Genius! Farrier designs aluminium door to aid horse’s recovery from tumour

  • A horse who had a large keratoma removed from his hoof is on the road to recovery with the help of a genius piece of specialist farriery.

    Joey arrived at World Horse Welfare’s Hall Fam in December 2022 with his stablemate Flame and the pair have spent the last few months settling in.

    On 19 January, staff at the centre noticed the 17.2hh gelding was showing signs of slight lameness, but was otherwise happy.

    They spoke to the team at Vet3, and X-rays showed he had a keratoma towards the inside of his near fore.

    “Our vets and farriers spoke to each other and devised a plan,” World Horse Welfare groom Holly Roe told H&H.

    Joey’s hoof plate: hinged hoof plate for a horse recovering from keratoma

    John Blake, of Breckland Farriers, removed the keratoma on 7 February with the vet present and attached a tailor-made aluminium “door” to Joey’s hoof in a remarkable feat of engineering.

    John told H&H he was keen to find the safest solution for both the grooms caring for Joey and the horse himself, which would also give the wound the best chance of healing.

    “I wanted something to keep the wound clean and that would also be able to apply a bit of pressure, to stop it from growing proud flesh,” he said.

    “So it needed something over the hoof that would hold a dressing in place. Normally, I would have a bar shoe on the foot with a plate on the bottom and there would just be a flange going up the side of the hoof wall held on with a couple of bolts.

    “But this particular horse is a big horse and I was worried because of where it was in his foot that having that plate on it would be easy for grooms to get in a muddle, for them to get hurt, or the horse to hurt himself as taking the plate on and off would be a bit fiddly.”

    Joey’s hoof plate: hinged hoof plate for a horse recovering from keratoma

    He added that he remembered seeing something similar in the distant past, which is where the inspiration came from.

    “My sons and I went away and had a think around the idea that if I could put a hinge on and a plate across the front, the grooms could dress the foot while it’s on the floor.”

    The grooms need to be able to get iodine solution into the hoof daily and to change the dressing every few days, so the design had to fit those needs.
    John took measurements and with his team at Breckland created the aluminium device. It has three small screws in the hoof wall on the hinged side, with acrylic over the top to hold that in place. On the other side is a small rectangular plate with the bolt sticking through, which features the fly nut fastening on top.

    “At the bottom, we’ve built a lip in, so it’s almost like a 3D design – it goes around the foot and back underneath at the bottom of the foot, to stop the dressing from falling out,” he said.

    “Also having that shoe on helps keep the stability of the foot and everything in place.”

    He added that it means the grooms can get at the wound to change the dressing when needed, and they can also get iodine into it by using a syringe through the top of the device.

    “Hopefully that will stay on for about six weeks and then when he is due for shoeing again, we might have to remove it,” said John.

    “Theoretically, I can take it off, clean everything up, adjust it and replace it.”

    John said he last saw the horse on Tuesday with the vet for a check-up and it is “looking really good inside at the moment”, but it is a “waiting game” at this stage of the horse’s recovery.

    *Warning: graphic image of Joey’s hoof post-surgery behind link*

    Holly added that Joey is “coping really well”.

    “It’s an amazing bit of kit,” she said, adding that they do also apply vet wrap and duct tape over the top to prevent Joey from knocking it. “From the hole, you can see the keratoma was quite large. He is still in recovery and has taken to it well for a horse of his size.

    “It makes it so much easier for us to treat.”

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