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 reha