Copper-coated steel nails are being increasingly used during shoeing due to their proposed ability to reduce bacterial invasion, despite limited evidence for their effectiveness in this application. The objective of a recent study, conducted in Australia, was to determine whether copper-coated horseshoe nails would have a beneficial effect on nail hole health compared to traditional steel nails.

All horses were shod by the same farrier at 5- to 6-week intervals. In phase one of the study, 11 sport horses were shod for two shoeing cycles using copper-coated nails in the left forefoot and steel nails in the right forefoot. To eliminate bias related to the use of the same foot in all animals, a second phase of the study was carried out where a subset of 6 horses were then reshod for two shoeing cycles using copper-coated nails in the right forefoot and steel nails in the left forefoot. At the completion of each phase, the horseshoes were removed and the feet trimmed for reshoeing. Before reshoeing, a photograph was taken of the solear surface of each foot and a 10-point pathology score scale was used to assess nail hole health.

Overall, the nail hole pathology score was higher (less healthy) for the steel nails compared with the copper-coated nails. It appears that the well-known antimicrobial effects of copper may apply to the application of copper coating of horseshoe nails in reducing the microbial damage to the horses’ hoof frequently associated with horseshoe nail insertion.

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