Penn Vet's Farrier Service Pioneers Hoof Care Technologies

The University of Pennsylvania's (Penn Vet) farrier service is one of the oldest programs in the country. Penn Vet farriers have created pioneering techniques using glue-on shoes and synthetic polymers for hoof reconstruction, and continue to conduct groundbreaking research on hoof care. And in honor of National Farrier’s Week, which took place last week, Penn Vet highlighted its farrier service.

Because the hoof is so critical to the overall health of a horse, the Penn Vet farrier partners with veterinarians in the school's equine sports medicine service, as well as surgery and internal medicine, to diagnose and treat horses.

Chief of Farrier Services Pat Reilly continues to explore new materials and techniques for the advancement of hoof care, with several important research studies underway, including:

  • Developing a protocol for in-shoe force measurement as a means of quantifying the effect of different shoes on the hoof;
  • Carrying out computer analysis of the hoof that can lead to a better understanding of deformation of the equine hoof; and
  • Developing methods to treat and prevent laminitis, including development of orthotics to help horses distribute weight more evenly across their hooves.

Penn Vet is the only veterinary school with a laboratory to develop new technologies related to farrier science: the Applied Polymer Research Laboratory, born from the work of Reilly’s predecessor Rob Sigafoos.

In the 1980s, Sigafoos fashioned a device that some consider the biggest breakthrough in the farrier industry in the last several hundred years: a glue-on horseshoe. Nailing a shoe into the hoof of a horse impairs the hoof’s integrity, but a glue-on shoe—which uses fabric to bond the orthotic to the outer surface of the hoof—designed to reinforce and strengthen the hoof. Penn Vet holds the patent for the shoe’s design.

New Bolton Center is also home to the Penn Vet Podological Museum, which has hundreds of horseshoes on display and provides an interesting view of horses and their care in the 19th century.

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