3D Printing Saves the Life of a Horse

When it comes to 3d printing, you often hear about the range of applications in terms of engineering and manufacturing. Whilst these are the sectors that 3D printing and additive manufacturing have developed in the most, 3D printing has a huge range of everyday applications, as CREATE Ambassador, Andy Allshorn found out last year when he was tasked to use it to save the life of a horse!

CREATE Education Ambassador, Andy owns 3D-Squared and is a passionate advocate of additive manufacturing. He is always looking at new and innovative ways that the technology can be used to solve a range of real-world applications, so, when Andy’s friend had a problem – a 1.5 tonne of a problem – he knew that 3d printing could solve it. 

The 1.5-tonne problem was in the shape of Freda – a beautiful Clysdale horse – who was stabled at Lark Rigg Riding School. Freda is 15 years old, and was in excellent health, apart from a bacterial infection in her hoof. The infection had taken root through the development of an equine canker – an anaerobic infection which caused an overgrowth of the hoof over the horn area through abnormal keratin production – leaving her open to becoming lame.

The owners of Freda had spent thousands in vets bills to treat her. The treatment was invasive and left Freda open to further infection. The current treatment for an equine canker is to remove tissue, pack the wound and then seal the packing using tape. However, inevitably, the tape gets wet, the packing dislodged, and the wound open. This gives means that the infection can take root again and the canker a chance to reform. 

Poor Freda had been through several of these treatments, to no avail and it looked as if she was going to have to be put to sleep. No one wanted this to happen, and so this is where Andy was drafted in. Andy worked together with Richard Helliwell the riding school’s Farrier to produce an innovative solution. 

Andy quickly saw the potential for 3d printing to keep Freda’s foot dry in order for the wound to heal and the infection to be treated. Tracing around Freda’s feet, he managed to develop a unique fitted template with which to develop his idea. Using the traced templates and a  Fyfine Extrusion 3d printer, Andy printed the first iteration of the two shoes. Through the rapid prototyping that 3d printing offers, Andy was able to further develop and fit the shoes to ensure a custom watertight seal for Freda’s hoof. Once fitted by Richard Helliwell, the farrier, they were sealed into place using a traditional horseshoe.

Andy Allshorn, Freda, Horse, 3D printing, medical, vet

Freda was still in pain at this point, but 5 weeks later, on Christmas Eve, Andy received a text from Freya’s owner confirming that she would be ok – and all from 3D printing. 

Andy was so pleased that he could help save the life of this beautiful animal, and so were Freda’s owners. As a thank you the owners have promised to teach him to ride and Andy can’t wait to get started!  


Andy said of the project,

“In my 30 years in the industry, I have worked on and developed several cool applications for many OEMs and industries. But this has to be the most rewarding by far. Using 3D printing to make the world a better place and help save lives or improve someone’s life is amazing and I’m really looking forward to learning to ride Freda”

Since making the original seals, Andy has gone on to develop further applications for helping horses, along with a pair of cold weather shoes for Freda!  He is also looking to develop a shoe with a desiccant cartridge integrated to help protect horses with cankers in the future.

We thank you Andy for sharing your story with us and hope that it can inspire young people to think about the applications of 3d printing for the future to solve a range of problems – from traditional engineering and manufacturing to……who knows what?!

Andy Allshorn, Freda, Horse, 3D printing, medical, vet
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