The Wooden Shoe - Farriery has so many
Reprinted with permission from Farrier Products Distribution
Original published in The Natural Angle, Volume 13:
Stephen E. O'Grady, DVM, MRCVS, APF
1a. and 1b. A horseshoe with a broad toe is used as a template. Cut out the
wooden shoe in the shape of a horseshoe using an angle saw or it can
be cut and modified using carpentry or farriery tools to provide the appropriate bevel.
One of the amazing aspects of the farrier profession
is that there are so many practical options
available to the farrier when an alternative to a
horseshoe may be necessary. The wooden shoe has become
a practical and very effective option in my practice for
treating not only chronic laminitis but many other foot
problems. Among the other foot problems that may benefit
from the wooden shoe are extensive white line disease,
fractures of the distal phalanx / navicular bone and an
immediate increase in sole depth when applied to horses
that have feet with thin deformable soles. With chronic
laminitis and these other foot problems, the wooden shoe
is only used as a transitional device to promote hoof wall
growth at the coronet and increase sole depth. Once the
necessary hoof mass is present to achieve stability and
realignment of the distal phalanx within the hoof capsule,
conventional farriery is again used or the horse can be left
barefoot. To be effective, the farrier needs to understand
the principles of the wooden shoe in order to use his or
her skills to apply the appropriate foot trim combined with
the fabrication, proper placement and application of the
shoe. The wooden shoe is simple to apply, but as with any
procedure, there is a learning curve, so chronic laminitis
will be used as an overview or example of the procedure.
There are 3 basic mechanical principles that are used to
treat chronic laminitis:
- Redistribute the load (weight of the horse) on the ground surface of the foot
- Reposition breakover
- Provide heel elevation when necessary to decrease stress in the deep digital flexor tendon (DDFT)
Illustration shows the ideal trim using the radiograph as a guideline. Note
the placement of the shoe. Black line denotes the center of rotation.
Wooden shoe placed on foot with chronic laminitis.
The last screw placed against the hoof at the heel is
termed a 'strut.' Note the black line is the widest
part of the foot. Red line is drawn from the dorsal
coronet to the ground denoting breakover.
2 inch casting tape is placed around the
perimeter of the shoe/foot incorporating the
screws to add security and provide
circumferential stability to the foot.
The wooden shoe has all the mechanical components of other
farriery systems previously advocated for the treatment of
chronic laminitis yet it may possess some additional advantages
over previous methods used. A major advantage of the wooden
shoe is its ability to concentrate the load (weight) evenly over a
specified section of the foot due to its flat solid construction1, 2, 3.
Other advantages include:
- non-traumatic application (eliminates the need to block the horse if painful)
- readily accessible materials (wood)
- simplicity of construction
- breakover and heel elevation can be fabricated into the shoe
- beveled perimeter of the shoe decreases torque on the lamellae (in a dorsal and lateral/medial direction)
- beveled perimeter of the shoe concentrates the load (weight) under the distal phalanx due to the solid base of the shoe
Materials such as wood or layered plywood are used to create
the shoe. A horseshoe with a broad toe is used as a template to
cut out the wooden shoe in the shape of a horseshoe using an
angle saw or it can be cut out and then modified using
carpentry or farriery tools to provide the appropriate bevel. A
bevel of 45° is created around the perimeter of the shoe which
helps negate the ground reaction force (GRF) exerted on the
lamellae (Figures 1a & 1b on page 1).
A radiographic study consisting of a lateral and DP view are
essential to determine the position/displacement of the distal
phalanx within the hoof capsule and the radiographs are then
used as a guideline for farrier trimming. Using the widest part
of the foot as a landmark, the heels are reduced from this point
palmarly (toward the heel) according to the radiographs and
the toe is backed up from the dorsal hoof wall. Following the
trim, the hoof wall at the heels and the frog should now be on
the same plane. The shoe is now fitted to the foot; impression
material is placed in the frog sulci and over the frog if necessary
to create a solid flat plane across the heels. The shoe is attached
to the foot using thin drywall screws placed in pre-drilled holes
through the hoof wall located behind the widest part of the foot
and the horse is then allowed to stand on the shoe to disperse
the impression material in an even manner. A rasp is used to
form a vertical line extending from the dorsal coronet to the
ground to determine the point of breakover. Using a rasp, the
bevel at the toe is extended back to this point to create the
desired breakover. Additional screws can be placed
against the hoof wall around the perimeter for stability
and to act as 'struts'. Finally, 2 inch fiberglass casting tape
is placed around the perimeter of the hoof wall and the
wooden shoe which encompasses the screws and the
struts to further secure the shoe and provide circumferential
hoof wall stabilization (Figures 2, 3, 4 & 5).
Left (5): Lateral radiograph showing placement of wooden shoe and point of breakover. Black line is center of rotation
and red line is point of breakover. Center (6a): Kerckhaert Steel Comfort shoe used to transition out of wooden shoe.
Note the breakover has been modified further. Right (6b): Kerckhaert Steel Comfort shoe placed on foot. The flat
surface of the wedge insert is used to create even pressure across the hoof wall at the heels and the frog.
The shoe can be further modified to unload painful areas
of the sole or if the sole has dropped or prolapsed by
recessing the shoe's solar surface. Shoe modifications are
easily added or subtracted (i.e. rasping the toe of the
shoe to adjust breakover), with the foot in the farrier
position. The wooden shoe being malleable will often be
modified by normal wear which allows the horse to find
a comfort zone unique to its individual needs.
Post application, the horse is radiographed at 4-5 weeks
to determine hoof wall growth and sole depth.
Depending on the increase in structural mass, the shoe
can be left on longer, reset once more if necessary or
changed over to a conventional horse shoe. The DDFT
musculotendonous unit will shorten due to the rotation
and it will further accommodate/adapt to the heel
elevation provided by the wooden shoe. This must be
taken into consideration when transitioned back to a
traditional shoe as the heel elevation needs to be lowered
gradually. After the appropriate trim, most any steel or
aluminum shoe can be modified to provide the necessary
mechanics. I often use a Kerckhaert Steel Comfort shoe
with the toe modified further for enhanced breakover
and a 2° or 3° wedge insert to provide the necessary heel
elevation. The heel elevation is reduced on subsequent
resets (Figure 6a & 6b).
Various farriery methods have been described for treating
chronic laminitis, yet no particular method has become
the preferred choice. The wooden shoe may possess
certain advantages over existing methods such as
redistributing the load evenly over the palmar/plantar
section of the foot due to its flat solid construction and
the mechanics (beveled perimeter, breakover and heel
elevation) that can be incorporated directly into the
fabrication of the shoe. It should be apparent that the
advantages of this farriery option will also be limited
unless strict attention is paid to the details involving
radiology, foot preparation and application of the shoe.
- O'Grady. S.E., Steward, M. The wooden shoe as an option for treating
chronic laminitis. Equine Vet Edu 2009;8:272-276.
- O'Grady, S.E, et al. How to Construct and Apply the Wooden Shoe for
Treating Three Manifestations of Chronic Laminitis. in Proceedings. Amer.
Assoc of Equine Pract 2007;53: 423-429.
- O'Grady, SE, Farriery for Chronic Laminitis. In: Pollitt, CC, ed. The
veterinary clinics of North America, vol. 26:2. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders,