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Horses have evolved strong feet to protect the delicate structures inside. But compared to the armor-like hoof wall, the sole is the vulnerable soft spot.
The sole comes in for the most abuse, occasionally resulting in punctures. At other times, internal structures develop pathologies that necessitate opening the sole. While bandaging and booting have their place, they can become expensive and often do not provide proper protection. What may work better is an appliance that can be easily removed, then put back on again after the foot is treated. This is the role of the hospital or treatment plate.
Hospital plates must meet certain requirements. They must be light, easy to remove and replace and effective in protecting the bottom of the foot. As with many aspects of farriery, there are several ways of meeting these criterion, using a variety of materials and methods. Here’s a look at some options.
The basic hospital plate can be made from plate steel, plate aluminum or any number of plastics. It is attached to the bottom of a shoe, usually with three or four bolts.
Consider the pros and cons when choosing your plate material. Plate steel is strongest and most durable, but is also heaviest and hardest to work with.
Many plastics are light and easy to work with, but aren’t durable unless you go with thicker plates. Aluminum is in the middle ground in lightness and durability, but it is necessary to choose the right thickness.
My experience using…