Treatment of white line infections has traditionally been to remove the affected area of the white line and treat with some form of antimicrobial topical.Horse owner compliance at applying daily topicals to combat white line infections is reportedly short lived. The effectiveness of daily topicals also comes into question once a horseshoe is applied to the hoof. Traditional horseshoes made of steel and aluminum provide no antibacterial qualities. The application of copper-alloy horseshoes has been shown in studies to help with combating bacterial and fungal infections of the white line and eliminate the need for horse owners to apply daily topicals.
The aim of this study was to use horses that have habitual white line infections and only apply copper-alloy horseshoes for the treatment of these issues, in order to see what qualitative difference can be observed over three (3), six (6) week trimming and shoeing cycles. All the horses in the study are active riding horses (western, dressage and jumping). There were no changes in riding, stalling or diet for any of the study horses. Study horses were chosen for having habitual white line infection issues. All horses before the study were being treated daily with a thrush medication and this practice was halted on day one of the study. Horses were trimmed and shod by the same farrier students. After each of the study horses’ feet were trimmed, photos were taken, and the foot were scored by the farrier student. Each score was validated and documented by the author. The amount of white line involvement was scored using a percentage of the total amount of white line infected. For the seven horses used in the study, 26 feet were trimmed and shod, resulting in a reduction of infected white lines and significant overall improvement in the visual health of the white line. Overall, twenty-one feet or 80.8% showed a visual improvement score by the end of the study. Four feet or 15.4% showed no visual improvement score by the end of the study. One foot or 3.8% showed a worse visual score by the end of the study. The median white line involvement score decreased from 40-79% involvement in phase one to 10-39% involvement in phase three.
It appears that the well-known and proven antimicrobial effects of copper-alloy do apply to the application of copper-alloy horseshoes in reducing the microbial damage to the horses’ white line. Further benefit comes from the galvanic reaction that generates copper salts due to using a steel horseshoe nail in the copper-alloy horseshoe.