced biomedical products, but rehabilitation of horses has been a completely new area of work for CSIRO," Barnes said. "We're glad that this technology is opening so many doors and is now helping to aid the rehab process for these animals and get them walking comfortably again."

A CSIRO video documenting how Holly's shoes were produced and showing her walking in her new "horse-thotics" is available online

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with FREE weekly newsletters from TheHorse.com. Learn More

Free Newsletters

Sign up for the latest in:

From our partners